Being a college student can often mean living on a tight budget. After you pay for your classes and buy your books, you may need to do some serious bargain shopping to stretch your discretionary dollars. Fortunately for you, there are dozens of retailers, restaurants and even websites that want your business, and they’re willing to offer some pretty nice discounts to get it.
If you’re a college student, your student ID can be your key to unlocking savings in nearly every aspect of your life. To help you navigate through this field of savings opportunities, we compiled a list of college student discounts at popular national chains and online stores that we hope adds a little financial relief while you pursue a better life through education.
No Guarantees With College Student Discounts
We tried our best to make certain the businesses on the following lists are actively offering discounts for college students. Special bargains and student discounts are subject to change, and businesses often alter, cancel, or temporarily suspend student discounts without warning. When it comes to national chains, different locations may offer different incentives. So, if the discount makes or breaks the deal, be sure to ask before swiping your credit or debit card.
When You Only Have 30 Minutes Before Class Starts — Fast Food Restaurants
For most college students, time is just about as precious as money. Sometimes, you only have a few minutes to grab a snack or a cup of coffee. Here are some fast food restaurants that offer college student discounts:
- Arby’s – This restaurant offers a 10% discount off the price of your purchase at participating locations.
- Burger King – You’ll find a 10% discount at participating locations when you show your student ID.
- Chick Fil A – Many locations offer students a free beverage with the purchase of a meal and a valid student ID. Considering fountain beverages tend to run about $2, that can be close to a 20-25% savings.
- Chipotle Mexican Grill – Don’t risk getting caught filling your water cup with fountain soda. Some locations will give you a free regular drink when you show a college or student ID.
- Dunkin Donuts – Participating locations offer a 10% discount with your student ID. Perfect for all-night cram sessions.
- Firehouse Subs – Some locations take 10% off your purchase price when you flash a valid student ID.
- McDonald’s – The number two fast food chain in the world (by number of locations) offers a 10% discount for students at participating locations.
- Subway – Not to be outdone by the runner up, this number one fast food chain also provides discounts. Many of Subway’s 27,000 U.S. locations offer a 10% discount with your student ID.
- Papa John’s Pizza – Students can save 10-20% on a side item with a valid ID.
- Pizza Hut Pizza – This chain is frequently mentioned on lists of restaurants that offer student discounts, so check with your local store when you call for a delivery.
- Taco Bell – Taco Bell is open late and frequently has a 10% discount for students with ID.
When You Have a Little More Time to Eat – Dine-In Establishments
You can’t, and shouldn’t, live on fast food alone. When you have little more time, here are some of the sit-down, eat-in restaurants that try to make things a little easier on students. Remember to ask before you pay your check and apply tipping on the pre-discounted rate to avoid unpleasant sneers from your server:
- Buffalo Wild Wings – This national chicken wing chain is continuing to expand its operations and is after the student dollar. Many participating retailers offer a 10% discount to students with credentials.
- Buca di Beppo – Not every community has one of these “family style” Italian restaurants in the neighborhood, but with 92 locations, there’s at least a decent chance there’s one close to your campus. Some locations offer a 10% student ID discount.
- Waffle House – Most of these places never close, so they’re staples in the student world. Many locations offer a 10% discount.
- Sweet Tomatoes – If you live in one of the fifteen states that have Sweet Tomatoes restaurants, you may have eaten at one of these relatively healthy garden buffets. Sweet Tomatoes offers 10% college ID discounts at some locations.
- Hard Rock Café – Hard Rock Cafés are all over the world. Whether you’re lucky enough to live close to one or you’re on the road, pack your college ID for various discounts. Locations offer from 10-20%, but some of them require additional membership in the International Student Identification Card (ISIC) club or other student travel programs.
