College is a pretty big and expensive ordeal. The average college student has $3,173 in debt, according to a 2009 study by Sallie Mae, and eighty-four percent of college students have at least one credit card.
If all goes as planned, you expect to go to class daily, meet up with friends, and finish with a degree, what you might not expect are all the credit card offers you’ll run from or to and the debt that you will accrue or avoid.
The choice is yours.
While the CARD Act attempts to prohibit credit card issues from campaigning on college campuses, over 75 percent of students report that credit card companies have targeted them through tables on or near campus, according to a study by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
While the giveaways may seem worthy of your personal information, college students should be wary. Credit card bureaus look at credit card applications, as well as the number of credit cards and inquire, when assembling your credit score.
It’s important that if you’re in college that you choose a credit card that best suits your needs. Here are some tips:
- First check your credit score first. Use a free website like www.free-credit-reports.com to find out where your credit card score stands. Once you get the score, you will know which cards are more likely to approve you or to suit your needs.
- Think Twice about Credit Card Offers. Credit card lingo can be very confusing, so it’s important to make sure you understand the terms and conditions outlined in any particular card that your interested in. On many cards interest rates tend to go up after the first year, so make sure you know what your zero interest rate will turn into.
- Use a Credit Card Only for Emergencies or Large Payments. Use discipline when paying with a credit card; it makes more sense to purchase expensive items that are out of your pay scale -- as it will break down the lump sum into more manageable payments. Don’t use your credit card for snacks, restaurant expenses or a night out on the town — the debt will never leave.
If used right, a credit card can be helpful in college. Proceed with caution, and make sure to keep an eagle eye on your accounts before you sign up for them.