Discover it® for Students vs Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students

Brendan Harkness

Brendan Harkness | Versus

May 23, 2014 | Updated Dec 05, 2018

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Update: The Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students has been discontinued for new applicants.

As a student, you have a lot of options when it comes to credit cards. You can choose a general credit card but you’re also eligible for a student-specific card, which was designed with you in mind. Let’s take a look at two student credit cards, the Discover it® for Students and the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students.

Discover it® Student Cash Back
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Discover it® Student Cash Back

For People with
No Credit

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate: 15.24%–24.24% Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • Cashback Match: Double all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year automatically.
  • 5% cash back in categories that change each quarter like gas, restaurants,, up to $1,500 in spending per quarter (then 1%)
  • No annual fee. No overlimit fee. No foreign transaction fee. No late fee on first late payment and paying late won't raise your APR.
  • Free FICO® Credit Score on statements, online & by mobile app.
  • 100% U.S.-based service.
  • Each Discover purchase is monitored for fraud, and you're never responsible for unauthorized purchases on your Discover card.

Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students

For People with
No Credit

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate: 16.49%–26.49% Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • Earn 2,500 bonus ThankYou® Points after spending $500 within the first 3 months of card membership.
  • 2X ThankYou® Points per dollar spent on purchases for dining at restaurants and entertainment.
  • 1X ThankYou® Point on other purchases.
  • Earn unlimited ThankYou Points with this card, and they never expire
  • Redeem ThankYou Points for merchandise, travel rewards, gift cards, cash and more
  • Travel with ease and enjoy global acceptance with Chip Technology
  • No annual fee


Neither of these cards have an annual fee, but their rates differ slightly.

Discover it® for Students

The Discover card offers 0% APR for the first 6 Months, after which it is raised to 15.24%–24.24% Variable APR, depending on your credit score.

Balance transfers have an APR of 10.99% for the first 6 months, after which it’s raised to 15.24%–24.24% Variable. They cost 3% of the total transaction. Cash advances have an APR of 27.24% Variable, and cost the larger of $10 or 5%.

This card carries no foreign transaction fee at all, and there is also no penalty APR that might be applied for a late or returned payment.

Late and returned payments do cost up to $35, but Discover will forgive the first late payment and you won’t be charged.

ThankYou Preferred

The Citi card also offers 0% APR, but for the first 7 months. After that, it’s raised to 13.99% – 23.99%.

Balance transfers also have an APR of 13.99% to 23.99%, and cost either $5 or 4% of the transaction, whichever is larger. The APR for cash advances is 25.24%, and they cost the larger of $10 or 5% of the transaction. Foreign purchases cost 3% of the transaction.

This card has the traditionally steep penalty APR of 29.99%, which will be applied if one of your payments are late or returned. This will apply indefinitely. Late and returned payments also incur a fee of up to $35.

The Verdict

These cards have very comparable rates, but the Discover card stands out for its lack of a foreign transaction fee and the forgiving way it treats delinquent payments. It has no penalty APR, which can be a great asset if you forget to make a payment or have a payment returned. Forgiving the first payment is basically inconsequential, but it is a kind gesture.


These cards have quite different reward structures.

The Discover card awards 5% cash back on a series of categories that rotate throughout the year. Every 3 months, the categories will change. For 2015, January through March is Gas and Ground Transportation; April through June is Food & Fun; July through September is Summer Spruce Up & More; and October through December is Holiday Shopping & More. 1% cash back is awarded for all other purchases.

Update June, 2015: Discover is currently offering to double the cash back you earn after 1 year of usage, making this one of the most rewarding cards available. This offer is only available to new cardholders and could be discontinued at any time.

With the Discover card, you can instantly use your reward points at Amazon, without needing to wait until the end of your billing period.

The Citi card awards 2 points for purchases made at restaurants and entertainment venues, and 1 point is awarded for all other purchases.

If you spend $500 with the card in the first 3 months after you acquire it, you’ll be rewarded with 2,500 bonus points.

The Verdict

The reward systems of these cards are built for two different types of people, and neither one of them is really better than the other. If you tend to eat at restaurants and see a lot of movies and other kinds of entertainment, the Citi card is better for you. If you make a variety of purchases throughout the year and tend to do heavy holiday shopping, you might get more use out of the Discover card.


Discover it® for Students

The Discover card offers a fairly comprehensive set of additional benefits. You’ll receive a free FICO credit score every month with your billing statement, and can access the Spend Analyzer tool to better understand and manage your finances. Bills can be paid right up until midnight of the due date, online or by phone.  Several different card designs can be chosen from, and new designs can be picked at any time.

When shopping, several protection services are available. After making an eligible purchase, it will be covered by Purchase Protection, which provides compensation if an item is damaged or stolen, up to $500 per item.  The next, Price Protection, is a service that will provide reimbursement if you find an item you bought being advertised for a lesser price within 90 days of the purchase date.  The next, the Extended Warranty service, will add up to 1 year to a manufacturer’s warranty of 3 years or less. The last protection, the Return Guarantee, will provide a refund for an eligible item that the retailer won’t take back, up to $500 and for up to $90 days after the date of purchase.

You won’t be held responsible for fraudulent charges.

Another shopping benefit, which is not a protection, is a unique feature called Cash at Checkout. This service lets you get cash immediately when you checkout at participating stores, much like a debit card. Participating stores include Army & AF Exchange, Casey’s General Store, and Pay Less.

There are also several travel benefits to be aware of. When flying, you and your family will be covered by flight accident insurance when traveling by common carrier, up to $500,000. Baggage delay insurance will provide reimbursement for essential items you need to purchase if your checked bags are delayed by 3 or more hours.

You’ll also be provided with auto rental insurance when you decline the car rental company’s own insurance, and an emergency roadside dispatch if you get into trouble while away from home.

ThankYou Preferred

The Citi card also has many additional features. It contains an EMV chip, which is useful if you travel around the world. It provides added security and is accepted in many countries.

Cardholders also get a personal concierge service, which you can call to learn about the best places to stay and eat wherever you are. You’ll also receive invitations to exclusive events that you can’t get elsewhere.

An interesting Citi card feature is the Price Rewind, which helps you find low prices for your purchases. When you make a purchase with price rewind, Citi will search for that item at a cheaper price for 30 days, and will notify you if they find one that’s lower by at least $25.

In addition to auto rental insurance and 0% fraud liability, the Citi card also offers extended warranties and purchase protection in the case of fire, theft, or accidental breaking. They’ll cover up to $3,000 in lost luggage costs, and up to $1,500 if you pay for a trip that ends up being cancelled.

Especially valuable is the automatic travel insurance you’ll receive whenever you buy a bus, train, or plane ticket. The insurance applies to you, as well as your spouse and your children.

The Verdict

These cards offer similar extra benefits, though there are a few important differences.  The free FICO score from Discover can be very useful as you monitor your credit throughout the year, especially when combined with the Spend Analyzer tool.  Each card has a service to reimburse you if you find an item being advertised for a lesser price, but Citi will perform the actual search for you, whereas you must do it yourself with Discover.  Citi also offers the concierge service, which can be a great asset if you’re in need of professional help with reservations and shopping.

This review was not endorsed or approved by Discover, Citi, or their affiliates.

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