Knowing how to handle credit is essential for college students

How Can College Students Avoid Credit Hassles?

by Gabe Albarian, Author of Financial Swagger


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Gone are the days when credit card companies constantly badger college students on campus to open a credit card and receive a shirt, backpack, or even a pencil as a reward. Recent change in federal regulation only allows credit card applicants over the age of 21 to apply for a credit card UNLESS they are over the age of 18 and able to show "financial responsibility." What exactly indicates "financial responsibility" is a huge loophole in this new federal regulation.

With the average student accumulating over $23,000 in student loan debt and $4,000 in credit card debt (and rising!) during their years as an undergraduate student, when will the importance of encouraging practical, personal finance education in colleges and universities come to the forefront of our nation's attention? These statistics basically tell the same story: our next generation of college graduates will enter the next phases of their lives in a personal finance hell composed of a combination of crushing debt and poor credit.

With the necessity for good credit at the forefront of the minds of all Americans, I have outlined a few tips aimed specifically at helping those who are just entering college or about to graduate establish and keep a good credit rating. They include:

  • New Credit Cards - Credit card companies love to hammer new students and new graduates with seemingly generous offers of unsecured credit cards. Don't take the bait. There are other ways to establish credit without opening yourself up to the slippery slope of introductory interest rates that change after six months or the temptation to use that credit to live above your means.

  • Authorized Users - If your parents are financially responsible (not always the case sometimes) and pay their bills on time every month, I suggest that you be added as an authorized user on their credit card. Make sure to provide your personal information and social security number to the credit card company so that your credit history report will reflect transactions performed on this account. In about six months, after you've learned with the authorized user training wheels how to manage your credit reliably and maintained a responsible payment history, you will receive your own credit card offers.

  • Secured Credit Card - The temptation will be to apply for an unsecured credit card, but that's still not wise or necessary to establish good credit and good habits. Instead, apply for a secured credit card at your local bank. With a secured credit card, you place a nominal amount of money in a savings account that cannot be withdrawn as it is used as recourse to pay back your debts in case you do not pay them yourself. In essence, your spending limit on your secured card is exactly the amount you place in the linked savings account. Hence, your debt is secured by the money in your account. Just like a normal credit card, you will receive a monthly statement to pay off a portion or all of your debts. Meanwhile your payment history will be reported to the credit bureaus. Within months, you will receive offers for other unsecured credit cards. It's not necessary to have more credit cards than you need, because not only will it present temptation, but it may also lower your credit rating.

The bottom line here is that once you have use of a credit card, you want to pay your bills on time, keep your balances low, don't take on more credit than you need, and if you've missed a payment, you should get current and stay current. Good credit can be your best financial friend as you go through life and bad credit can be the ball and chain that drags you down.


Gabe Albarian, author of Financial Swagger (FinancialSwagger.com) and a 28-year-old businessman has worked in real estate sales, finance, and investment for nearly 10 years and has done extensive consulting work in personal finance for both individuals and groups. He earned his undergraduate degree in Political Science at the University of California, Los Angeles and is currently pursuing his Masters in Business Administration with an emphasis in Finance at the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California. In his book, Financial Swagger (FinancialSwagger.com), he explains the essentials of being financially savvy with a young perspective that is easily comprehended by all readers of every age. Simple financial lessons about banking, credit scoring, credit cards, loans and more are important to understand whether you are 16 or 86. LIKE Gabe on Facebook and Get Chapter One of his book for FREE! (Facebook.com/GabeAlbarian).

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