A few days out of the year you’ll walk onto campus and see a booth or tent set up. It’s probably a quite inviting one. There’s an assortment of freebies set up and some curious students are gathered around asking questions. But what you should see is a red flag; walk up to this booth and where one moment you might be spinning a wheel of prizes, the next you’re hunched over a table forfeiting your information to a credit card company. And their prize is students’ money.
When young people get credit cards, they usually want to learn financial responsibility or start accumulating credit. But the learning process comes with plenty of hazards that can leave you in debt and your credit card company breathing down your neck. So before you begin building credit, build a game plan and always stick to it.
Keep it in perspective
First of all, why do you want a credit card? Are you planning a big purchase? Do you just want to start building credit? Unless your only reasoning is to buy things you can’t afford, owning a credit card requires you to keep yourself in check and make purchases strategically so it serves its initial purpose, and nothing more. Remember your reasoning the entire time you have it, and every time you think about swiping it.
Find the card for you
Not every credit card is created equally and not every cardholder will use theirs equally wisely. Know how much you can afford to even use it, and research your card accordingly. Don’t seek a high credit limit you know you don’t need it, and focus on low APRs and low interest rates. It’s better to take your time researching a card than to rush into one that you can’t get out of.
Know what’s the catch
With credit card offers, if it seems too good to be true it probably is. If free gifts and rewards are involved in just signing up for a card, make sure that you’re not the one who ends up paying for it either directly or indirectly down the road. Often times, the simplest offers are the best ones for students. Ask questions and always read the fine print.
Know how you’ll use it
Don’t go crazy buying things you normally wouldn’t or splurging on things you can’t afford at the time. A good way to keep a card tamed is to only use it for things you already buy regularly like gas, groceries, and school supplies. You don’t want to find yourself looking at your bill at the end of the month wondering why you bought those clothes or that gadget on credit when it was never even in your budget.
If you need help, get help
If you start missing payments or feeling like your credit card company is pulling the rug out from under you, get advice. A campus financial advisor or assistance program that specializes in the financial issues of students can help get you out of trouble and keep your life in balance.
If you’re worried about choosing a credit card or maintaining us, shoot ACI a question by calling (800) 932-0034, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Find ACI on Twitter at @ACISpecBenefits or on facebook, Google+, Pinterest, or YouTube.