Review of the Discover it® Chrome for Students

Brendan Harkness

Brendan Harkness | Reviews

Jan 05, 2018 | Updated Jul 15, 2019

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The Discover it Chrome for Students credit card gives college and university students a way to establish a credit history. On top of that, it provides cash back rewards at gas stations and restaurants.

With no annual fee, this card is a convenient way to pay for those common purchases. You’ll get 2% cash back for gas and at restaurants, and Discover will double all the cash back you earn in your first year.

There are some handy perks for students, like a good grades reward and the ability to monitor one of your FICO credit scores. And the interest rates and fees are quite favorable too, good for first-time cardholders.

This card is just like the Discover it® Chrome (Review), but it’s designed with students in mind. Use it wisely, and eventually you’ll be able to qualify for even better credit cards.

Our Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

We give the Discover it Chrome for Students 5 out of 5 Stars because it’s a strong offer for young people who are just getting into credit cards.

It’s currently one of the best student cards, especially because Discover will double the cash back you earn in your first year. And that 4% on gas and at restaurants is higher than you’ll find on most cards, whether they’re designed for students or not.

You’ll get a decent set of benefits with this card. They aren’t amazing, but for a card with no annual fee they can be pretty valuable. The good grades reward won’t make you rich but it’s a nice touch.

Discover is also generous with the interest rates and fees. There is no penalty APR, like other issuers might apply if you make a late payment. And Discover will even give you a pass on your first late fee, if you need it. There are no foreign transaction fees to pay if you’re studying abroad or traveling outside the country.

Overall, this card provides an easy way to earn rewards, potentially completely for free as long as you avoid interest. This makes it a good choice for students looking for their first credit card.

Insider Advice: Using This Card as Part of Your Credit Card Strategy

  • Use the Discover it Chrome to earn cash back when you go out to eat or fill up your tank. Unless you’d earn rewards at a higher rate with a different card, of course.
  • If you’re planning any big purchases, try to make them before the end of your first year. Discover’s Cashback Match will double your rewards in that first year.
  • If you’re studying abroad, a different card will probably be a better fit. Even though this card has no foreign transaction fees, Discover isn’t as widely accepted around the world as some other issuers. Check out the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® (Review). It has no annual fee, no foreign exchange fees, and more acceptance worldwide because it’s a Visa.
  • Use this card’s 6-month 0% intro APR to learn the basics of using and paying off credit cards without having to pay interest. Just be sure to always pay the minimum payment every month. After that you’ll get a regular rate of 15.24%–24.24% Variable.
  • To maximize your rewards, redeem your cash back for gift cards. This will add a bonus of at least $5 to each gift card. Otherwise, the next best options are redeeming for a statement credit or to a bank account.
  • Use the FICO® Credit Scorecard to check your credit and monitor your FICO 8 Credit Score. It will be based on your TransUnion credit report. Read through their custom tips to see how you can improve your score.

The Rewards

Earning

Spending Rewards
  • 2% cash back on up to $1,000 spent per quarter (then 1%) at:
    • Gas stations
    • Restaurants
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • Cashback Match: New cardmembers get double cash back in the first year (awarded after the first year)

So you’ll get 2% cash back rewards when you fuel up or go out to eat. That isn’t a whole lot compared to some other cards. But since Discover will double your rewards in the first year, that makes 4% back on those categories. Plus you’ll get 2% back on every other purchase, which is better than most cards. That’s pretty good for a card with no annual fee.

Do you like this card, but aren’t so crazy about the rewards? There are quite a few other options available.

The Discover it for Students is very similar, but offers 5% rotating cash back categories instead. It has all the same features, except a different reward structure.

The Bank of America Cash Rewards Card for Students provides 3% back at gas stations and 2% back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs. It also comes with a $200 cash rewards signup bonus.

Redeeming

Redeeming your cash back is very easy with Discover. You’ll always get at least $1 for every $1 that you’ve earned. And there’s a way to get even more than that.

You’ll have five different options for redeeming your cash back:

  1. As a statement credit to reduce your balance
  2. Directly into a bank account of your choice
  3. For gift cards
  4. As a charitable donation
  5. Pay with rewards at select retailers, like Amazon.com

We recommend always using one of the first 4 options above, and avoiding number 5. The gift card option will offer a bonus on your redemptions, so use it first whenever possible.

Statement Credits and Bank Account Deposits

Statement credits will lower your card’s account balance. Direct deposits are sent to your linked bank account. These are probably the easiest ways to redeem your cash back, but not the most rewarding.

