Student Freebies, Hacks and Discounts

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Credit Sesame unearthed 18 student freebies, hacks and discounts.

Paying college tuition and fees is expensive, costing an average $11,631 for state residents and $28,238 for out-of-state students at public colleges, and $43,775 at private colleges, according to 2021-22 school year data from an annual survey by U.S. News & World Report.

Most college students need every financial break they can find, and we’ve found some great student freebies and student discounts to help make the price of a college education a little easier to bear. Some of these student hacks also make the fun parts of college, such as entertainment, free or inexpensive.

To get most of them you’ll need an .edu email address or a valid student I.D. 

1. Free checking account

Welcome to adulthood, where you’ll need someplace to keep your money. Check with banks on or near campus for free checking accounts and promotions. Many mainstream banks offer accounts with no monthly fees during your college years.

Although not a checking account, Credit Sesame has a no-fee prepaid debit account that builds your credit.

2. Amazon Prime Student

Amazon Prime Student is free for six months to students, and then is 50% off at $7.49 per month for four years as a student. A college email address is needed to confirm enrollment.

Amazon Prime’s perks include free two-day shipping, unlimited streaming of Prime movies and TV shows, unlimited photo storage, Prime Music, and other deals, some of which we list below.

3. Grubhub+

Amazon Prime members get free use of Grubhub+ for one year. The food ordering and delivery app Grubhub usually sells its membership program called Grubhub+ for $9.99 per month. Membership includes unlimited free delivery on orders of $12 or more from selected restaurants.

When their membership expires in a year, students will be billed by Grubhub to continue the plan, though students can cancel their membership. If alcohol is included in their orders, the Grubhub+ benefits won’t apply.

4. YouTube Premium

This freebie is only for one month, after which the YouTube Premium student plan costs $6.99 per month. Normally, a YouTube Premium subscription costs $11.99 monthly.

The service includes ad-free viewing of videos and music, including access to YouTube Music Premium. Videos can be downloaded to view offline.

5. Hulu

The video streaming service Hulu isn’t a freebie, but the student discount drops the $6.99 monthly price for ad-supported viewing by 70% to $1.99 per month.

6. Paramount+

Students get 25% off the streaming service Paramount+, dropping the regular $10 monthly price for the ad-free plan to about $3.75 monthly.

7. Discovery+

Having a hard time in your history class? The streaming service Discovery+ may be worth subscribing to as a student to watch some history TV shows, along with included networks such as “Food Network,” “Animal Planet,” and “TLC.” 

A subscription that normally costs $5 per month with advertisements costs $3 per month for students, which is about a 40% discount.

8. Spotify

The music streaming service Spotify is free for the first month to students, and it then offers a student discount that lowers a $10 monthly, ad-free subscription to $5 monthly. Offline and on-demand play are included.

An additional bonus is that student subscribers get free access to Showtime and the ad-supported Hulu plan.

9. Pandora

The Pandora Premium Student account starts with 60 days for free, then charges $5 per month to students for up to four years. It’s a 50% discount and includes no ads, podcasts, search and play, unlimited skips, unlimited offline listening, and the ability to make and share playlists.

10. Apple Music

A 40% student discount for Apple Music has the same features as an individual account, all for $6 per month instead of the normal $10. It used to be a 50% discount, so students may want to jump on the current deal before it goes up again.

The Apple Music Student plan also comes with free Apple TV+ for up to four years while a student is in college.  

Apple’s music streaming service has more than 90 million songs, 30,000 playlists, ad-free music, the ability to download 100,000 songs, and offline access to songs, among other features.

11. SiriusXM

The music streaming service SiriusXM is discounted to $1 for three months for students, and then costs $4 monthly, compared to the regular price of $11 monthly. SiriusXM streams music, sports, news, talk, entertainment, podcasts, celebrity interviews

12. Newspaper subscriptions

Way back when newspaper subscriptions only came in print, a student hack I used in college to save money was to subscribe to the local newspaper with my dorm neighbor who was also a journalism major. We split the cost and passed the newspaper to each other as we read it.

