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Five Credit Card Tips For College-Bound Millennials
It’s that time of year again. A summer full of parties, baking in the sun, and maybe even a job (God forbid) is coming to an end for hundreds of thousands of college-bound millennials. Retail companies love them because they’re gearing up for the big move by spending or convincing their parents to spend millions on MacBooks, iPods, iPhones, furniture, and the latest fashionable clothes. It’s no secret that credit card companies love them too. Campus events are filled with local banks and credit card issuers offering free subway sandwiches, glow-in-the-dark pens and floating keychains just to attract their business.
You might wonder why credit card companies are so interested in targeting a demographic that statistically has minimal income and a lot of debt while in school? The main reason is that these consumers are usually lifelong customers who will keep spending and spending, even when they have nothing to spend. It’s a proven fact that the first card in a student’s wallet will stay there for a very long time, and even if they default, parents are often ready to step in and bail them out. According to Nellie Mae, 56% of undergraduates get their first credit card by age 18, and 91% of college students have at least one card by their senior year. The average outstanding balance on undergraduate credit cards was $2,169 in 2005, and that number continues to grow at a dramatic rate each year. Add credit card debt to student loans, which now have an interest rate of up to 7%, and millennial students begin their “real world” lives in a veritable pit of debt.
The problem is that most college students get their first credit card at age 18, but many have never learned how to properly manage credit and build a solid credit score. It’s not taught in high school classrooms and parents often fail to teach their children the importance of credit and its role in their financial future. There are certainly no step-by-step instructions in the credit card application either. As a result, tens of thousands of college graduates enter the workforce every year with lots of debt, bad credit, and a rude awakening when applying for a loan for their first car, condo, or home.
If you’re a college-bound millennial or a parent of one, keep the following five tips in mind as you head into freshman orientation this year. They will not only save you headaches later, but they will also save you a lot of money.
1. Beware of gifts with conditions attached
Nothing better than free stuff. But if you need to fill out a card with personal information before they give it to you, you better move on to the next booth. Don’t fall prey to a free sandwich that will reward you with an unexpected credit card in the mail two weeks later. You are smarter than that.
2. Don’t register on site – Do your research online!
There are many reputable companies offering great cards to students at campus events; however, registering on site is generally not a good idea. Take the information brochures home, then do a little research online to find the best card possible. The online credit card marketplace gives consumers more power than ever to compare and contrast the best deals in the industry and apply securely online in about 60 seconds. So take a few minutes to browse the student section of an online credit card marketplace to find the best student deals with no annual fee, low interest rates, and attractive reward programs.
3. One card is enough
Once you’ve found the perfect student card, keep it simple. A credit card is sufficient for a student. Set up your account online, keep your credit usage below 30% of the credit limit, and pay off your balance each month. If your limit is too low at first, use cash or a debit card to pay for anything that would take you over the 30% threshold. When you’re ready to responsibly handle a higher credit limit, call your credit card issuer and they’ll probably be happy to raise your limit.
4. Imagine you’ve never heard of a cash advance
If you ever need money fast, your credit card is usually not a good option. Forget that. Interest rates for cash advances could go as high as 30%, which is a highway robbery. Resell old textbooks for cash, throw something you never use on Craigslist for a discount, or call mom and dad to tell them the gory tale. Anything is better than paying 30% on a cash advance.
5. Educate yourself
An integral part of every student’s education should be developing a thorough understanding of consumer credit and how it will affect their personal financial future. Take 15 minutes to browse the information at Creditnet.com’s learning center and treat yourself to an important education that you won’t even get from the best Ivy League schools. If you want to stay connected to our online network, subscribe to our weekly credit tips and featured articles RSS feeds to receive valuable bits of credit-related information straight to your chosen news aggregator. .
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