How to get an NUS student discount card, even when you’re not a student

If you’ve recently had a Totum discount card you might be able to renew it or get an Alumni card.

One of the first articles I wrote on the blog, and one of the most popular for years, was a hack to get a student discount if you weren’t a student. The trick was to sign up for an online course at certain providers where you’d be eligible for the NUS Totum card.

I first signed up back in 2013 for an online Photoshop card, and repeated it a number of times until these online education businesses were all removed by NUS in 2018. Sad times.

However, if you previously took advantage of this trick, of if you graduated in the last three years, then you might be able to get a new NUS card! Here’s how:

Totum Alumni card for previous card holders

If you are a recent graduate, or if you picked up a Totum card via the now-defunct trick listed below, you might be able to pick up an alumni card. This will give you all the same discounts, without you having to still be at university.

There are a few ways to get this. First you can log in to your NUS/Totum account and see if you’ve got the option to just buy a new card. I had a look at my old account and this was there ready for me to get. One thing I noticed was that this didn’t seem to be an alumni card, but it worked in the same way – as long as I didn’t change my place of study (doing this required a new verification).

It might be that your old log-in doesn’t work anymore as I recall having to change my password when NUS changed to Totum. In that case, try the following.

Follow this link to set up a support ticket with Totum. Ideally you’ll need your card number, but hopefully your email will suffice. You’ll then be sent a verification link to order your new alumni Totum card.

Or if you were an actual student who graduated within the last three years then follow the same link and upload proof of graduation.

What is an NUS Totum card?

If you’ve ever been a student, you’ll know that your ID often doubled up as an NUS (National Union of Students) card and gave you discounts in shops, cinemas and more.

A good few years ago NUS started charging students to get an NUS Extra card, which as the name suggests, gave even more discounts. It’s since been rebranded Totum.

The cards also now come with an ISIC (International Student Identity Card), giving student prices overseas and on travel.

It’s a great way to save, even if there is a £12 annual cost plus delivery. It’s cheaper to get a three year card, though that only has the ISIC card for one year.

How much money can I save?

Potentially a huge amount.

Of course, it depends on what you buy. There are still thousands of ways to save. Plenty of high street shops will give a 10% discount, including Co-op, Leon, Superdrug and Office. Add on the discounts you can get at cinemas, theatres, galleries and thousands of shops and you should easily make your £13.50 back. Anything after that is a massive bonus.

Unfortunately, some student discounts (eg Young Persons Railcard), require a student ID. And some discounts – such as Spotify and Asos – are only available via sites like MyUniDays and StudentBeans which require a full .ac.uk email address.

Best NUS card discounts

You can search the NUS Totum website to see where you can use it, though many businesses won’t be listed there so ask in-store or look for signs.

I’ve shared a list of some of the top places to look here. However, there are a few which I think are particularly special:

Apple student discount

If you’re going to buy an iMac, iPad or Macbook then having an NUS card means you can get the Education Discount. It’s worth up to 10% off, and if you buy in August and September you can usually get some free Beats headphones thrown in! To use online you click through from the NUS website. More on saving at Apple with a student discount

Amazon Prime student discount

Students get six-months free Amazon Prime, then pay just £39 a year for three years. A fantastic deal. More on getting Amazon Student here.

The old trick to get an NUS discount card when you aren’t a student

Though this trick has ended, I’m keeping the article below – but just remember it stopped working in 2018!

** UPDATE 12/1/20 – I’ve been emailed by Totum about renewing my card which I did really easily. I also used it again to extend my Amazon Prime Student membership, even though my initial three-year period had ended.**

** UPDATE 17/8/18 – It now looks like all online providers have been removed from the NUS/Totum application and it’s highly unlikely that they will return. If there are any new tricks I’ll update the article below.**

In the meantime, if you do have an NUS or Totum card then here’s my pick of the best deals.

How to get an NUS student discount card when you’re not a student

Instead of enrolling at a college or university, you used to be able can sign up for an online learning course. There are a number of different course providers which have an agreement with NUS to provide the cards to their students.

These courses cover everything from baking to business and usually last a year. When I discovered this trick in 2013 I’d bought a Photoshop course. It was something I wanted to do and the NUS card was an unexpected bonus. But in subsequent years I’ve bought random courses such as bookkeeping and Microsoft Excel in order to get my card.

Which online courses make you eligible for an NUS card?

There are a few linked to NUS including those provided by New Skills Academy, and NCC.

Going direct to these companies to buy a course can be very expensive. Fortunately they are all often for sale at discounted prices on sites like Groupon. I’ll list some course options below.

