This article is by staff writer Honey Smith.

Student discounts are an interesting topic. They don’t typically give you a discount for anything on campus, because those amenities are paid for by your tuition and “miscellaneous registration fees” — though lots of student groups on campus offer free food in exchange for your attendance and involvement at their events.

No, student discounts are actually given at the discretion of retailers and service providers. And often, they are not advertised.

So how do you find out about and take advantage of these opportunities? The simple answer is to ask.

While at first it may seem awkward or even embarrassing to ask for discounts, the worst that someone can say is no. And it’s a lot more awkward to graduate from college with a mountain of debt, needing to save every penny to repay those student loans, at a time when you are no longer eligible for those discounts! And learning how to ask potentially awkward questions as a part of being your own advocate is part of becoming an adult, anyway.

Using student discounts intelligently

Just because a store offers a student discount doesn’t mean that you should be shopping there. Remember, the point of saving money is to put it in a savings account or decrease the amount of student loans you take out. The point is NOT to use the money you save to buy more things, or to spend money you didn’t plan to on things that you don’t need.

Another important thing to remember is that just because a company offers a student discount doesn’t mean that it has the lowest price. Nor does it mean it offers the best value for your money — something that is sometimes, but not always, the same thing as offering the lowest price.

The point? While some businesses offer substantial savings on essentials, others promote student discounts to get you in the door so they can make a profit off your buying things that you don’t need. Don’t fall for that! You’re in college in part to develop your critical thinking skills. So hone them by evaluating all your options and consciously choosing what’s best for you.

That said, here are some categories of retailers that offer student discounts along with some thoughts on how good a deal you’re really getting.

Technology products

Students can save big on computer hardware and other electronics at companies like:

  • Apple
  • Best Buy
  • Dell
  • Fujitsu
  • Hewlett-Packard

Additionally, students may be eligible for substantial software savings from big names that include:

  • Adobe
  • Microsoft
  • Norton

Note that many of these discounts may be easier to obtain if you go through your college or university’s computer store, though many may only require a “.edu” email address to verify your eligibility.

Technology services

Plenty of cellphone companies offer student discounts. Try companies like:

  • AT&T
  • Sprint
  • T-Mobile

This is one of those categories where it pays to comparison shop, however. While discount providers may not offer student discounts, their monthly plans may cost less than half as much, for similar service, without requiring a two-year contract. Usually you have to pay full price for a last-gen phone, but you can save a bundle and still have something that has all the capability you really need.

Auto-related savings

Many of the major auto insurance providers offer student discounts, though there may be an age limit and you also may need to be considered a good student, which usually means a B average or above. Check out:

  • Allstate Insurance
  • Esurance
  • Geico
  • Nationwide Insurance
  • State Farm Insurance
  • Travelers Insurance

In addition, if you’re renting, insurance companies may offer student discounts on rental insurance as well, or they may offer a discount for bundling policies or allowing them to monitor your driving. They may list discounts on their website, or you can call and ask about ways to reduce the cost of this service.

Beyond insurance, auto shops like Jiffy Lube offer a student discount on many services, and it’s always worth asking if you use another vendor. If you don’t have a car, Zipcar offers student discounts if you attend a partner university.

Food

There are so many restaurants that offer student discounts that there’s almost no point in listing them. Just know that if you ask, your odds are good, especially in the neighborhood around a university. However, remember that dining out is one of the biggest budget busters there is. Brown-bagging a lunch doesn’t have to be boring and can save you money.

One thing worth mentioning is that some Kroger locations offer student discounts, and since that’s a huge chain that operates under a ton of subsidiaries like Fry’s, Harris Teeter, Ralph’s, and more, it’s worth asking about student discounts at these stores. Sam’s Club also offers discounted membership to students, and you can stock up on not only food, but a wide variety of general merchandise there as well.

Retail and entertainment

Like food, many retail and entertainment venues offer student discounts. However, even at 10 or 15 percent off, seeing movies in the theater or buying brand-new clothes and accessories adds up fast. As far as entertainment goes, most colleges and universities have so much going on that you couldn’t possibly do it all even if you tried. As far as clothes, Goodwill also offers student discounts, and if you find one in a ritzy neighborhood, there are often practically new designer clothes to be had for a fraction of the cost.

Amazon Student offers Prime services to students for free for six months, after which they are eligible for a 50 percent discount on Prime membership for up to four years (assuming continued student status). Note that even though the service is free to join, I’m betting they still require a credit card number because they automatically bill you for Prime membership at the discounted rate at the end of the trial period. And if you don’t cancel, you’ll also be automatically upgraded to Prime at the regular rate after four years or after you are no longer eligible.

There’s an app for that

So much information there’s no room in your brain for it all? Well, when it comes to tracking student discounts, as with practically everything else these days, there’s an app for that!

Searching for “student discounts” in my phone’s app store, there were numerous options for free apps to help save money. Since I’m not currently a student and can’t verify my status, I couldn’t sign up, but apps like TUN and UNiDAYS seem impressive. And with location-aware apps poised to become the next big thing, we’re not far from the days when you’ll receive a push notification upon entering a participating retailer’s location. Ain’t technology grand?

What are your favorite student discounts? Which do you think are overrated? Share your stories in the comments below!

GRS is committed to helping our readers save and achieve their financial goals. Savings interest rates may be low, but that is all the more reason to shop for the best rate. Find the highest savings interest rates and CD rates from Synchrony Bank, Ally Bank, and more.