4 Credit Card Basics: Financial Advice for College Students

In the life of a college student, money can be pretty tough to come by.  Especially for fun things, like nights out, clothes, DVDs, or things like that.

I could say, “well, then don’t buy things that aren’t college necessities.”  But where’s the fun in that?  You’re only young once, and though you have a lot of responsibility in college, you’re only going to get more responsibility piled on after graduation.

This is where credit cards come into play.  The assistance college student credit cards offer can be great and convenient, as long as you learn your facts and be responsible about it.  Almost as many students graduate with loan debt graduate with credit card debt as well, so you definitely want to avoid that pitfall.

Before you start filling out credit card applications up the wazoo,  first, there are a few things to learn about them. Below you’ll find some financial advice for college students:

  • Building credit is a good thing.

Some people are turned off by the idea of credit cards because of the debt they can rack up.  While there are risks involved, if you take the proper precautions with your college credit card, you can do yourself a lot of good.  Upon graduation, you may be searching for a house or a car, and you’ll want to take out a loan.  The better your credit score, the better chance you’ll be approved for the loan.  The better your credit score, the lower your interest rate will be.  There are many financial things that are associated with your credit score, and as long as you handle your credit well, it’ll benefit you.

  • Some cards are easier for beginners to get than others.

If you’re thinking of applying for your first credit card, don’t go straight for an American Express card.  Your local bank or credit union have credit cards for college students that are easy to be approved for.  Many credit card companies also have special student cards with lower interest rates or other perks.  The best credit cards for students is typically a one for a department store..  They tend to have higher interest rate, though, so try to pay off as much as you can every month.

  • Credit cards are like loans.

You have to pay every penny back… and then some.  Some people tend to think of college credit cards as free money, and don’t really think about the fact that they have to pay their card off while they’re spending.  They’re in for a rude awakening when they get their statement in the mail at the end of the month.  Ideally, it’s best not to spend more than you can afford to pay back, and pay your credit card debt off in full every month.  This isn’t always possible, but you should always try to stray away from paying the minimum.  Credit card companies might consider you “high risk” if you only pay the minimum, subjecting you to potentially high interest rates.

  • Pay attention to your due dates.

Interest sucks.  Interest sucks even more if you miss a payment.  Some credit card companies offer late payment “forgiveness,” but others don’t.  Your interest rate can go up, your minimum payment can go up, and your credit score can go down.  If you have to, write your due dates on your calendar, in your planner, on your hand or in your phone.  Just don’t forget.  You can even manage your credit card account online, in case you realize at the last minute that you have a bill to pay.

Don’t let the idea of credit card debt scare you.  As long as you use your college student credit cards responsibly, it’ll come in handy in the present, and benefit you in the future. Money management is a good thing, and credit cards for college students can teach you a lot!

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Carmen Bojanowski

Carmen Bojanowski

Carmen Bojanowski is a senior at Eastern Michigan University, double majoring in journalism and communications. She writes for her college newspaper, mostly covering local bands and interns at 89x, a metro-Detroit radio station. She frequents the movie theater and when she has free time, she likes spend it with her friends. Carmen hopes to one day be a music journalist.