As I was entering my freshman year of college, like many students, I was faced with the decision of whether or not I could trust myself with a credit card. I knew that the situations in which I would need immediate access to funds would be few and far between, but it is often that when situations do arise, the need for quick cash is dire. So I found myself in the now familiar position of weighing the pros and cons with the hopes of coming to a well-rounded and informed decision.
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If you are asking yourself the question, “Should college students have credit cards?” the points that I weighed are as follows.
From flat tires to dorm room fires, the life of a college student is one rife with unexpected disaster. It’s simply unavoidable. And more often than not these unfortunate circumstances carry a certain financial burden. It is here that a credit card can be invaluable as a source of immediately available funds that can be accessed at a moment’s notice.
Building Credit Early
With so many purchases from apartment applications to cell phone plans requiring a credit check nowadays, it’s never too early to get started building a healthy credit history. Having a credit card and making regular payments will begin a great foundation for after graduation when you’re looking to take out a loan on a car or applying for some utilities such as gas or electric that more and more often are requiring credit checks.
Useful Teaching Tool
One of the most overlooked benefits of having a credit card at a young age is just how useful a monthly piece of paper that outlines exactly where your money was spent throughout the month can actually be. A credit card can be an invaluable teaching tool in educating young people on the importance of budgeting and spelling out spending habits in complete black and white terms.
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Falling Into Debt Can Be Easy
As anyone who’s ever had a credit card knows, the desire to overspend can be overwhelming. When offered an option to spend more money than you have access to, the unfortunate reality is a large percentage of young people will jump at the opportunity. But once the ball starts rolling it can be hard to stop. There’s a reason college students with credit cards graduate with an average of $4,100 in credit card debt.
Irresponsible Use Can Decline a Credit Rating
While one of the primary benefits of having a credit card can be building a healthy credit rating, that benefit is dependent on actually making regular payments to keep the card balance paid off. Overuse that depletes your credit amount and takes a long time to pay back can dramatically reduce your credit rating until you’re in a worse spot than if you had never gotten the card at all.
High Interest Rates
Credit card companies have the unfortunate reputation of preying on young and naïve students with cards that promise high rewards, but often carry hidden catches such as yearly fees or high interest rates that offset any promised rewards. It is your responsibility as a consumer to thoroughly research and compare any credit card offers that interest you. There are multiple online resources available that allow you to compare the benefits and disadvantages of various credit cards against one another and identify the best option for your situation. Precautions like this can save students hundreds or even thousands of dollars by avoiding unnecessary fees and unreasonable interest rates.
Brandi Paquet is a recent graduate who is interested in beginning her freelance writing career. Since beginning her blogging career, Brandi has enjoyed writing articles with a financial spin to help people and college students understand their finances to succeed in life. In her spare time Brandi hangs out with her cat, reads CNN Money, loves to bake, and keeps informed on the latest financial news.