New Skills Academy definitely still appears on the NUS Card application form. Though the NCC website states you are eligible I can’t see NCC listed, so it’s probabaly best to avoid it for now. Sadly the likes of Ecareers, Shaw Academy, Of Course and Digital Sea Ltd no longer have the NUS partnership.

Pay for a discounted online learning course from New Skills Academy or another provider

If you’re looking for a course you want to take and willing to pay for it, then the trick is to buy your course cut-price from a deals site like Groupon or Wowcher.

The cheapest paid course I can find is £12 – not bad as long as you aren’t bothered about the actual course content, though you might have to pay closer to £19 if this isn’t available.

If you want to take advantage of the course you might need to spend nearer to £20 or £30 – though there’s probably something for everyone.

** UPDATE 17/8/18 – It now looks like all online providers have been removed from the NUS/Totum application and it’s highly unlikely that they will return. If there are any new tricks I’ll update the article below.**

Cheapest course I can find (26/7/18):

  • Groupon – Blogging or blogging from New Skills Academy (£12)

Other courses to check out

  • Groupon – Various from New Skills Academy
  • LivingSocial – Various from New Skills Academy
  • Wowcher – Various from New Skills Academy

Have a hunt around to see if there’s anything that takes your fancy. When you do click through, do make sure the course is being offered by one of the providers listed above as some deals sites mix the search results with courses by other companies.

Also, as we saw with Ecareers, Shaw Academy and Of Course it’s possible some providers will get dropped by NUS – so there is a risk. I check this page from time to time (last update 2/8/18) to ensure the provider is listed on the NUS website, but to be doubly sure you can check yourself in the application process, which you can do before you purchase the course.

If you buy a course from one of the deals sites you’ll need to activate the course before you can get the . The instructions on how to do this will be listed when you purchase it.

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How to apply for your NUS card

Once you’ve signed up to your course, you can simply apply for an NUS Extra card on the NUS website.  You don’t need to contact the course provider at all about this.

Here’s how to apply for your NUS Card:

  • Step 1: Go to NUS.org.uk 
  • Step 2: Enter your email address
  • Step 3: Type in the course provider as your place of study. This should auto-populate the box after three characters. Once it appears hit continue.
  • Step 4: Enter the start date and end date. With most of these courses it will be just for 12 months. You then need to choose the course level (“Professional/Vocational” should be ok for most), and finally the course discipline. There are enough options here for you to find one close to your chosen course.
  • Step 5: Here you pick the length of NUS card you are buying and any add-ons (more on these later)
  • Step 6: Next upload a photo of yourself (this will be displayed on the card).
  • Step 7: Enter your personal details. You may be asked for a student number or password. You should be able to find this in the account you’ve set up for your online course.
  • Step 8: You pay! It’s £12 for a one year course, and £1.50 for delivery.

Top-ups to add to your NUS Card

There are a couple of options to add before you checkout.

You can choose to make a charitable donation, or you can add an annual Gourmet Society card (similar to Tastecard). This costs £7 for one year or £15 for three, making it the cheapest way to get one. Though it’s worth checking out other deals before committing.

>> Read more about dining cards in my guide.

Can you really get an NUS card if you’re not a student?

Yes. And it’s completely legitimate. I found this trick because I’d signed up for a photoshop course in 2013, and I’ve renewed it a further three times so far.

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283 thoughts on “How to get an NUS student discount card, even when you’re not a student

  1. (September 2020) I just managed to get another Totem Pro card without even verifying what course I was on! I logged in for the first time in years and it took me straight to a page asking me to provide them my details again to re-verify my student status. Distance Learning Centre still say they offer Totem cards so I tried typing that in and lo and behold, it came up as an option. I selected it, proceeded, and it never asked me for any further course details, just my payment method, and done. My new card is on the way.

    1. Just tried it – now says ‘no verification method available.’ and wont let me go any futher.

  2. Andy – Totum are now offering a Totum Pro Card for non-students. Same discounts as the old NUS Extra / new Totum card, but without having to register as a student.
    It seems it is by invitation only as I got sent a personal code which worked fine – my NUS card having expired this year. Worth looking at Totum Pro link on the Totum website as it is targeted and “available to all previous NUS extra and TOTUM cardholders, you don’t have to be studying at college or uni to grab one”, so this might show people how to get one.

  3. Just got TOTUM card without any course sign up, just select Pitman Training when ordering card.

    1. How did you select home delivery?

      1. I can only see collect in person as an option?

        1. Me too. How does it work?

    2. It now says ‘no verification method available’ and wont let you go any further now 🙁

  4. Hi i’ve Just had an email from TOTUM – they are now offering a TOTUM Pro card and that seems to ecareers as an option. Can’t test it as my card isn’t due to expire yet

    1. Thanks, Lisa. I’ve called Ecareers but they say that’s a mistake and they don’t have a partnership with Totum. I’ll keep an eye on this to see if it changes.

