How Does the Discover Student Credit Card Work?

Student credit cards can offer an opportunity to improve your financial literacy while earning rewards geared towards students. You do have to be a student to get a student credit card. Otherwise, the card should work similarly to any other credit card.

If you’re exploring using a credit card for the first time, you may have some questions about student credit cards. Below, find some of the answers to help you take the right next steps for you.

1. Student Credit Card FAQ

2. Study Abroad and Credit Cards: Best Practices

1. Student Credit Card FAQ

Several questions come up again and again from young credit card customers wondering about the process and benefits of a student credit card. Hopefully these answers can help alleviate any concerns and make you feel more confident about what, for some, is their first major financial choice as an adult.

What is the credit card offer I received in the mail?

Pre-screened offers credit card offers by mail may be sent to consumers age 21 or older, and indicate that the card issuer has done a basic credit check, found that you meet certain criteria, and would be approved for the card if your credit profile remains the same and you meet income and other relevant application requirements. You do still have to apply for a pre-screened offer, but the issuer is confident that you will be approved so long as nothing dramatic has changed in your financial life.  You may also receive other types of offers inviting you to apply for student credit cards.

Can I apply for a student credit card?

You can apply for a student credit card online if you’re at least 18 years old. You cannot apply for offers over the telephone unless you are 21 or older. You will need to have some form of income to demonstrate that you have the ability to make monthly payments covering your transactions.

Do I need a co-applicant on my student credit card?

If you are creditworthy on your own, issuers may not require a co-applicant. Discover does not take co-applicants (sometimes known as co-signers) on credit card applications.

When do I make a payment on my credit card?

Your payment is due on the date indicated on your statement, which is generally the same day every month. If you are still unsure, call the customer service number on your card or log in to your online account to see when your next payment is due.

Will I pay interest on my card balance?

After you begin making purchases with your student credit card, you’ll receive a statement with your total balance. If you pay the balance in full by the due date on your statement each month, you won’t have to pay any interest charges on purchases. If you pay less than the full amount, you’ll be charged interest on the transactions you make based on your Annual Percentage Rate and the terms of your card. If you don’t pay even the minimum payment due, you also face the possibility of penalty fees and/or penalty interest rates.

Why should I care about building a credit history?

After college, you may want to apply for a car loan or an apartment lease. Both often require a check on your credit history, in which the lender assesses your creditworthiness and repayment risk. One of the common factors in credit scores is the length of time you have had lines of credit. Responsibly using a student credit card while in school can help you establish a credit history that opens these doors for you later on.

Do I have to spend a lot of money on my student credit card to establish a credit history?

No, you don’t need to charge and pay off big purchases to establish credit. You can establish a credit history by making small purchases and then paying them off on time each month.

Once I get my credit card in the mail, what should I do?

You’re all set to activate your new card. You can do so by calling the phone number on the back of the card. You may also consider setting up the online account portal offered by your issuer in order to more frequently check on your account, make payments, and set up alerts.

How do I get rewards for using my credit card?

If you are a student with a Discover it® Student Chrome card, there is no sign-up to earn 2 percent cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter.* Another option is the Discover it® Student card, which offers 5 percent cash back on everyday purchases during the school year (and all year long) at different places each quarter, such as, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and when you pay using PayPal up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.* Both Discover student credit cards automatically get 1% cash back on all purchases, automatically and with no limit.

2. Study Abroad and Credit Cards: Best Practices

Studying and traveling abroad may be one of the greatest experiences you can have while in college. Meeting new people, learning about new cultures and taking in all the sights and sounds of your temporary home are all part of what make it such an adventure. One way to help ensure your sojourn abroad is as hassle-free as possible: a credit card. Consider these four reasons for why you should use a credit card while studying abroad.

Credit can be cheaper than cash

Debit cards can come with hefty foreign transaction fees and international ATM fees, cash can get lost and be difficult to change into local currency. Using a credit card abroad may save you some money if your credit card doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees. If you can, say, charge dinner on a card instead of having to find cash, that may be the most cost-effective solution.

You’re covered in the event of fraud

If you’re carrying cash, and your wallet is stolen or lost, bid your money farewell. However, many cards have fraud monitoring that may help detect fraudulent transactions. With Discover cards, you are not responsible for unauthorized purchases on your account.

You build credit history even while abroad

Building credit history is one of the main advantages to carrying a credit card and you’re not doing that if you’re using cash. If you charge sensibly and pay your bills on time, you’ll be building your credit history for life after college.

Call before you go

Before your study abroad trip begins, you should contact your debit and credit card issuers to inform them of where and when you’ll be traveling. This prevents your accounts from being frozen when your cards are used overseas, which otherwise could appear to suggest suspicious or fraudulent activity.

Ensure account access

You should also make a note of the accounts you have and the relevant telephone contact information, which may be different than the U.S.-based number. Make sure that you have online access to all of your accounts and make note of all of your payment due dates. It may help to set email or text reminders of your payment due dates, and also be aware if your mobile phone provider will charge you for receiving texts in the country you’ll be living in. Alternatively, you can configure your accounts to automatically make payments.

By learning the best ways to exchange currency and make purchases in another country, you can help get the most from your study abroad trip — and focus on all the adventures you’re having — without stressing out about your money.

Originally published February 27, 2015

Updated July 20, 2021

Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.

Chrome Disclosure: You earn a full 2% Cashback Bonus® on your first $1000 in combined purchases at Gas Stations (stand-alone), and Restaurants each calendar quarter. Calendar quarters begin January 1, April 1, July 1, and October 1. Purchases at Gas Stations and Restaurants over the quarterly cap, and all other purchases, earn 1% cash back. Gas Station purchases include those made at merchants classified as places that sell automotive gasoline that can be bought at the pump or inside the station. Gas Stations affiliated with supermarkets, supercenters, and wholesale clubs may not be eligible. Restaurant purchases include those made at merchants classified as full-service restaurants, cafes, cafeterias, fast-food locations, and restaurant delivery services. Purchases must be made with merchants in the U.S. To qualify for 2%, the purchase transaction date must be before or on the last day of the offer or promotion. For online purchases, the transaction date from the merchant may be the date when the item ships. Rewards are added to your account within two billing periods. Even if a purchase appears to fit in a 2% category, the merchant may not have a merchant category code (MCC) in that category. Merchants and payment processors are assigned an MCC based on their typical products and services. Discover Card does not assign MCCs to merchants. Certain third-party payment accounts and digital wallet transactions may not earn 2% if the technology does not provide sufficient transaction details or a qualifying MCC. Learn more at Cashback Bonus Program Terms and Conditions for more information about your rewards.

5%: Certain digital wallet transactions qualify for 5%, for more information see Purchases made through third-party payment accounts, mobile or wireless card readers, virtual wallets or similar technology will not be eligible if the technology does not provide sufficient transaction details for rewards qualification. 5% Cashback Categories: In accordance with standard industry practices, merchants are assigned a merchant category code (MCC) typically based on their line of business, or the type of products and/or services they primarily sell or provide. Discover Card does not assign MCCs to merchants. Even if you make purchases at a merchant of items that appear to fit in a rewards category, the merchant m ay not have an assigned MCC in that rewards category. Only purchases made from merchants located in the United States are eligible for 5% Cashback Bonus. Rewards are added to your Cashback Bonus account within two billing periods.  See Cashback Bonus Program Terms and Conditions for more information about your rewards.

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