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Being in college is all about learning new skills. Sometimes that means learning how to cook on your own or how to manage a busy class load.
Learning how to build a credit history is one of the many skills every college student should have. It may sound strange, but using a credit card can build those skills and create solid financial habits.
Having a credit history is necessary for post-grad life. Learn how to use student credit cards to create your own financial opportunity.
How Student Credit Cards Improve Your Credit
Using a student credit card in college can build your credit score so you have a reputable credit history when you graduate. Having a solid credit report will help you rent an apartment without needing a cosigner or sign up for utilities without putting down a deposit.
Some employers will check your credit report, and a good report will make you a more attractive candidate. If you have student loans, a good credit score will make you eligible to refinance those loans for a lower interest rate.
It can take at least a year to build a credit report so starting while you’re in college will make those first couple post-grad years much easier.
How to Use a Credit Card Responsibly
A popular myth about credit cards is that you should always keep a balance on the card, even if you can afford to pay it off. Some people think their credit score will suffer if they pay their balance in full.
This piece of advice is false. The key to building a credit report is to make charges on a credit card, wait for the statement period to end and then pay off the balance on or before the due date.
If you pay the balance before the billing period is over, you’ll have a $0 balance on your statement. Having no balance won’t improve your credit score. You have to let the statement period end so the credit card issuer can report a balance to the credit bureaus.
The easiest way to be a responsible credit card user is to make a few small purchases each month and set up automatic payments for the full amount. This strategy ensures you’ll never forget about a payment and you’ll never owe more than you can afford.
Add a couple small recurring bills like your Netflix or Spotify subscription to your credit card. Make sure the amount equals less than 30% of your available credit limit. Charging more than 30% of the credit limit will ding your credit score.
Check your credit score for free through the Mint app, which updates it once a month. If you notice something wrong, contact the credit bureaus immediately. You can view your credit report for the three credit bureaus at AnnualCreditReport.com.
Student Credit Cards
Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students
This card is the only one on this list that has a sign-up bonus. Students who spend $1,000 or more in the first 90 days earn a $200 bonus.
Cardholders can earn 3% cash-back in one of the following categories: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings. They earn 2% cash-back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 1% cash-back on all other purchases. This card has no annual fee.
Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One
The Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One is a great choice for students who want a rewards card. Cardholders earn 1% cash back on all purchases and an extra. 25% when they pay on time.
There’s no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees, perfect for a student studying abroad or backpacking in Europe.