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How far will students go for a discount? Survey says…

How far would you go to get a discount? If you’ve watched Extreme Couponing on TLC or read how-to articles about extreme couponing, you’ve seen the extraordinary measures some thrifty folks will go to in order to save a few bucks. Behind the scenes at SheerID, we’ve also seen some less industrious individuals lie and cheat in an attempt to access exclusive offers that they don’t actually deserve, like academic pricing on software or free vouchers to military appreciation events. Foiling dishonest dirt bags is one of the things we do best. In the last couple of years, we’ve noticed that some daily deal sites and online membership communities require members to input their full or partial social security numbers to sign up. Now, I expect to give out my social security number when I’m doing my taxes or applying for a mortgage, but not necessarily when I’m trying to get 10% off compression capris and stretch mesh tank tops that I want to buy online. I mean, sure, that racer back top is cute, but do I really want to release personally identifiable information to save a couple of dollars?

Back when I was a college student, my social security number was also my student ID number. In the past few years, more and more universities are moving away from this practice, as cyber-attacks, data breaches, and identity theft have become more commonplace. We recently hit campuses and surveyed 585 college students to find out just how concerned they are with protecting their social security numbers and other personally identifiable information.

pie chart displaying the percentage of people who would provide their social security number for a discount

  • 53% said they would never give out the last 4 digits of their social security to get a discount
  •  88% of students said they would not give out their full social security to get a discount

Of the 9% of students who said they would consider giving out their SSN if the discount was good enough, 86% said retailers would have to give them at least 50% off their purchase.

We also asked them what information they are willing to disclose in exchange for special offers, discounts, and academic pricing. Here’s what they said.

bar graph displaying what information students feel comfortable providing for an online discount

The craziest thing is that there is no reason a retailer needs to ask for a social security number to confirm whether or not you are a student. SheerID can instantly verify college enrollment with just a first name, last name, and birthday.

Our surveys have also revealed some fascinating results like:

  • 73% of students say they would be more likely to buy from a company who offers student discounts online compared to a competitor that does not·
  • 86% of students say that they would shop at their favorite stores more often if they offered student discounts
  • 72% say they would use a student discount more often if they were easier to use


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