Most students receive their first credit card offers when they are in college. Having a credit card opens up a whole new world. It brings new meaning to paying for college. Suddenly shopping, eating and traveling get easier and seem more affordable. Credit cards can be very helpful for college students. They can also get out of control quickly. When students follow these 5 basic tips for managing a college credit card, they will be able to stay out of financial trouble and establish solid, long-lasting credit.
Cash or Credit
If it can be paid for in cash, do it. When possible, college students should avoid charging small items that are affordable without the plastic. The interest makes them more expensive. Beware of stores that enforce a minimum credit in an effort to get the buyer to spend more.
The most important thing to remember is that all of the money needs to be paid back at some point. Spend it now, pay for it later only works as long as the bills are being paid promptly. Students should learn early to pay off the balance as often as possible. When it’s not possible, more than the minimum payment should be made. Late payments can cause a raise in the interest rate plus late fees and other penalties.
A credit limit is not an invitation to spend it all. Paying for college is expensive, but it is not meant to be experienced completely on plastic. The savvy student will buy only what is necessary and affordable. The occasional splurge or emergency is acceptable. The urge to spend should be ignored whenever possible. Avoid the urge to pay for college with the credit card. Instead, secure a school loan for this purpose and avoid maxing out the limit right away.
Special offers are made through different companies. Some are active throughout the life of the card; others are only good as long as the person is enrolled in a specific program. For example, one may offer a 1 percent or 2 percent cash back bonus on eligible purchases made with the credit card. Others may offer special online discounts or ecoupons when using their cards.
Look for one that offers a low interest rate. The less interest charged, the more things the student can actually purchase. Some credit card companies offer lower interest rates for special offers for a limited time. Be aware of when those special interest rates end. Most do not charge interest when the balance is paid off at the end of every month.
While credit cards are helpful for college students, they are not for everyone. When handled responsibly, they make paying for college easier and more affordable.