One of the most important parts of growing older is becoming financially independent, but learning how to do so can be challenging for most. Building good credit is a must for students and graduates.
Good credit will help you qualify for loans, auto insurance, rental applications, cell phone plans and can even affect whether you get a job. LendEDU asked a few financially savvy experts for tips to building good credit as a student and recent graduate. Here is what we found:
1. Open Up Your Own Credit Card
The days of mass mailing student offers are over for the financial sector. In this post-Credit CARD Act era, most credit card issuers have taken a big step back in their on-campus marketing campaigns. But this doesn’t mean that credit cards are completely out of reach for students and recent graduates. The first credit card can be a great credit building tool for young adults.
But just because you aren’t receiving tons of offers in the mail anymore don’t think that a credit card is out of reach. We advise all students and graduates to head into their neighborhood branch and have a sit down with their local banker. Most banks will offer credit cards with low credit limits to students and graduates. Starting at $1,500 or so the limits will gradually increase as the new borrower correctly handles the card. Many online issuers like Capital One also issue low limit credit cards to students.
When you receive a credit card that’s all yours, without cosigners, the responsibility for handling the card falls squarely on your shoulders. The earlier you can sign up for a credit card in your own name the better. A major determinant of credit score is the length of credit history.
2. Pay Off Your Balance Each Month
As simple as this sounds do it!
When you are first building good credit, we advise all consumers to avoid carrying balances. Consumers should only use their cards for purchases within their budget so that they can pay off their entire balance each month. Many credit cards issued to students and graduates have high interest rates. If you leave a balance on your card each month you will find yourself paying large amounts in interest. What if you can’t pay off your bill? Then you are living beyond your means and shouldn’t be making those purchases.
The average outstanding credit card balance of college students reported in 2012 was $750. According to CreditCards.com about a third of these borrowers had balances of $0. And about 41% of the borrowers had a balance less than $500.
Only buy what you can afford, pay off your balance each month. By paying off your balance each month you will save significantly in terms of interest. This will also help your credit score.
3. Do Not Apply for Several Credit Cards at One Time
You may be eager to get that first shiny piece of plastic in your wallet. But don’t let that desire for a new credit card cause you to apply for multiple credit cards all at one time. If you apply for too much credit in too short a period of time, your credit score will fall. This is because each time a credit report is run for an application your credit report will be marked. Too many marks will leave some lenders skeptical. If you have little or no credit history these marks can weigh more. One credit card should be enough for most college students. Prove your spending and saving ability before opening multiple credit cards. Most lenders will gradually step up your credit limit automatically as your prove your responsibility.
4. Don’t Cosign
Most borrowers with no or limited credit history may be asked if they would like to apply with a cosigner. By adding a cosigner the lender is protecting themselves against default and repayment. As someone with a short credit history do not cosign anything for anyone. Your credit score will already be vulnerable enough, you do not need the added risk.
To help them get approved for a card, some friends may approach you to become a joint account holder. Say no. By consigning an account with a friend or family member you are effectively spending with them. If the primary account holder fails to repay their balance or misses a payment your credit may be greatly affected. This is because as a cosigner you are also responsible for the on time payment of a loan.
Also, do not let you friends onto your own account as an “authorized user”. By allowing your friends onto your account as an authorized user you are taking the risk that they will spend as you have directed. If an authorized account user racks up a balance on the account the primary account holder(you) will be responsible for repayment.
Do not cosign a credit card!
In just a couple years you can have a great credit score with great credit cards. Don’t rush the process, don’t spend too much, and pay off your balance each month. Start with a low limit card option and wait for the issuer to gradually step up your credit limit. For more great money saving tips check out the resources or blog section of LendEDU!