As a college student, being independent is one of the primary priorities in life.
One such major step is getting a credit card that enables them to get credit and use their money in the way they want.
Many college students get excited about their credit cards as they feel like they can purchase whatever they want without someone watching over them. Yet, it may be quite arduous to get the best credit card considering the several credit card options in the market available for students. It even gets worse if one does not know what to look for when selecting their specific credit card.
Before one cherry-picks their credit card, there are a few basic things that any cardholder should be knowledgeable about.
Since everyone’s needs are different, there are also different credit cards to suit these diverse needs. As a student, not every credit card will be cheap for you as there are some that may be costly due to what they offer. Having a credit card not only gives you several benefits but also allows you to build up on your credit so that you are able to access loans and mortgages. Even so, one has to consider that as a student such a credit card may not be exactly what one needs.
One option would be to go for a student credit card. Not only is it easy to get but the package can be very generous due to its advantages. For example, students are allowed to make late payments or enjoy travel benefits and other rewards. These cards, however, are traditionally not as favorable as the best travel rewards cards that are available to the general population so you may want to consider applying for one of those as your first card.
Another option if you cannot get approved for one of these cards is secured credit cards. They are quite convenient for those people with none or very little credit. Whenever you use the credit card, your credit builds up and the chief credit bureaus are updated on your progress. Secured credit cards also have bigger credit limits than the basic student credit cards. The only demerit associated with this is that one needs to pay a large amount as a deposit before getting the credit card. Generally, they would charge about $200 to start you up which will also serve as the limit to which you can use your credit card. Any case one fails to pay up debts or make payments, the creditor will be able to retrieve the money from that deposit.
Terms and conditions for the credit card
Prevention is better than cure. Before you get committed to a specific credit card company, you should be fully aware of what is expected from you as the credit card holder.
For instance, the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) that you are charged is one important factor to consider. You need to select one that prices your credit card low or at no cost at all. In case you fail to make your payments in time due to any reason, the interest will not be so high that it will leave a deep hole in your pocket.
Moreover, you need to worry about the credit card fee you need to pay. Whether it is a student credit card or a secured one, you will discover that there are some credit cards that charge annual fees that are quite costly. There may also be some extra charges that are concomitant with processing the credit card. Before you quickly sign or agree to the terms and conditions, ensure that you have thoroughly read through the required documentation and have everything explained to you properly. Make sure that those terms and conditions are suitable for you as a student so that you do not strain yourself in the future.
Besides, there are some credit card companies that reward their credit card holders on specific occasions or when certain transactions are made. This is definitely something a student will look forward to as it will provide an opportunity to treat oneself. To note, however, is that all these offers have expiry dates linked to them and conditions that need to be met before one gets the award. In as much as a credit card may look attractive because of its rewards, think twice as not all that glitters is gold.
Using the credit card in the best way
There is more to having a good credit score and history than just having a credit card as using it carelessly will cause more harm than good. Being your first independently attained credit card, you want to learn as much as you can about credit card management before you make mistakes.
First, you need to be smart by paying your bills and making payments in time to avoid penalties. In as much as you may be allowed to make late payments in some instances, the charges you will incur are not worth it if you can avoid it all together. To be on the safe side, you can try making payments in advance and at the same time so that you do not have stress when the payments are due. The last thing you want is to be on your creditor’s bad side.
Living within your means is another way to use your credit card wisely as it teaches you self-discipline. You should only use it where it is important and where you had budgeted for to avoid excess charges that are uncalled for. As a student, you should be more focused on the essential items more than luxuries. If you charge everything you see and want on your credit card, you will find yourself in debts that may even take years to pay off. If you intend to buy something that you know is very expensive, try saving up first and paying it in cash.
Every credit card has a credit limit to which one can use it. If you want to use your credit card properly, avoid reaching the limit as it puts you in a dangerous spot where you will not be able to access your money in emergency cases. Always charge things up to a level where you are comfortable and sure that you will still be able to get credit. Some creditors will advise that when you utilize 70% of the credit on your card, you should relax and wait until when you have enough credit to charge stuff on the card.
Be updated on your credit reports as often as you can. With the new statute put in place, The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (FACTA) getting these reports is now right for every credit card holder as they can access these reports from the credit bureaus near them. Such bureaus include Equifax. Experian and TransUnion. If one is not able to physically go to these bureaus; there is no need to be worried as they can log into annualcreditreport.com and request for their credit report from there.
What to consider
Now that you are aware of what to expect when looking for the ideal credit card and what you should brace yourself to do when you actually get it, you need to start looking around for that card.
Here are a few things to assist you in your decision making;
The price of the credit card
Start your search by looking for the cheaper credit card options as they are more suitable now. You need to understand that not all student credit cards are cheap. This is because not many students have a credit history or if they do, it is very little. Creditors will charge more on those student credit cards as a sign of assurance. The APR will also be slightly higher; on average about 21.4% for every year.
Do your homework by researching the charges of different credit cards. This will give you an opportunity to scrutinize them well before purchasing the cards. You may also seek recommendations from other students or people who were once students and used those credit cards at that time. As you do this, it is vital that you are aware beforehand that the charges on your credit card will also be largely influenced on what you use it for. If you are a shopaholic, you are likely to have bigger debts than someone who only uses their credit card to pay tuition fees or for their dorm room.
As mentioned above, the fee charged should influence your decision on the credit card you will choose. There are different types of fees that you will be charged as a credit card holder.
First in line is the annual fee that is meant to cover as insurance for the benefits that the credit company owes you such as travel and shopping benefits. So if you thought that you will just enjoy these benefits without paying something small for it, then you are wrong. Of course what you pay for is way cheaper than the actual amount itself, but it is still something that should be on your budget. Additionally, in their attempts to get more clients, some credit companies will advertise that you do not need to pay any annual fees. With time, they will require you to start paying up claiming that the first year was a trial period and that is why they did not charge you any annual fee. Be smart and ask about all this before you obtain that credit card.
Besides, there is the late payment fee that comes with the credit card. The great thing about choosing a credit card that is suitable for a student is that the penalties are not as strict like the other credit cards. This is because the creditors understand that a student does not have a constant supply of money which may lead to the late payments. The price to pay for not paying off debts in time will normally range from $25 to $35 which is quite pocket-friendly. However, one should avoid these late payments as much as possible as not every day may be a lucky day and these advantages are subject to revision at any time. Some creditors may also not be so pleased if the card holder is constantly making late payments.
It is quite common among students to compete as you want to appear well established among your peers. Yet, if you do not take precaution this can lead you to deep debt. The best thing to do when you are getting your first student credit card is to select one that has a low limit, of about $500 so that you can easily pay it back. Having one that has a low limit will also be good for you as it will teach you responsibility since you know that your credit is limited and you must, therefore, use it wisely.
On the other hand, there are some college students that want to try out everything. So instead of settling on a single credit card to start off with, they purchase so many credit cards that in the end are very stressful to pay off. Another way to keep off the radar of debt with your credit card is making purchases in small amounts rather than spending so much at once. Clearing your balances each month is also a good way to manage your credit card as you are able to monitor how much you use in a month. Paying the debt in full will save you on both costs and time as you do not face extra charges that are associated with late payments. It also saves you the trouble of piling up debts that become difficult to pay off when the deadline reaches.
All in all, getting the perfect credit card should be a dream that comes true for any student. Applying the above tips, any student will have an easy time accessing the best credit card that will suit them perfectly.