the world of credit can be a maze for the college student. This is why you should always exercise caution when applying for credit cards and using the cards you have. By making careful choices and responsible decisions, you can avoid financial disaster and get the most out your credit. If you educate yourself on credit and understand the terms of all cards you apply for, you can begin to create an excellent credit history for yourself. And with a positive credit history, the sky is the limit!
Debit or Credit?
Once you become a student, you?’ll hear this question almost every time you go to pay for something. If you don?’t know the difference between debit and credit, learn fast. A debit card (sometimes also called a check card) is basically cash, not credit. Any time you use a debit card money is withdrawn right out of your checking out. When you pay for an item, your checking account balance goes down. Be sure to keep track of what you spend. Even though you might have $100 in the account today, you might have written a check for $50 yesterday that hasn?’t posted yet. If you spend $60 with your debit card, your check will bounce when it makes it back to the bank. This can lead to all kinds of fees and penalties.
When should credit card payments be credited?
A card issuer must credit your account on the day the issuer receives your payment, unless the payment is not made according to the creditors requirements or the delay in crediting to your account does not result in a charge. To avoid delays that could result in finance charges, follow the card issuers instructions about where to send payments. Payments sent to other locations could delay getting credit for your payment for up to five days. If you lose your payment envelope, look on the billing statement for the address for payments or call the card issuer.
Every credit card has a credit limit. It can be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $250,000. There are even cards, such as the MBNA Quantum Card, that has a credit limit of $1 million. This limit is all you are allowed to spend. Once you charge the full limit on your card, your card can not be used until the balance is paid down some. The more you charge on your credit card, the higher your minimum monthly payment will be. Some cards do not prevent you from charging over your credit limit. If you do so, you will find your next monthly bill has over the limit fees added to your balance. You will then be required to pay the total amount over the limit and all the penalty fees in order to avoid even more over the limit fees the next billing cycle. (Change to: You will then be required to pay at least an amount you charged over credit limit and all the penalty fees, in order to avoid even more over the limit fees the next billing cycle) As you can see, your credit card bill could easily grow out of control if you get over the limit. The moral is, stay under your credit limit!
When should you turn a credit card offer down, and when should you accept?
For the new college student, it can be relatively easy to get a card. It will seem people are everywhere with offers. You will get offers in your mail box, and see VISA, MasterCard and Discover card tables at many school events. The solicitors at these tables will not only ask you to fill out quick and easy credit card applications, but they will also offer you free gifts and incentives just for doing so. The gifts are often yours to keep, even if you choose not to accept their credit card.
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.
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.
Discover Student Card offers cash back bonuses that give you a certain percentage of all you charge back to you. Both these offers, like many others out there, benefit you much more than the credit card that gives you a free hat or keychain just for filling out an application. (Well, you cannot really compare apples and oranges. Keychains and free hats are given out by every card issuers advertising right outside of schools. These are not Rewards; these are free incentives just for filling an application. That same Chase Student card will also give out useless rewards, but it also gives Valuable Rewards like OnePass Miles).
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.
Take a good look at your Pre-Approved Credit Card Offers
Chances are you have received offers in the mail asking if you would like to open credit card accounts. Frequently, these offers say that you have been "pre-approved" for the card, with a line of credit already set aside for your use. Typically, these offers urge you to accept quickly, "before the offer expires." However, before accepting a credit card offer, understand the cards credit terms and compare costs of similar cards to get the features and terms you want.