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Discover it Student chrome review: This student credit card rewards good grades and matches your first-year earnings dollar-for-dollar

CNBC Select breaks down the rewards, benefits and fees associated with the Discover it® Student chrome to help you decide if it's right for you.

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Getting into college is a time for celebration, but also a time for financial planning. Though it is harder to save money in college, especially while working entry-level or hourly jobs, one way to set yourself up for lifelong financial health is by being intentional with your credit card and building your credit score.

The Discover it® Student chrome is designed for this very purpose. Even if you don't have a long history of credit use, this cash-back card starts you out with a low credit limit and lets you earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, then 1%. It even rewards you for having good grades.

Below, CNBC Select breaks down the rewards and benefits associated with the Discover it® Student chrome to help you decide if it's right for you.

Discover it® Student chrome review

How to qualify for the Discover it® Student chrome

Applying for a student credit card is an accessible way to start building credit history. To qualify for a Discover student credit card, applicants must be at least 18 years old and have some independent income, like a part-time job.

It's also important to have no major faults on your credit report (like a tax lien or a lot of denied credit applications).

If you are denied a student credit card, another option is to apply for a secured credit card that's meant for building credit. Capital One is known for helping its cardholders grow their credit limits by automatically increasing credit lines once the first five monthly payments are made on time, and some consumers even qualify for the Capital One® Secured Mastercard with deposits as low as $49.

Discover it® Student chrome rewards

Imagine earning cash back from late-night, fast-food study sessions or road trips on the weekends.

The Discover it® Student chrome rewards cardholders with 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, then 1%. Taking full advantage of this reward by spending $1,000 a quarter on gas and dining would earn you $20 every three months.

The Discover it® Student chrome also lets you earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases automatically. For new card members in the first year only, Discover will automatically match all the cash back you've earned dollar-for-dollar at the end of your first year.

You can redeem your cash back in the following ways:

  • Statement credits to offset your bill
  • Electronic deposits to your bank account
  • Gift cards, ranging from $5 to $200 and in increments of $5
  • Charitable donations to select organizations
  • Pay with cash back at designated merchants, like Amazon.com

Your rewards never expire, but if you don't use your card for 18 months, Discover will automatically apply your cash back to your account balance.

Additional benefits

Getting good grades in college can feel like a lot of work with very delayed rewards. The Discover it® Student chrome helps college students stay motivated to keep their GPA at a 3.0 or higher with Good Grades Rewards.

Here's how this unique credit card perk works: Once you indicate that you are enrolled in college, you are eligible for this once-a-school year reward. Simply submit your grades during the months of May to August, and if you have maintained a 3.0 GPA or higher, a $20 statement credit will be applied to your account within seven business days. This benefit is good for the next 5 years from the date you open your account, meaning you can earn up to $100 just for being an A (or B) student.

Bottom line

The Discover it® Student chrome is an excellent card for building credit and setting college students up for lifelong success. Cardholder reviews on Discover's site average 4.8 stars and cite the U.S.-based customer service that is available any time.

However, if extra cash would help you pay for that new laptop, you may want to consider applying for a credit card with a welcome bonus, like the Chase Freedom® Student credit card, now with a $50 bonus offer when you make your first purchase within the first three months of account opening.

Our methodology

To determine which cards offer the best value for students, CNBC Select analyzed popular credit cards available for college students looking to build credit.

We compared each card on a range of features, including: credit limit, rewards program, introductory and standard APR, welcome bonuses and foreign transaction fees, as well as factors such as required credit score and customer reviews when available. We also considered any special student-centric programs that offer incentives or extra rewards.

Because it's unusual for college student cards to have robust rewards programs, we did not analyze how many rewards points you can earn in the first year. For students who are looking to build their credit history and develop strong financial skills, it's more important to practice good credit card habits — spending within your means, paying your balance on time and in full — than try to optimize your points balance.

Information about the Capital One® Secured Mastercard has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

For rates and fees of the Discover it® Student chrome, click here.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.