America runs on credit. It’s what determines your eligibility for the apartment of your dreams, that shiny new car you’ve had your eye on, and it even determines the dollar amount in some student loans you can take out. To put it simply, creditworthiness is key to your financial fate. Now that you know the power of credit, here are a few tips on how you can be credit-savvy as a new student cardholder in college.
1. Take Interest in Your Interest
If using credit cards were as simple as charging debt and paying them off whenever you felt like it, we’d all have outstanding credit. As a credit card newbie, it’s important to know that this isn’t the case. While some cards offer an incredible introductory APR (Annual Percentage Rate) of 0%, others vary, meaning your goal to pay off a small balance of $150.00 in a four month period could potentially turn into paying a total of $210.00 if you’re not careful.
TIP: Avoid maxing out your credit card limit, for once the interest rate is applied, it will result in an over the limit fee.
2. Being Late Comes at a Rate
There are plenty of exciting benefits that go along with making your payments on time, but when you can't, or just don’t, there can be plenty of penalties, as well. One of the most common repercussions is a late fee, which varies upon your bank and your plan. Also, be careful not to pay too late: any payment 30 days late or more can be reported to your credit bureau, which will noticeably bring down your credit score.
TIP: Try setting up automatic payments. That way you have time to worry about making more important deadlines, like your upcoming midterm or your housing fee for next semester.
3. Your Age is Your Wage
Student credit cards are a great way to help college students build their credit and develop excellent financial habits. Although they don’t expect you to come in credit-ready, one very important aspect they do consider (traditional or non-traditional student) is your age. Did you know that you had to be at least 18 years old in order to qualify for a student credit card? What about that places like Bank of America can automatically default your student account to a regular account (requiring a monthly fee) after your 23rd birthday? With this in mind, chose your credit card plan wisely, take your credit seriously, and treat yourself to a more prosperous financial future. You deserve it.