Discover Student Loans Review: Get Cash Back for Good Grades

discover student loans

For many students, federal student loans and other student aid won’t cover the full cost of attending college. That’s why many people work with private student loan lenders to help cover additional costs.

Discover student loans not only offer competitive interest rates and no fees, but they also offer something no other student loan company does: a cash reward worth 1 percent of your loan balance if you maintain a 3.0 grade point average (GPA) or the equivalent.

Keep reading to learn whether Discover student loan perks are right for you.

Discover student loan review

Before we dig into the details, here are the main benefits and drawbacks of getting a Discover student loan:

Pros Cons
Has competitive interest rates Doesn’t offer income-based repayment or student loan forgiveness
Charges no fees whatsoever Doesn’t offer pre-qualification
Offers cash back for good grades Doesn’t offer cosigner release on new loans

Discover student loan options

Discover offers the following student loans to current and prospective students as well as existing student loan borrowers:

  • Undergraduate loans
  • Graduate loans
  • MBA loans
  • Health professions loans
  • Law loans
  • Residency loans
  • Bar exam loans
  • Consolidation loans

Borrowing limits

With most Discover student loans, you can borrow up to 100 percent of the school-certified cost of attendance. Here are the exceptions:

  • You can borrow up to either $5,000 or $18,000 with a residency loan, depending on your area of focus.
  • You can borrow up to $16,000 for bar exam preparation, with a minimum of $1,000 per loan.
  • You can borrow between $5,000 and $150,000 with a consolidation loan (higher limits might apply for certain fields of study).

Repayment options

For all loans except consolidation loans, you have two repayment options:

  • In-school: You pay at least $25 per month while you’re in school.
  • Deferred: You make no payment while you’re in school. Your grace period ends nine months after you graduate or your enrollment drops below half time.

With a consolidation loan, your first payment is due within 30 to 45 days after the loan is disbursed.

Repayment periods

Most loans have a 20-year repayment period. The only exceptions are undergraduate loans with a 15-year period and consolidation loans with 10-year and 20-year periods.

Using the Discover student loans online platform

To apply for Discover student loans, you’ll start by entering your state, your school, and the type of loan you want.

Image credit: Discover Bank

From there, you’ll share information about yourself, including your:

  • Full name
  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • Date of birth
  • Citizenship status
  • Social Security number
  • Address
  • Employment and income information
  • Anticipated degree information
  • Loan information

According to Discover’s website, the full process takes just 15 minutes. You might need to share some documents to support your income and residence information.

If approved, you can manage your account online through Great Lakes, which services Discover student loans.

Discover student loans interest rates and fees

Before you choose a student loan, it’s best to compare interest rates and fees to make sure you’re getting the best deal.

Here’s the good news: Discover doesn’t charge any fees whatsoever — not even late fees.

The bank’s interest rates, which can be fixed or variable, are also reasonable. You’ll even get a 0.25 percent interest rate reduction if you choose autopay for your monthly payments.

Here’s how interest rates for each loan type break down, as of November 2017:

Loan Type Variable Interest Rates Fixed Interest Rates
Undergraduate loans 4.37% to 10.37% APR 6.49% to 11.99% APR
Graduate loans 4.37% to 11.62% APR 6.49% to 12.99% APR
MBA loans 4.37% to 10.87% APR 6.49% to 11.99% APR
Health professions loans 4.37% to 8.37% APR 6.49% to 9.99% APR
Law loans 4.37% to 8.37% APR 6.49% to 9.99% APR
Residency loans 4.87% to 7.87% APR 6.99% to 9.49% APR
Bar exam loans 4.87% to 9.87% APR 6.99% to 11.49% APR
Consolidation loans 3.87% to 7.12% APR 5.24% to 8.24% APR

Other features

Although it’s easy to focus on the interest rates and fees, there are other features to consider that Discover student loans offer — and some they don’t.

Cash rewards

Discover is a good choice if you’re a stellar student. As long as you maintain at least a 3.0 GPA (or equivalent) while you’re in school, you’ll get a 1 percent cash reward based on the loan balance.

So, if you have $30,000 in student loans, you’ll get a $300 cash reward to use however you want.

This perk is available for the following loans:

  • Undergraduate loans
  • Graduate loans
  • MBA loans
  • Health professions loans
  • Law loans

You can apply to redeem the reward within six months after the academic term covered by the loan has ended or six months after the final disbursement is made on the loan, whichever is later.

Cosigner release

This is one major feature the Discover student loan program is missing. A cosigner release allows cosigners to be removed from the loan after a period of on-time payments and a re-evaluation of the primary borrower’s creditworthiness.

Without that feature, cosigners are stuck with the loan on their credit report until it’s paid off or the borrower refinances with another lender.

Pre-qualification

Some student loan companies, such as SoFi and Earnest, allow you to see interest rate offers with a soft credit check before you officially apply, which gives you an idea of which lender might offer the best deal.

However, you have to apply with a hard credit check to see what Discover can offer you. Hard credit checks can ding your credit score, so it’s wise to keep them to a minimum.

Discover student loans eligibility requirements

For all Discover student loans, you must be at least 16 years old to apply and pass a credit check. For the consolidation loan, however, you have to be at least 18.

International students are welcome to apply for Discover student loans, but they need a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to get approved.

If you’re applying for an in-school loan, you need to be seeking a degree and making satisfactory academic progress, which is determined by your school. You also need to be enrolled at least half time.

To be eligible for a residency loan, you must’ve graduated from medical school in the past 12 months. For a bar exam loan, you must’ve graduated from law school within the past six months.

Discover student loans customer service

Discover prides itself on its U.S.-based customer service team. You can reach a student loan specialist by calling 1-800-STUDENT anytime.

Alternatively, you can reach the social media team via Facebook or Twitter.

Discover student loan review: Is it right for you?

The Discover student loans cash reward perk is nice, but you shouldn’t let it drive your decision. If you can score a lower interest rate somewhere else, you’ll likely save more on interest over the life of the loan than you’d get from the cash bonus.

Discover’s lack of a cosigner release policy and pre-qualification process also makes it more restrictive than some other lenders. Your best bet is to shop around and compare several student loan lenders to see what they have to offer.

The more time you spend doing the research, the more likely it is that you’ll find the best deal for you.

Need a student loan?

Here are our top student loan lenders of 2018!
LenderRates (APR)Eligibility 

1 = Citizens Disclaimer.

2 = CollegeAve Autopay Disclaimer: The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
3.24% -
11.99%
1
Undergraduate, Graduate, and ParentsVisit Citizens
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9.67%
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2
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3.25% - 11.85%Undergraduate and GraduateVisit SallieMae
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