School is back in session and the expenses are piling up. Textbooks alone can cost over a thousand dollars for the year for college students, so it’s no wonder that the financial situation for many coeds is getting out of control. A student’s back-to-school shopping list often includes school supplies, new clothes, groceries, textbooks, and more, so it is not surprising that a student credit card or alternative may be truly necessary.
Most college students have a lot to learn about personal finance and about credit card spending in general. The very best advice about student credit cards is to avoid digging yourself into a hole you won’t easily escape. The best way to avoid falling into debt with a credit card is to borrow only what you can afford to pay back each month. Students should always strive to pay back what they borrow in full and on time. If you can avoid carrying a balance, you can also avoid those steep interest charges on your credit card bills.
Here are a few additional financial tips for college students using credit cards:
- Be sure to read the fine print on each credit card offer that you consider.
- Shop around and choose the credit card with the lowest interest rate.
- Be aware of annual fees you may encounter in your hunt for the right student credit card.
- Pay with cash when you can and save the credit card for just emergency purchases if you can help it.
- If you can’t totally reserve it for emergencies, at least reserve your credit card for major purchases, like airfare or a train ticket home.
- Never put your friends’ purchases (or your significant other’s purchases) on your credit card.
- Rather than shopping at the school bookstore for your texts, look on Amazon.com and other reputable sites to see if you can catch a break on your textbook expenses.
- Make your best effort to pay your credit card balance in full and on time each month.
- If you can’t pay the full balance, at least make the minimum payment or as much over the minimum that you can afford, still by the due date.
- Be sure to always review each credit card statement you receive to verify all the charges listed. This can help you to watch for identity theft as well as billing mistakes.
In addition to using your student credit card smartly, it can help to do what you can to increase your income stream a bit. This helps to ensure you always have money to spend or money to pay back your credit card bills. You can pick up a job on campus or in the nearby community with part-time hours. Be sure to open a bank account near school so you can deposit your paychecks and withdraw cash as needed.
If you have any questions about credit card use while you are in school, you can get advice and information from a variety of sources. First, you can talk to a parent or older sibling about your credit card questions. You can also search online for the answers you seek, or meet with a professor or your academic advisor to discuss anything you want to know about credit cards and personal finance while in school.