College students receive the least stringent credit card offers of any other group. This group of consumers is the only group that can get a credit card (in many cases instantly) without even having a job. This can work in your favor, if you make wise decisions. Not only can you get a great credit card and a free gift, you can also build an excellent credit history. But it all depends on you. If you do decide to get a card, take your time in choosing. Don?’t just choose any card that comes your way. Before you choose any credit card offer, make sure you understand what a credit report is, how it will affect you, how a credit limit works, what an APR of a card is, what annual fees apply to the card you are considering, and how cash advances work. Knowing all this before you get a credit card will give you a more secure financial future. Listed below are the most important terms you need to know before you apply for a credit card.
Correcting Billing Errors
Federal law provides specific rules that the card issuer must follow for promptly correcting billing errors. The card issuer will give you a statement describing these rules when you open the credit card account and, after that, at least once a year. In fact, many card issuers print a summary of your rights on each bill they send you.
I would like to re-build my credit. I filed for bankruptcy three years ago. How do I find a lender that will give me reasonable annual fee and interest rate?
Its true: after filing for bankruptcy, credit can be difficult to obtain. And what makes things worse is that your credit score will drop even lower each time a company disapproves your application. That means its doubly important that you apply for a card that youre likely to get rather than risk a turn-down. Youre definitely "at risk" at this time?…a target for unscrupulous lenders with big promises and shady deals. Many lenders will try to entice you with "super-low interest rates for those who filed for bankruptcy." It all sounds good until they come up with some questionable reason why you dont qualify and then try to convince you to sign up for a card with high rates and fees. Beware! Other companies may offer low teaser rates, but then hike the interest after a short period of time. And if you miss a payment -- look out! Some impose outrageous fees for late payments, sticking you with a $25 fine when youre late on a $5 payment. Heres a secret credit card companies dont want you to know: Late fees represent as much as one-third of the income of some credit-card issuers.
Secured vs. Unsecured Cards
As a new college student you might be too busy finding your way around campus to worry about credit card management. But the sooner you learn the ins and outs of credit cards, the better. By the time you find your way to the campus post office and check your mail box, there will be plenty of approved credit card offers waiting just for you.
Precautions for Overseas Trip
Before you go overseas, make a list of your credit cards and the international phone numbers to call in case they are lost or stolen. U.S. toll-free numbers cannot be reached directly from overseas, so make sure you have a number that can be reached from abroad. At the end of this brochure is a place for you to write down the phone numbers of your credit card issuers. Leave one copy of the list you make with a trusted friend or relative and keep the other copy with you, in a safe place separate from your cards. That way youll be able to quickly contact your credit card companies for replacement cards if you lose yours. If your cards have credit limits, check how much credit you have available and pay down balances or request higher credit limits if you need more.
What is the difference between an additional card and co-signer card?
An additional card is a card you get on your personal credit account with another person?’s name on it. This means that the person now has access to your credit account as if it is their own account and can charge as much as they want without your permission beforehand. In addition, this person is not held accountable by your creditor for making any payment on the account. This responsibility falls on you, the account holder. As a result, no matter how much this person charges on your card, you have to pay for it?—even if the person promises to pay you back and doesn?’t. A cosigner card is a credit card someone applies for and gets a cosigner to sign on. Essentially, it is the applicant?’s credit account, but if they stop making payments, the cosigner is then responsible for the account. The history of the account goes on both person?’s credit reports. The cosigner will have to make special arrangements with the creditor before cosigning to get monthly statements on the account or reports of late payments. Otherwise, the cosigner will not have access to the account information. If you do cosign on an account, remember that you assume equal liability.
Annual Percentage Rate
All cards have an Annual Percentage Rate (APR) and many have an Annual Fee. The APR is what makes creditors money off your charges. For each penny you charge, interest accrues monthly until you pay that penny off. Cards can have APRs as low as 0% (although 0% is only offered during a short introductory period) and as high as 29%. It is up to you to know what the APR on your card is and whether or not it is a fixed rate, or if it can be changed at any time. You might only charge $20, but you will also owe your creditor the interest that accrues on that $20. However, if you pay off your complete balance by the due date, no interest will accrue.
I wanted to get a credit card but I do not have any credit history. Are there other ways to build a credit history?
to someone seeking credit for the first time, it may seem like a vicious circle: You cant get credit without a credit history, and you cant establish a credit history without credit! Frustrating, isnt it? Interestingly, some institutions only look only at your salary, job and the other financial information that you put on the application to determine if you qualify for their card. However most will be interested in your track record -- How have you handled other debts -- and will ask to see your credit report. To get the story on you, institutions will turn to information provided by credit-reporting agencies or credit bureaus like Equifax that collect, store and quantify information about borrowers. The records show your credit history -- how much credit youve received and how faithfully youve repaid. Fortunately, even if youve never had a Mastercard, American Express, Visa, Discover, or other major credit card, you can still build a good credit history: ?• Open a checking account or savings account or both. Although not part of your credit history, your accounts may be checked by potential lenders as evidence that you have money and know how to manage it. ?• Cancelled checks can be used to show that you pay utilities or rent bills regularly, a sign of reliability. ?• Apply for a department store credit card. Stores dont ask for credit histories as often as major credit card institutions, so you should be able to get a card based on your annual salary. Then, repaying your store bills on time becomes a major "positive" in your credit history. ?• Look for a financial institution that will allow you to deposit funds to serve as collateral for a credit card. Some institutions issue a credit card with a credit limit equal to the amount on deposit. These cards are relatively easy to obtain and as with your department store card, paying these bills on time will enhance your credit history. ?• If you dont have a credit history because you?’re new in town, request a summary of any credit record kept by a credit bureau in your former town. Dont know whom to contact? Ask the bank or department store in your former town for the name of the agency it reports to. You may already have a great credit history and not realize it. If you do, its time to "comparison shop" the credit card companies and find out who has the best deal to offer you.
I'm a foreigner and need a credit card to establish credit. I have a Social Security number, but I?’m not a U.S. resident. Are there any cards that I may apply for and get approved?
There are many cards you can apply for, as long as you have a social security number. However, you may find it difficult to get approved because you do not have a credit history in the U.S. To start building a credit history in the U.S., you need to obtain credit from a credit card company or bank that reports to all three of the major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion). You might have to consider credit cards with higher interest rates, security deposits, lower credit balances or application fees. Read all the terms and conditions thoroughly to protect yourself from a card that will cause you more harm than good. If you have a checking or savings account, apply for your bank?’s credit card. They may approve you since you have a financial history with them. Also, they may add a stipulation that late or missed payments will be withdrawn automatically from your checking or savings account. Remember: always avoid any credit card offers that charge high fees. There are plenty of options out there to help you establish credit. You do not have to go into high debt to do so. Once you establish a positive credit history, you can then get approved for credit cards that cost you less and offer you more.
How important is the Balance Computation Method for Finance Charges?
If your plan has no free period, or if you expect to pay for purchases over time, it is important to know how the card issuer will calculate your finance charge. This charge will vary depending upon the method the card issuer uses to figure your balance. The method used can make a difference, sometimes a big difference, in how much finance charge you will pay -- even when the APR is identical to that charged by another card issuer and the pattern of purchases and payments is the same.