Credit Cards and College Students
Many college students are graduating with more than just a degree – they are also leaving school with credit card debt. If you are a college student, does this mean that you should rip up every credit card offer that comes your way? Not necessarily. If credit cards are not used responsibly, possessing them can seem like a mistake, but having good credit provides considerable benefits in today’s credit-oriented society.
Once you graduate from college, you will find that having a good credit score is important for many things – such as renting an apartment, getting a car loan or mortgage (especially one with a good interest rate), and finding a job (employers commonly check credit reports when making hiring decisions). Even many insurance companies check credit scores to determine what rates to charge their customers. Having a credit card is often a good way to start building your credit score. Credit cards can be easier to get than other types of credit, like car loans and mortgages, and as long as you pay off your balance in full each month, you will not have to pay any interest.
When deciding what credit card to apply for, note and compare the important features of each card, including the:
If you are under 21, you cannot get a credit card unless you can demonstrate you possess an independent means of repaying balances (such as a job) or have an adult co-sign for you.
What should you do once that card is in your hand? While having credit is needed to have a good score, careless use will only hurt your score and cost you money. Before using your card, think about if what you are purchasing is necessary and affordable. Continually charging more than you pay each month only leads to increasing minimum payments and, potentially, interest costs. When you graduate from school, you may not have much money to make credit card payments. If you financed college with student loans, you will have to start pay those (on top of rent, a car loan, or whatever other expenses you may have), and people often do not earn much in their first jobs.
It is important to make your payments on-time each month. If you make your payments late, not only will you possibly incur late fees and a higher APR, but your credit score (and your co-signer’s, if you have one) will be damaged as well. Set aside a specific time each month to pay your bills. If your credit card company allows you to make your payments on-line, consider taking advantage of it. This way, you do not have to worry about your payment getting lost or delayed in the mail. If you decide to pay by mail, leave plenty of time for the creditor to receive the money before the due date. Try to avoid paying the bill last minute on the phone – many creditors charge a fee for this service.When you are thirty, you probably do not want to still be paying for purchases you made when you were twenty. If you do not manage your cards responsibly, the pizza, television, or whatever else you bought on your cards will be long gone before your bills are. Graduating college and starting your adult life is an exciting time – avoid letting it be saddled by credit card debt.
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