When You Need to Change up Your Wardrobe – Clothing Stores
If you’re an active college student, the ability to make fast clothing changes may be as important as being able to grab a cup of coffee or some handheld food between classes. Having a versatile wardrobe is essential to a busy life, and your student ID can help you build the wardrobe you need. In some cases, you may have to download a coupon from the store’s website to bring in with your college ID, but depending on the discount and the amount of your purchase, it may be worth burning a little cellphone data. Here are a few clothing retailers that offer incentives to college students:
- Ann Taylor – You’ll find seasonal discounts of up to 15% off the purchase price with your student ID.
- Banana Republic – At Banana Repbulic, both students and teachers up to 15% off the full price of their purchases with a student ID or teacher’s credentials.
- J. Crew – Some retailers are more committed to their college student discounts than others. J. Crew falls into that category. From their website: “We love teachers. All teachers receive 15% off any in-store purchase with a valid school ID. College students (We love you too.) Receive a 15% discount off any in-store purchase with a valid student ID.” The discount only applies to full-priced merchandise.
- TOMS Shoes – If you want to feel great about buying shoes, TOMS may be your company. They offer a 10% discount to students and donate a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair they sell.
- The Limited – This is another store that doesn’t mind putting it in writing. The Limited’s website assures students, teachers, and military personnel they can get 15% off any purchase at any of their stores with a valid educational or military ID.
- Club Monaco – This clothing retailer offers a 15-20% discount to students with valid college identification. The amount of the discount depends on the location, so make sure you ask.
- Juicy Couture – It has offered 15% discounts to students with valid ID, but these discounts are seasonal and are only at participating stores.
- Goodwill – Thrifters rejoice. Many Goodwill stores offer students an additional 10% off the already low prices that can be found at the national second-hand chain.
When You Have a Couple of Free Hours – Movie Theaters
Last year, the National Association of Theater Owners reported the average price of a movie ticket was $8.70, but if you live in a metropolitan area, you may be paying $12 or more for a primetime movie ticket. However, your student ID will get you a discount at most locations for several national movie chains — as well as at many local indie theaters. The student ID discount rate may get cancelled for big releases on opening weekends, so always check on the theater’s website or at the box office. Where we were able to find it, we listed the average student price per ticket:
- AMC Theaters – This chain has over 300 theaters in the U.S., but only offers student discounts on Thursdays. The average discounted price for students is $12.69. ($13.69 for adults.)
- Cinemark Theaters – You’ll find student discounts, but they don’t disclose the discount amount per ticket.
- Muvico Theaters – This theater chain offers student tickets at an average price of $9, which is $1.75 off the average adult price per ticket.
- Regal Cinemas – One of the largest movie chains, Regal discounts movie tickets for students Monday through Thursday, with an average discounted ticket costing $11. ($12 is the adult price.)
- Harkins Theaters – On Thursdays, Harkins offers a student ticket at $7.25, which is $2 cheaper than the standard adult ticket. But before you get too excited over the discount, Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and California are the only states where Harkins operates.
We were unable to determine which theaters might offer college ID discounts at the concession stands, but it never hurts to look for a sign or ask.
When You Need to Upgrade Your Tech – Electronics and Software
If there’s one sector of the economy that wants to get students on board with their products, it’s technology. Not only do tech companies recognize that college students set trends, but they also know it’s nearly impossible to attend a college without having access to a computer, as well as computer programs and accessories. Here are some of the tech brands that consistently offer the best deals to customers with student ID cards:
- Adobe – The Creative Cloud, which contains PhotoShop, Illustrator, InDesign, and others is available to students and teachers for $16.99 per month. The normal price is $49.99 per month – about 67% off.
- Amazon – Prime Student is free for the first six months. It includes free deliveries and access to all of Amazon’s shows and movies.
- Apple Computer Stores – The computer and phone juggernaut offers up to $200 off the price of a computer for “college students, students accepted to college, parents buying for college students, faculty, homeschool teachers, and staff at all grade levels” when they sign up for UNiDAYS. Apple Music also periodically offers student discounts.
- Best Buy – You’ll find exclusive deals to students on certain products.