Gift Cards

Gift cards are a great way to redeem your cash back. Every gift card will get at least $5 added to it, so use this option whenever possible. Most credit card issuers don’t have such a good gift card redemption option.

Some examples include:

Merchant Cash Back Redeemed Gift Card Value
American Eagle Outfitters $40 $50
Kohl’s $45 $50
Starbucks $45 $50
Land’s End $80 $100
1-800-Flowers $80 $120

Gift cards are available in both digital and physical form. Physical gift cards will take up to 4 weeks to arrive by mail.

Charity

You can donate your cash back to a good cause if you so choose. Discover provides an easy way to make a direct donation. You can send your rewards to any of the following organizations:

ASPCA Children’s Miracle Network Make-A-Wish Foundation®
American Cancer Society Junior Achievement Operation Homefront
American Red Cross Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation World Wildlife Fund

Pay with Rewards

Discover will prompt you to link your Discover account with some participating merchants, including Amazon.com. You can then use your rewards to pay for purchases directly at checkout.

We do not recommend this method because when you pay with rewards you won’t earn any cash back. If you’re paying with rewards at Amazon.com you would be missing out on 5% cash back with the Amazon Prime Visa Signature Card (Review), for example. So, we suggest you always pay with your card to earn cash back, and then redeem your rewards through a different method.

The Benefits

Cash Back Rewards for Good Grades

Discover will offer a $20 cash back reward for every year that you get a 3.0 GPA or higher.

This deal is available for 5 years. Cardholders must apply for this reward, it is not automatic. The first $20 reward will be doubled by Discover’s Cashback Match if you get it in your first year of card use.

FICO® Credit Scorecard

Discover’s FICO® Credit Scorecard provides access to one of your free FICO credit scores online, along with alerts if it changes. Discover will use the FICO 8 Credit Score from your TransUnion credit report. This service is not limited to cardholders; anyone can make use of it.

Many issuers today will offer free access to one of your FICO credit scores, but if you don’t have another way to check your TransUnion score this card is a good option for that. Discover also includes quite a bit of advice and information about credit scores, breaking your score down by category and providing specific tips for improving it.

If you’d like a way to check out your actual TransUnion credit report for free, whenever you want, take a look at the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® (Review) below. Capital One provides this very option, along with access to your VantageScore 3.0 based on your TransUnion credit report. Anyone can access this service, it’s not limited to cardholders.

Cash at Checkout

When shopping at participating locations, you can get cash back immediately by charging an additional amount over your purchase. There is no extra fee from Discover and this will be counted as part of your purchase, rather than as a cash advance.

You can get a maximum of $120 every 24 hours in this way, but individual stores will have their own cash back limits. In some cases they will also charge a fee. Some examples are below.

Take note that you will not earn cash back rewards on any cash you get at checkout.

This is a great feature because it provides a way to get cash directly through your credit card without taking out a cash advance, which is pretty amazing if you’re familiar with the high interest rates that always accompany cash advances. Most credit card issuers other than Discover do not provide this option.

There are a few dozen participating stores, but they include:

Baker’s IGA Bristol Farms D&W Fresh Market Food Lion Giant Eagle Harveys
Jerry’s Metro Market Quality Food Centers Safeway Spartan Stores Village Super Market

Although Safeway is listed as a participating merchant on Discover’s site, we were informed by Safeway that they no longer offer this cash at checkout service.

Here are some current cash back limits and fees:

Retailer Cash Back Limit Fee
Dillons $100 per purchase $3 for any amount over $100
Dollar General $40 per purchase $1.50
Kroger $100 per purchase $3 for any amount over $100
Meijer $50 per person, per day None
Sam’s Club $100 per purchase None
Walmart $100 per purchase None

Refer a Friend for a Statement Credit Bonus

As a cardholder, you can earn a statement credit bonus for referring friends to apply for Discover credit cards. You must send them the referral link you get from Discover, and they must use that link to apply.

If your friend is approved you will earn a $50 statement credit. If your friend makes his first purchase within 3 months of opening the account, he or she will earn a $50 statement credit bonus too.

You can refer a maximum of 10 friends per year, and your account must not be late on payments or over the credit limit to qualify for this benefit.

Other Benefits

The Discover it for Students comes with a few benefits that aren’t listed here, and occasionally the offers will change. There are also important account management and security benefits, like fraud protection, free Social Security Number alerts, and the ability to quickly freeze your account to prevent new purchases.

Read more about the benefits, and check the Guide to Benefits that comes with the card to learn what you have access to.