Online subscriptions to many services, including newspapers, are often discounted for students, so check with your local newspaper or a national paper you like to see if it offers a student discount.

Students who sign up for six months of free Amazon Prime (tip No. 2) also get free access for six months to the Washington Post.

The New York Times offers students unlimited digital access to its news and other features for $1.50 a week, which is billed at $6 every four weeks for one year. This deal isn’t for four years, as most student discounts are, and after one year the standard rate of $25 every four weeks for one year applies, which is still a good deal.

We’ve previously seen this student discount for $1 per week, so it may be worthwhile to buy it soon in case the price increases again.

13. Transportation

Many colleges offer free rides on public transportation such as buses, along with other free or inexpensive ways for students to travel around campus and the city or surrounding area. Check your college’s website for options in your area.

Cal Poly Humboldt students who live on or off campus in Arcata, Calif., get free rides on three bus systems in the area. Humboldt also has a carpooling program, a dial-a-ride program, and Zipcar car sharing for $8 an hour or $66 per day.

14. Gym memberships

Many colleges have gyms on campus where students can exercise for free. Show a current student ID as proof that you’re enrolled in classes and you can work out for free.

15. Use Visa gift card for free trials

One potential problem with many free or discounted online subscriptions is that they require a credit card for payment. Or a credit card may be needed to pay the regular rate when the free deal ends. College students don’t often have credit cards. 

One student hack around this is to buy a Visa or Mastercard prepaid gift card with enough money on it to pay the discounted student rate for the trial period. If the gift card has a valid Visa or Mastercard number and a CVV code, then it should work as a credit card.

Visa cards start with number 4, and Mastercards with 5. The CVV code is a three digit code on the back of the card.

You should cancel the subscription before the free trial ends, because that’s when charges at the regular rate, or possibly a discounted student rate, will begin. If you don’t have enough money on the credit card, then it could be considered fraud and you could be held liable for the unpaid charges.

16. Become a ramen chef

A bag of Maruchan ramen noodle soup costs about 30 cents, and may be your go-to meal at least once a week. A cheap meal doesn’t mean you have to eat like a starving college student. 

For a few dollars more you can add an egg and vegetables. At the very minimum, green onions can spice up ramen a little.

You can also search online for noodle recipes. One spot to start is the Maruchan website, which has recipes for bacon and ramen burritos, Ethiopian fire beef ramen, and a yakisoba dog. Yakisoba and some of its other noodles are more expensive than ramen, so choose your dinner recipes with your budget in mind.

17. Student discounts at local businesses

Be sure to take your student ID with you when leaving campus, since many local businesses offer student freebies or discounts. 

Businesses around Concordia University in Texas, for example, offers discounts on car services, water skiing, doughnuts, chicken meals, sandwiches, haircuts, hotel stays, and phone service.

18. Free food 

If you find your home pantry a little bare at the end of the month, or anytime, some colleges give students free access to a food pantry. 

Florida International University in Miami, for example, has a free food pantry where students can take up to 10 pounds of canned and dry goods, produce and toiletries.

Bottom line for student freebies

Deals and student freebies can change at any time, as we’ve found with Apple Music and the New York Times subscriptions, so double check the costs before signing up. Also look carefully at the renewal terms. After four years or however long the free offer lasts, which may only be a week or a month, your credit card may automatically be charged the regular rate.

Some student freebies and plans also require annual verification of your enrollment status, which is usually done through a third party attached to the app. If you don’t have a valid student ID, then maybe these deals will convince you to return to college or at least give it a try.

In addition to student freebies you may also be interested in:

Disclaimer: The article and information provided here is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional advice.

Aaron Crowe
Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist who specializes in personal finance topics. He has written for Wise Bread, AOL, AARP, Bankrate and other websites that focus on financial literacy and saving money. He has also worked as a newspaper reporter and editor. You can follow him on Twitter @AaronCrowe.

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