- Dell Computer – Dell has an entire webpage dedicated to discounted products and special deals called “Dell University.” Student deals are changed periodically.
- Microsoft Systems – Microsoft offers a 10% discount to students from participating colleges on a variety of products. There are also substantial discounts for their Office software package for students, as well.
- Sony – The giant electronics conglomerate offers a 10% discount to students on some products.
- Bose – With Bose, you’ll find up to 15% off certain products to “educators and members of educational associations,” but they only take orders over the phone. When we tried the number, there was a wait to speak to a representative.
- Logitech – You’ll get up to 20% off if you are a student or teacher registering on their site.
- Ableton – This company designs and sells editing software. For students and teachers, they offer 40% off their Live software program.
When You Need to Get Away – Travel, Lodgings, and Car Rentals
Whether you’re trying to get home or get away from home, travel can be costly. Fortunately, there are some transportation and lodging businesses that try to help students with ID cards get around a little easier. Here are a few we found:
- American Airlines – The largest airline in the world offers special rates to students through StudentUniverse. You can check on specific flights via their website.
- United Airlines – United claims to have the best student rates of any major airline.
- Lufthansa – If you’re traveling abroad, Lufthansa’s Generation Fly promises low fares and flexible flights for passengers with student .edu email addresses.
- Greyhound Bus Lines – Sometimes traveling by bus can be your best bet if you’re on a tight budget. Greyhound gives students a 20% discount on tickets, but some routes aren’t available for the discounted prices.
- Amtrak – Rail is not dead, and for a student, it can be fast, efficient, and cheap. Amtrak’s Savings 101 gives students a year-round 15% discount.
- Eurail – Europe’s primary passenger rail service gives a 35% discount to travelers under 26 years of age.
- Alamo Car Rental – College students who are of a legal age to rent cars can save up to 20% off the rental fees.
- Hotels.com – You’ll find a 4% cash back rebate up to a $100 for students who book through Studentrate.com.
Anything Else You Can Use – Miscellaneous
- Publications – The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Forbes, Scientific American, and dozens of other magazines offer students deep discounts for print and online editions of their publications.
- Museums – Most museums offer discounted rates to college students with ID. Among some of the more famous institutions with student ID discounts are the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American National History Museum, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Carnegie Museums, and many others.
- Cultural Events – Your college ID can score you discounted tickets to the Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln Center, Broadway musicals, and other plays, ballets, and shows throughout the country.
- Car Insurance – State Farm, Esurance, Nationwide, Allstate, and Geico all feature “good student” discounts for drivers in school who maintain a B average or higher.
- Shipping – Federal Express, DHL, and Greyhound (yes, the bus company) offer deep discounts for students who need to ship packages.
- Wireless Carriers – Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile all offer some form of student discount to their customers. Whether you’re a new or existing customer, contact your provider to see if they’ll lower your bill.
A Few Sites That Connect Students With Discounts
While most of the businesses listed above will give you your discount when you show them your college ID, a few require a membership in an outside organization. Here are a few sites that partner with companies to help college students find savings:
- UNiDays – Free membership. Sign up using your .edu address.
- International Student Identification Card (ISIC) – Costs $25 and takes several weeks to get your physical card, but the organization offers discounts at global locations. We recommend you check the list of discounts to make sure they are something you’ll use before paying the fee.
- Save the Student – A free subscription service that informs college students of new deals available to students.
- ThinkEdu.com – A site dedicated to bringing deals for students to the students. Some of the better-known brands periodically featured include Samsung, Rosetta Stone, and Toshiba.
Do Your Own Discount Research
In compiling our list, we tried to verify our information is current and accurate. In some cases, however, particularly when franchising is involved, not every location has the same deals. If you’re counting on a discount, finding out it no longer is offered can be frustrating and sometimes embarrassing. Take a couple of minutes to contact the company or to look at their website to confirm the college student savings are still available.