Building a solid financial foundation is possible at any stage in life. Whether you are just starting or have decades of work and life experience behind you, the steps are similar.
Managing debt, investing wisely, and planning for retirement are essential strategies for achieving financial independence. Credit cards can be important for supporting these efforts, but only if used responsibly.
Managing a credit card responsibly can help you build a strong credit history supporting future financial goals like renting an apartment or buying a home. It also gives you some freedom to make purchases you may not be able to afford with cash or a debit card.
Consider whether you need a credit card as a college student is typically easier to obtain than traditional cards, but they may come with lower credit limits to protect issuers from the financial risks of young consumers.
Selecting a credit card that reports to all three credit bureaus while avoiding high interest rates and fees could help you establish a robust credit history. Additionally, you can take advantage of rewards programs designed explicitly for students.
It is recommended to have an emergency savings account that can cover three to six months of living expenses in case unexpected expenses arise.
A savings account that is easily accessible is the best place to keep emergency money. It could be a bank or credit union savings account, an online cash account, a prepaid card, or another liquid option.
Set a goal for how much you want to save, and commit to putting a small amount aside each week or month. It will make it easier to reach your savings goals and feel less overwhelming. If you receive a tax refund yearly, consider having it automatically deposited into your emergency savings account to build up your cushion. Then, check in with your account periodically to assess your progress.
Many students have medical bills to pay, which can cause significant debt that may impact their ability to get housing or obtain student or car loans. This is particularly true for individuals who lose their parents’ health coverage and lack access to an ACA marketplace plan.
A credit card can provide extra insurance protection by limiting liability if your account is compromised. This is a benefit that only exists with cash or debit cards.
Using a credit card for expenses such as textbooks, tuition fees, and meals is a convenient option as long as students can pay off the amount they charge in full. Student cards also often offer cash back or airline miles rewards, which can help students earn extra spending money and get a jump start on building their financial reputations.
Additionally, establishing a credit history early on can boost a college student score and make it easier for them to qualify for loans, apartments, and jobs in the future. Students can avoid debt and high-interest charges by creating a budget, monitoring their expenses, and regularly checking their credit card statements. Most student cards don’t charge a monthly fee, and many report to the three major consumer credit bureaus.
Using credit cards responsibly can help college students build their credit history and improve their eligibility to apply for loans, mortgages, or other products. Many student cards have rewards, like cash back and points, and additional perks, such as no annual fee.
When selecting a credit card, consider your spending habits and the rewards’ value. Also, ensure the card reports to all three credit bureaus and has no fees that might detract from its value. Finally, be mindful of your credit utilization, which is the percentage of your total available credit that you’re using. Keeping this ratio low is a critical factor in your credit score. A good balance is 30% or less of your total credit limit.