  5. As of 18 July 2019 I can confirm that the hack using Darlington Borough Council combined with Home Delivery does work to purchase a Totum card, but only for one year at a time (the three year option is not available). £12 for the card, £1.50 for delivery, a tidy total of £13.50 for a year’s worth of discounts.

    1. Michael Mitchell August 4, 2019 at 11:46 am

      How do you sign up to Darlington Borough Council? So free to sign up to them, and then £12 for the totum card?

      Thanks

    2. Which course did you sign up for and how much did the course cost ?

    3. please can you explain how this works?

      1. Sadly this loophole closed in 2018

  6. As of June 5th, I can confirm that putting in “Darlington Borough Council” as your place of learning, or “Learning & Skills” (both same thing) will allow you to select Home Delivery as part of the ordering process.

    For £1.50, they will deliver the card to your home address. Couldn’t see an option for taking this over more than a year though, so may need to revisit the issue next year!

    1. Hi JC,
      Do i need to enrol on a course at Learning & skills to get the nus card?
      Thanks
      Natalie

    2. Neither of these work now 🙁

    3. Sadly this doesn’t work as of 6th June 2019

    4. These are no longer available

    5. Hi JC, Thanks for the info. Do you need to register for one of the courses at Darlington Borough Council before you apply for the NUS card? Will they deliver the NUS card to my home address when I have applied for the NUS card?

    6. Can you really get an NUS card if you’re not a student

      Does this trick still work with the online courses ??
      As i need a NUS extra card to get discount on joining a gym membership

      1. Hi Arif, no the main trick no longer works.

    7. As of August 1st 2019 I can confirm this hack no longer works

  7. GUYS, as of today (29th May 2019), “Learning for Life” course accepts online sign-ups through NUS Extra.

    I just managed to renew my card for 3 years for £32. Given that ASOS now accept NUS Extra as proof for a 10% discount, I estimate I’ll make that money back within a couple of months!

    Happy saving!

    1. Thanks JC. I’ve checked this out and Learning For Life seems to be a charity helping adults with learning disabilities in Durham. It’s not possible to buy an online course to be eligible for the NUS Card, so I’d hate for people to take advantage of this option in case it impacts the company and its legitimate students.

      1. Good point Andy, apologies!

        I found another which accepts home delivery of your card — I will update the thread accordingly!

        Cheers mate, love the website

    2. But do they post to your home address?

  8. Do you know of anyway of getting student beans if you’ve got a student card and a course?

    1. Afraid not, you need to be a “proper” student

      1. No you do not. There is still a way to get one.

        1. John; Can you share how?

          1. Goto sign up.
            Enter your correct email when signing up.
            Enter – LCBT LTD as collage. This is the only one which lets you get the card delivered to your home address.
            Choose home for card delivery.
            Make sure to choose 3 year card as it’s getting harder to obtain one.
            Pay via PayPal or card and job done.

          2. Ricky Facchinello May 28, 2019 at 3:53 pm

            LCBT LTD does not work now

        2. What do you fill in for the course details thought once you have picked LCBT LTD ?

  9. I can confirm that learndirect (all one word) does appear on Totum

    1. Did this work then? Did you sign up to a course ?

    2. learndirect does not come up on totum website anymore 🙁

    3. learndirect , oes not come up on totum website anymore ?

  10. Just signed up using learndirect who do free ‘life skills’ courses. All comes up OK on the NUS website. I was renewing a card, not sure if that makes a difference but payment was processed and I have an email confirmation from NUS

    1. Learndirect does not come up when you enter it in place of study

    2. Hi I’ve looked on the website but can’t find any free courses? Hope you can help!

    3. Just to confirm, got my TOTUM card today, using learndirect. Just sign up with them for free.

      1. hi, Simon . just tried , can’t find learndirect anymore .
        I suspect someone from TOTUM check this page always . hahahaha

      2. I was able to renews NUS for 3 more years using learndirect free courses. Thank you!

        1. I can see that they do not recognise learndirect as a place of study. What place of study you need to put in order to get TOTUM card?

    4. Simon,

      What free course did you select? I cannot see one. Did you receive your card ok?

    5. Kimberley Derbyshire November 21, 2018 at 11:03 am

      I’ve managed to get Learndirect to work on the NUS site but I cant find the free life skill courses. Any ideas on how to find them?

  11. The best option might be one of the on-line courses at London Skills & Development Network (who are definitely on the list!). They offer a Level 1 Certificate in IT User Skills which I can’t imagine would be very expensive. No prices on their web site though!

