If youâre a student shopping for your first credit card, or a parent comparing cards on your kidsâ behalf, you may be wondering whether to apply for a card thatâs designed specifically for college students, or if you should stick with a more general credit card.
The answer depends, in part, on what kind of student card youâre considering, how old a student is and what limits you want to set. Discover, for example, offers a student cash back card, the Discover itÂ® Student Cash Back card, thatâs not too different from Discoverâs flagship cash back card. However, its terms are more restrictive, and it includes a slightly higher APR and less generous introductory APR.
The Discover itÂ® Cash Back card, in contrast, offers a bigger credit limit than youâll get on the student version and a more generous promotion, including a 0% intro APR for 14 months on purchases and balance transfers (then a variable APR of 11.99% to 22.99%). But it doesnât have as many safeguards as the Discover it Student card, so students could potentially get into bigger trouble with it. Young adults new to credit are also unlikely to qualify for the Discover it Cash Back card. Discover doesnât allow co-signers, so a student would need to have a significant credit history and income to qualify.
Discover it Cash Back vs. Discover it Student Cash Back
Discover itÂ® Cash Back
Discover itÂ® Student Cash Back
|Sign-up bonus||Matches your cash back at the end of the first year||
Matches your cash back at the end of the first year
|Estimated rewards value in first year ($1,325 monthly spend)||$442||$398|
Again, the Discover it Cash Back has a 0% intro APR for 14 months on new purchases and balance transfers, though there is a 3% balance transfer fee (and future balance transfer fees can go up to 5%). The Discover it Student also has a 0% intro APR, but only for six months on new purchases, then the regular variable APR will rise to 12.99% to 21.99%.
For parents who fear their child will spend a lot with the freedom of plastic, forget payment deadlines and carry debt, the longer intro APR on the Discover it Cash Back makes more sense. However, the shorter intro APR and higher regular APR on the Discover it Student card are also strong deterrents to students whoâve never had a credit card before and may end up training them to have better payment habits.
If the thought of your student amassing a huge debt without your knowledge terrifies you, you could always apply for the Discover it Cash Back card yourself and add your kid as an authorized user. Discover doesnât allow co-signers, but it does allow authorized users. As an authorized user, even if account holder bears the responsibility for payment, you could build credit history and increase your credit score. It also gives kids an opportunity to earn a significant amount of cash, without the risk of owning their own card.
Good news: Both the Discover it Cash Back and the Discover it Student Cash Back have no annual fee, which is good for students considering education these days is getting more and more expensive. For either card, youâll earn a solid amount of cash back without paying anything for the card itself.
Discover it Cash Back
Discover it Student Cash Back
Both cards have other benefits that suit students incredibly well including viewing your FICO credit score for free on the Discover account, no late fee on your first late payment and no foreign transaction fee, in case you decide to spontaneously visit your friend studying abroad. If you lose the card or it gets stolen (anything can happen at school), you can easily freeze it until you have time to report the loss and request a new card.
Discover it Student Cash Back: Best for undergrads and credit newbies
If youâre still in college and under 21, then you wonât qualify for either card unless you can prove you earn an independent income. The Credit CARD Act of 2009 requires underage cardholders to show they have enough income coming in to afford their own card, or they need to get a co-signer to help out. Since Discover doesnât allow co-signers, and if youâre determined to be the cardholder (versus an authorized user), youâll have to look elsewhere if youâre underage and donât have a part-time job.
Nevertheless, the Discover it Student Cash Back is one of the strongest student credit cards out there. The 0% intro APR for six months, simple rewards structure, late payment fee waiver and no annual fee are all features designed for students who are new to credit. The credit limit on the Discover it Student is also likely to be fairly low, preventing students from significantly overcharging.
Discover it Cash Back: Best for grad students or people who live off campus
In contrast, the Discover it Cash Back suits grad students or upperclassmen who live off campus â people who earn more and spend more. The card awards larger credit limits, but you must have a good or excellent credit score and, therefore, some credit history, to be approved. Unlike the Discover it Student card, this is a card you can use regularly for everyday purchases, considering the Discover quarterly bonus categories calendar. The categories include gas stations, grocery stores and Target, which students who live on campus are unlikely to charge.
The gas and grocery categories perfectly suit those who commute to school or eat at home every day, rather than those with a campus meal plan.
For most young students, the Discover it Student card is a clear winner. Students without any credit history are not only more likely to qualify for it, but the cardâs strong limits also make it more difficult for them to rack up a lot of debt.
The Discover it card, by contrast, is more difficult to get and riskier. However, itâs also more flexible and potentially more lucrative since it gives cardholders more room to charge new purchases, earning greater rewards. Older students and those who live off campus may also get more out of the Discover it card since it offers bonus cash back on purchases theyâre more likely to make, such as gas and groceries.