Considering a Credit Card? Read This Before You Sign the Dotted Line

Choices you make about money now, at the beginning of your studies, will follow you for the rest of your life. Because you have so many exciting (read: expensive) adventures on the horizon, you’re likely to start hearing from a lot of credit card companies. Their offers can be tempting as you start to consider how much you’ll pay for school and life expenses over the next few years, so we suggest you keep the following four things in mind before completing any credit card applications.

Costly Fees

There are costs involved with everything, and credit cards are no different. Read the fine print very carefully as this is where you’ll find details about annual fees, interest, over-the-limit fees and penalties. Companies can change their policies and conditions at almost any time, so it’s really important to keep up with their rules and be aware of how any new changes will affect you and your bank account.

“Free” Swag

Sales pitches generally include a free gift in hopes of luring you to one particular company. The gifts may be cool, but don’t let these “free” gifts distract you from underlying fees or expensive required payments. The t-shirt’s not worth an interest rate that’s higher than you can fit into your budget each month!

Expensive Monthly Payments

Simply paying the minimum payment on a credit card will actually cost you more than just saving up and spending that money. There are several calculators online that will calculate how long and how much interest you will pay on an amount.

Another concern to keep in mind: monthly balances can add up! Having a credit card makes overspending easy, because it isn’t immediately coming out of your pocket and therefore you can forget about it. Be a conscientious tracker of your credit card balance so you don’t receive any surprisingly high bills at the end of the month.

Increasing Interest Rates

A lot of companies offer 0% interest rates — but these just apply for a short introductory period. Make sure you read the details as extra fees and very high interest can come into play soon after you start spending.

You may do your research and decide that a credit card is a good choice for you. There are definitely benefits to having one as a backup option since paying for college is hard and credit cards can help with emergencies. Just keep in mind that financing tuition on a credit card is not a good choice, but using a card wisely can help build your credit score, which will be helpful later in life. Consider taking a financial class within your first semester.  We’re sure it will open your eyes to some great financial management tips, for your professional and personal future.

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