Decisions, decisions. You’re already swamped with many aspects of college life, and now you must choose a credit card that will be your trusted financial ally. Undoubtedly, you want the best student credit card around. We narrowed it down to two student credit cards — Discover it® for Students card vs. Journey Student Rewards Credit Card — that are worthy of that title.

After my analysis of the two cards, from fees to perks, I help you determine the better card for you:

CardDiscover it® for StudentsJourney Student Rewards Credit Card
How it looks
Rewards5% cash back after you sign up in categories that change through the year, up to the quarterly maximum; 1% cash back on all other purchases1% cash back plus an additional 0.25% cash back when you make payments on time
Special card benefitsNo foreign transaction fee, no penalty APR and no first-time late payment feeNo balance transfer fee and free Credit Tracker tool
Annual fee$0$0
APR12.99% - 21.99%19.8% variable
Overall winner:WINNER--
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Discover it Card vs Journey Student Card Rewards

Discover-it-for-StudentsYou’re in college. You’re going to be spending a good amount of money on everything from living expenses to entertainment. Why not earn some rewards on that spending?

  • Discover it® for Students: 5% cash back after you sign up in categories that change through the year after you sign up, up to the quarterly maximum; 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Journey Student Rewards Credit Card: 1% cash back on all purchases; get a 25% bonus on the cash back you’ve earned every month you pay on time

Discover it® for Students has an interesting cash back program that allows you to earn 5% cash back on specific categories after you sign up, which change every quarter during the year. In the past, these categories included gas, restaurants, online shopping, and movies — all are popular spending categories for a typical college student. (Bonus cash back is capped per quarter, but I don’t think that many students will reach these limits. These categories vary, but it’s usually around a $1,500 spending limit.) Additionally, you’re getting at least 1% cash back on everything else.

lg_capital-one-journey-visaThe Journey Student Rewards Credit Card goes with a very simple cash back program that also rewards good repayment behavior. If you make that on-time payment, you’re getting an effective 1.25% cash back on all purchases.

I give this criteria to the Discover it® for Students card because you’ll most likely earn much more throughout the year by using the card on one (or several) of those 5% cash back categories, as opposed to the 1.25% effective cash back that you’d receive from the Journey Student Rewards Credit Card.

WINNER (Rewards): Discover it® for Students

Card benefits

Even for you, a college student, credit cards can be more than just a way to make easy payments and earn rewards. They can have special features that would come in handy for you, whether it is saving money on fees or teaching you more about credit.

  • Discover it® for Students: No penalty APR, no first late-payment fee, no foreign transaction fees and free FICO® Credit Score online and on monthly statements
  • Journey Student Rewards Credit Card: No balance transfer fee and free Credit Tracker tool

Discover it® for Students carries a rather lenient fee policy that forgives the student for a first late payment. Normally, that would result in a late-payment fee and a penalty interest rate. While you should never make a late payment, it’s good to know that you get one freebie. The free monthly FICO® credit score is especially useful to you because you get to watch your credit improve. You’ll want to monitor this number because high credit scores help you qualify for loans and better interest rates when you begin to look into other types of loans (e.g., auto loan, mortgages, etc.).

The Journey Student Rewards Credit Card waives foreign transaction fees and balance transfer fees — neither of which will be too beneficial to college students. Capital One does offer a free Credit Tracker tool that lets you simulate various credit situations and it provides a free monthly TransUnion credit score. Use it to help you improve your credit.

While both cards offer a nice credit education tool, I think that the Discover it® for Students card waives fees that are much more impactful for college students. So, it takes the cake for having better card benefits.

WINNER (Card benefits): Discover it® for Students

Annual fee

Being a student certainly does come with its privileges in the banking world. In the same way that you probably don’t have to pay monthly fees on your student checking account, you probably won’t have to pay an annual fee for a student credit card.

Discover it® for Students: $0 annual fee

Journey Student Rewards Credit Card: $0 annual fee

You should never pay an annual fee for a student credit card. That’s why these two cards are among my most-recommended student credit cards. Since they’re catering to students, neither card will charge an annual fee — both cards have an edge over the other on this criteria. Instead, read on the compare the features of both cards to find out which one is the better choice.

WINNER (Annual fee): Tied

Interest rates

As a student, you probably don’t have an established credit history, yet. So, you can expect credit card issuers to tack on higher interest rates on student credit cards. I don’t want to see you carry a balance — you’re going to be paying interest on that! But, if you must, you’d want the lowest APR you can get.

  • Discover it® for Students: 12.99% – 21.99% variable APR
  • Journey Student Rewards Credit Card: 19.8% variable APR

The Discover it® for Students card offers a range of APRs depending on your creditworthiness, while the Journey Student Rewards Credit Cards only has a 19.8% variable APR. The Discover it for Students card has the lower average APR, so I give them the prize for the interest-rate category.

WINNER (Interest rates): Discover it® for Students

Verdict: Discover it® for Students

On many fronts, the Journey Student Rewards Credit Card struggles to compete with the Discover it® for Students card — the overall better student credit card. The Journey Student Rewards Credit Card is fine for its simple cash back program, but with the Discover card, you’re more likely to get pay fewer fees and have more opportunities for great rewards. There’s no wonder why it topped my list of best student credit cards.

Ask a Question

  • Dolly Riviera

    My parents suggested I look into this as I enter my freshman year at college and I found the Discover It card to be more beneficial as well. I like that it monitors our purchases for unusual activity and that we’re given FREE access to our FICO.

    • When it comes to fraud, I don’t think you have too much to worry about — every credit card out there has $0 fraud liability. The free FICO scores are definitely attractive — I wish I had that free access to them when I was a student.