The Costs & Fees

Intro APR for Purchases and Balance Transfers Regular Purchase and Balance Transfer APR Cash Advance APR Minimum Credit Limit
0% for 6 months 15.24%–24.24% Variable 27.24% Variable $500
Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee Balance Transfer Fee Cash Advance Fee
$0  None 3% 5%, $10 minimum
Penalty APR Late Fee Returned Payment Fee
None $0 the first time; up to $37 after that Up to $37

There’s no annual fee on this reward card, so if you avoid accruing interest it can be completely free to use. Just pay your balance in full every billing period, and you’ll never have to worry about interest.

This card has a 0% intro APR for both purchases and balance transfers for 6 months. It’s not very long, but it gives you a chance to pay off purchases over a few months at no interest. If you want to do a balance transfer it would be better to find a card that’s made for transfers, with a longer period and no fees.

This is a good card for students because Discover has pretty forgiving terms. Some issuers will apply a penalty apr if you go over your credit limit or make a late payment, but Discover will not. Your first late payment also gets a pass. But you should commit to always using your card responsibly.

Customer Support

Phone Support

Customer Support 1-800-347-3085
U.S. General Card Support 1-800-347-2683
Outside U.S. General Card Support 1-801-902-3100
TDD 1-800-347-7449

Discover typically provides great customer support, and you’ll most likely reach a U.S.-based support center.

We’ve always spoken with friendly, helpful customer service representatives when we’ve called. It’s been easy to get answers to our questions, and we’ve never had to call again to try to speak with a different rep.

All in all, it’s no wonder why they always win or come in second in J.D Power’s annual 2017 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Survey. Compared to some other issuers, dealing with Discover’s customer support is a breeze.

Website Support

Support Page Discover Card Help Center

Among credit card issuers, Discover has a very easy to navigate and well-laid-out site. You’ll be able to find everything you would normally need to know about the rewards, benefits, and other card features.

You can get in touch with them by live online chat, though this is limited to Discover members only. They also have a phone line and physical mailing address.

Discover has a dedicated Help Center where you can find:

  • contact details
  • account management details and links
  • statement and payment info
  • card reward info
  • card benefit info
  • security and fraud info

The Bottom Line

The Discover it Chrome for Students card is a good option to help college and university students improve their credit. And if you want to earn some cash back too (who doesn’t?), this card fits the bill.

Most of the card features are good for first-time credit card users, like the interest rates, terms, and benefits. You’ll get 2% cash back on gas and at restaurants, which tend to be frequent expenses for students, and those rewards will be doubled for the first year.

The $20 reward for good grades is a nice bonus that most credit card companies don’t offer. And being able to check one of your credit scores will help you improve your credit as fast as possible, with helpful tips along the way.

As a student who is new to credit, you should always be responsible with your credit cards. This will help ensure that you build up a positive credit history, and eventually you’ll be able to qualify for more rewarding cards.

There are some other cards designed for students with limited or no credit. Take a look at some other student credit card options below.

How to Apply for the Discover it Chrome for Students

You will need to be enrolled in a 2- or 4-year college or university to be eligible for the Discover it Chrome for Students.

Click the Apply Now button below and you’ll be taken to Discover to provide your personal information. They’ll check your credit reports from the major credit reporting bureaus, along with other financial information. You’ll also need to provide proof that you’re a student, like a student ID or class schedule.

Since this is a student credit card, it’s designed for people with limited or no credit. If you’ve never had a credit card before or haven’t started building up a credit history at all, this card is designed to give you a way in. If you’re an international student take a look at the Deserve Edu Mastercard, which doesn’t require an SSN to apply.

Alternatives to the Discover it Chrome for Students

 

The Discover it® Student Cash Back (Review) is very similar to the Discover it Chrome for Students. The only difference is the reward structure, which is quite different.

The Discover it for Students provides 5% cash back in categories that rotate every 3 months. And you’ll get 1% cash back on every other purchase.

The calendar for 2019 is:

Time Period Rewards Category
January – March Grocery Stores
April – June Gas Stations, Uber, Lyft
July – September Restaurants, PayPal
October – December Amazon.com, Target, Walmart.com

The 5% cash back is available for the first $1,500 spent each quarter, and then 1% back will be awarded. As you can see, there’s a bit of overlap between these cards.

The other terms, benefits, and rewards are the exact same. That includes the excellent Cashback Match offer. So you’ll actually be getting 10% cash back in those categories in your first year, and that’s a great deal.

So what kind of purchases do you make the most? Do these rotating reward categories seem more appealing? Check your spending habits, and remember that you’ll only get those categories for 3 months out of the year.