    1. Just tried it but I’m unable to see ” London Skills & Development Network”

    2. Hey Not able to see the London Skills and Development Network form the List of colleges .Please advise

  12. Hello!
    I’ve just bought a course on e-Careers but it is not available in the list of options on NUS. Do you know anything about this?
    Thanks!
    Adriana

    1. Hi Adriana, yes if you look at the top of the article you’ll see the update showing that NUS has removed all e-learning providers from the system and the loophole is sadly closed. If I find any way to get a cheap course I’ll update the article accordingly. But I don’t hold out much hope.

  13. Any news on this anyone found any other cheap courses

    1. I’m still looking but not found anything yet

  14. this is a shame – was a great hack!

    1. does anyone know if it still works?

      1. Afraid not right now

    2. Hi all and any updates if NewSkills academy are looking to get the NUS card affiliated anytime soon?

      Thanks

      1. It looks like NUS removed all online learning companies. If it does change I’ll update!

        1. I have just enrolled with Skillsnetwork and they have saud I can get an NUS card.

          1. Hey Chris, did you manage to get your card?

  15. It seems there is a chance we can renew an existing NUS card.

    ** Full disclosure: I have not tried this yet **

    If you search for an institute that does not have an academic email address, an example being “The Edinburgh Academy”. It does not ask you to verify.
    (because High schools don’t normally have ac.uk emails or academic portals)

    I clicked through all the way to the last step where I can confirm and pay the card.

    As my card is valid until February, I don’t need to renew yet, but I would be interested to see if anyone can using this method.

    Also, there is a chance you can just buy a new NUS card with this technique.

    1. Unfortunately, if you don’t verify your email, the card is sent to the school, with this example it shows:
      “Deliver To The Edinburgh Academy”
      as the only option for delivery.

    2. I’ve just tried it, they will send the Totum card direct to your chosen academy.

  16. Hopefully a useful update for everyone.

    This just in from New Skills Academy:

    “Chris replied
    Aug 15, 12:02
    Hi Helen,

    Sorry about the issues you are facing with your NUS Extra Card.

    They are in the middle of changing their name and system to TOTUM and they’ve paused lots of online suppliers, while they manually check all details.

    This is taking much longer than anticipated and have told us it can take up to 2 weeks.

    Please can I ask you to check back in one week, when this should be sorted by and you can claim your NUS card.

    Sorry for the inconvenience again, this was caused by NUS Extra and without any warning to us 🙁

    Kind Regards

    Chris Morgan
    Customer Service

    NewSkillsAcademy”

    So it seems if people wait a week, it should be sorted.

    Best wishes

    Helen.

    1. Hi Helen, I have just bought a New Skills Academy course too. Do we need to apply for an NUS Extra card? I can’t see anything for a plain and simple NUS Card and it seems as though the “Extra” is for apprenticeships etc?

      1. Hi Nick, sadly it looks like this hack is over. If it does return I’ll let you know. It’s worth seeing if you can get a refund from New Skills Academy if you don’t want the course

    2. Bad news. Probably all online providers were removed for good from NUS list:

      https://newskillsacademy.co.uk/a-letter-from-our-ceo/

  17. All options now seem to have been removed

    1. Hopefully we’ll see some of those course providers return in the next week. I’ll keep an eye out and update the article when there’s any news

  18. Hi,

    New Skills Academy seems to have been removed. Are there any courses/places of study available at the moment?

    Thanks

    1. I’ve just spotted this too. Sadly I can’t find any. I’ve contacted New Skills Academy as it still states on its website that you get an NUS card with its courses. Hopefully it’s just a technical error.

  19. Hi,

    I’ve just followed the guide and bought an ecareers course. Unfortunately they tell me they do not provide NUS Extra eligibility. They sell their own Supercard for discounts etc.

    1. Me too. Got ecareers as recommended and NUS say it is not eligible.

      If it is too good to be true…..

      1. Hi Cheryl, the article has been updated with other options. But as I mention above, I think it’s worth checking on the NUS website (via the card application) that the course provider is still valid.

        1. Any hope/info that Ecareers might be re-added?
          Just activated my account to try and get the NUS but it hasn’t worked 🙁

          1. It looks like all online course providers have been axed by NUS. It’s such a shame

  20. Looks like the NUS doesn’t work any more for Apple 🙁
    the only option for apple discount will be unidays
    £17.50 wasted 🙁

    1. Yes it looks like it stopped today or yesterday. Fingers crossed it’ll come back, but I think it’s unlikely. However, you’ll still be able to use your discount elsewhere so it’s not a total waste of cash

      1. I looks like Ecareers does not show up anymore on the NUS site when selecting a place of study, can you guys confirm? Any other way around this?