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Every college student should know these credit card facts

By Tom Flynn

Building your credit history is an important task, one that should begin early so that you have the best options available to you when you are shopping for a new car or your first home. But because of credit card reforms, building up your credit score can be tricky for college students. While establishing good credit is more difficult than in years past, if you do some preparation and planning, you can start to build your credit while in college and be ready for life after graduation.

Here are five facts about credit cards every college student should know:

The Credit CARD Act of 2009 Changed Everything: Before 2009, credit card companies staked out college campuses and set up booths with free pizza and t-shirts. Signing up for a card was easy. And, the majority of students didn’t fully understand how to responsibly use a credit card. But in 2009, the government passed the Credit CARD Act to protect students from predatory lending practices. The new rules included income and age requirements that made it more difficult for students to get a card on their own.

Becoming an Authorized User Can Establish Your Credit: While it can be harder to get a card on your own, you can still build your credit while in school. If you have a parent, relative or loved one with good credit, ask if they would be willing to add you as an authorized user to their credit card account. That way, you get the benefits of their credit history and credit usage, helping you build strong credit. If you go this route, make sure you understand that your relative is responsible for the debt, so establish spending limits and how you will repay any charges you rack up.

A Secured Credit Card is Better Than Nothing: If you do not have anyone who is willing to add you to their account, a secured card may be a valid option. Secured credit cards get a bad rap because they usually have a very small credit line, but they can be a good stepping stone until you have better credit and can qualify for other cards. With a secured card, you deposit a certain amount of money, such as $500, to the account, and that is how much you have to spend until you make payments. Because you have to deposit the money to have the card, there is no risk to the credit card company, so it’s much easier to get a card.

A Co-Signer Can Help: If you want to step up from a secured card but cannot get approved for one on your own, ask a friend or loved one to co-sign an account for you. You will have the card and make payments, but if you default on your bill, your co-signer is responsible for the debt. If you decide this is an option for you, ensure you keep up with the payments and communicate with your co-signer to maintain a good relationship and assure them the debt is handled.

Student Cards Do Exist: Student credit cards do exist, they are just harder to come by. If you qualify, you can access great perks like cash back or rewards points you can use for concerts, trips home or even school supplies. To get one without a co-signer or becoming an authorized user, you will need to show proof of income, such as from an on-campus job or regular allowance payments from your family.

When you are in college, you have a lot of conflicting priorities, but building your credit history is essential for your life after school, impacting where you live and what kind of interest rates you can get. Establishing good credit while still a student can make things much easier later on. By understanding these facts about credit cards, you can explore your credit card options and come up with a plan to build your credit history. Whether you get added as an authorized user to your parents’ accounts or you set up a secured card on your own, taking these steps now can help you have a stronger financial situation later.

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