If you’re an experienced credit card user and you know how to use them responsibly, you could even use both of these cards. Just use the Discover it whenever you can earn 5% cash back, and use the Discover it Chrome for every other purchase. But when the reward categories overlap, be sure to use the Discover it to make sure you get the most cash back possible.

 

The Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students (Review) is another good option for college students who are new to credit. It has no annual fee, and a different reward structure.

You’ll get:

  • 3% cash back in one category of your choice:
    • Gas
    • Online shopping
    • Dining
    • Travel
    • Drugstores
    • Home improvement/furnishings stores
  • 2% cash back at:
    • Grocery stores
    • Wholesale clubs
  • 1% cash back on all purchases
  • Introductory bonus: $200 cash rewards bonus by spending $1,000 in the first 90 days after account opening

The cash back you earn in the 3% and 2% bonus categories is limited to the first $2,500 in combined spending every quarter. After that limit is reached you’ll earn 1% cash back on those purchases. With that limit you can earn up to $75 cash back every 3 months, if you only buy gas and get the 3% rate.

So compared to the Discover card, the Cash Rewards offers an extra 1% back at gas stations. It has valuable restaurant and online shopping categories, along with grocery stores and wholesale clubs. Those could be quite useful for the average student.

The $200 cash rewards signup bonus is pretty valuable too, and a great offer compared to other student credit cards. You’ll only need to spend $1,000 to get it. To earn that much cash back with the Discover it Chrome in your first year, you’d need to spend $5,000 in your first year on gas or at restaurants. And that would just be the cash back you earn, not a bonus on top of it.

Cash Rewards users who also have a Bank of America bank account get a way to earn even more cash back. If you redeem your rewards into a BofA checking or savings account, you’ll get an extra 10% added to the redemption.

It might not seem like much, but it’s a nice bonus that will add up over time. It also makes this card a bit more potentially rewarding compared to similar offers from other issuers. If you have a large bank account balance, that bonus can be increased to 25%, 50%, and even 75%.

You’ll get a longer 0% intro APR period with the Bank of America card, coming at 12 months for purchases and balance transfers. Discover only offers 6 months.

Each card will provide extra benefits that are pretty much the same, like travel and shopping protections. You can check your FICO 8 Credit Score, based on your TransUnion credit report, with either card.

So if you’re trying to decide between these two cards, the main question is: do you want to earn rewards at restaurants, or at grocery stores and wholesale clubs? BofA account holders will have an extra incentive to go with the Cash Rewards card. But the right card for you will depend on your personal shopping habits.

 

Update: The Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students has been discontinued for new applicants. It has been replaced by the Citi Rewards+ Student Card.

The Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students (Review) is a Mastercard with no annual fee. It’s not extremely rewarding, but it can help you improve your credit to qualify for a better card.

It provides:

  • 2 points per dollar at restaurants and on entertainment (equivalent to 2% cash back)
  • 1 point per dollar on all other purchases (equivalent to 1% cash back)
  • Signup bonus: 2,500 points for spending $500 in the first 3 months after account opening (equivalent to $25 cash back)

The restaurant category includes most of what you would expect and hope, including bars, fast food, and cafes. You’ll also be able to get a lot out of the entertainment category. It includes:

Entertainment Category: 2 points per dollar
live entertainment and theatrical productions live sporting events concerts movie theaters amusement parks
tourist attractions museums and art galleries record stores video rental stores on-demand internet streaming media

The internet streaming media portion includes Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Spotify, and others. This gives you a lot of options, but take note that Redbox is not included in this entertainment category.

You won’t get much of a signup bonus with the Citi card. At just 2,500 points, worth $25, it’s one of the smallest signup bonuses on any credit card. Many other cards are much more rewarding when it comes to this feature. But at least it’s something, and if you have the card you should try to get it.

There are a few benefits with the Citi reward card that you won’t get through Discover. These include:

  • A Concierge you can call for all kinds of non-emergency help, like finding gifts or making reservations
  • Citi Private Pass, which provides access to presale, preferred, and exclusive ticket deals
  • Citi Price Rewind, which checks for lower prices on your purchases and provides reimbursement for the difference (up to $200 per item, up to $1,000 per year)

Although these can be quite useful sometimes, you may not end up using them very much. On the other hand, you could get a lot of value out of them if you take the time to explore and use them frequently.

The Citi card provides a 0% intro APR for purchases for 7 months. The Discover card offers 6 months, so they are about the same.

Both cards offer cash back at restaurants, so the choice comes down to the other categories. Is the entertainment category something you’d love to earn points in? If you see a lot of live sports and movies, and subscribe to a variety of streaming services, the Citi card might a smart choice. Or do you really want a card for gas purchases? If that’s the case, you’ll need to go with the Discover it Chrome for Students.

 

The Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® (Review) is a bit different than the other cards above.

Instead of rewards for certain types of purchases, it offers:

  • 1% cash back on all purchases
  • an increase to 1.25% cash back if you pay your monthly bill on time

So it’s not a very rewarding card, though it does provide an easy way to get 1.25% back for every purchase. But other cards will offer at least 1% back for every purchase you make, so this isn’t a huge advantage.

Capital One’s CreditWise® service is available to everyone, whether you have a Capital One card or not. This provides access to your TransUnion credit report, which is a unique feature among credit cards. Although many cards will monitor one of your credit scores, Capital One might be the only issuer to offer access to one of your actual credit reports.

You can also view your VantageScore 3.0 based on your TransUnion credit report. This isn’t the same as the more common FICO 8 Credit Score, which many other cards will let you see. But the VantageScores still gives you a good way to track your credit as it changes over time. If it’s going up, you’re doing well. CreditWise will also offer specific tips, based on your score, to help you improve any particular areas that are holding you back.

So Capital One and Discover offer different ways to monitor your credit. They are mostly the same, but only Capital One will let you actually check out your TransUnion report.

If you make your first 5 monthly payments on time you’ll have access to a higher credit line with the Journey card. This is a nice feature because student cards typically come with very low credit limits. Most card issuers won’t increase the limit this easily.

The Journey card has no foreign transaction fee, just like with Discover. But the Journey card is a Visa, which is accepted by more merchants around the world than Discover. So if you’re studying abroad or plan to travel, you’ll probably have an easier time with the Journey card.

Although the Capital One Journey Student Rewards card is less rewarding than the others on our list, it’s still a solid way for students with limited credit to establish a positive credit history. In time, with responsible use, you’ll build up your credit and prove your worthiness for a more rewarding card.

 

Unlike the other cards on this list, the Discover it Secured Credit Card (Review) isn’t a student card. This is a secured credit card, which means it requires a security deposit to use.

Secured cards are meant for people with limited or bad credit who need a way to establish a positive credit history. Students can use them as a way into the world of credit cards, before moving on to unsecured cards.

The Discover it Secured is very much like the Discover it Chrome for Students. It provides:

  • 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations, up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter
  • A 24.24% APR for purchases and balance transfers
  • A 10.99% introductory balance transfer offer for 6 months

So the rewards for gas and dining are exactly the same. But there are some important differences between these cards.

The Discover it Secured requires a refundable security deposit when you’re approved. This must be at least $200, and it will fund your credit limit for the card. If you pay more, you’ll get a higher credit limit. And you can add more to this deposit over time if you wish.

Discover will also review your account every 8 months, and if you’ve been a responsible card user they may refund your deposit. You’ll have earned their trust, at least in part, and will still be able to use the card.

You won’t get the good grades reward with the Discover it Secured, but other than that the terms and benefits are the same. Both cards have the same extra perks, and will double the cash back you earn in your first year.

Although it’s not a student card, students can use the Discover it Secured as an option for building their credit. It also might prove useful for anyone who is planning to become a student but isn’t one yet, or has just recently graduated from college.

 

The Deserve Edu Mastercard (Review) is designed to be an option for students with limited or no credit. It’s also a good choice for international students because you won’t need an SSN to apply.

Unlike most cards, which just look at your credit history and financial situation, this card will take a few other factors into account when you apply.

The Deserve Edu card will also consider:

  • education
  • future employability
  • earnings potential

So if you lack a traditional credit history this card provides a chance to get that first credit card. This can sometimes be the most difficult step, so it’s nice to see a card that will consider more than just the normal criteria.

This card provides:

  • 1% cash back on all purchases
  • 1 free year of Amazon Prime Student

You’ll get just a bit of cash back with the Deserve Edu. But that free year of Amazon Prime Student can potentially be pretty valuable. That will provide free 2-day shipping on tons of items, along with Amazon Prime Video and Music.

This isn’t the most rewarding card, but if you’re a student with no credit history it might be one of the only cards you can get. International students without a SSN will have few other options as well. You can use this card start building a positive credit history, and eventually you’ll be able to qualify for more rewarding cards.

For more on building credit and financial resources for students, take a look at our Guide to Credit Cards for Students.

If you’d like to learn about the non-student version of this card, check out the Discover it® Chrome (Review).

Do you have the Discover it Chrome for Students credit card? How do you like it? Leave your own review, we’d love to hear what you think!

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