Building Financial Credit as a College Student

When I was younger, hearing the word “credit score” really meant nothing to me. As I grew older and began working odd jobs, my parents opened up a debit card for me to start saving money. A debit card soon turned into a credit card in my senior year of high school. I know what you might be thinking, a high schooler with a credit card? Probably not the best idea. However, I grew up in a middle class family who had, like most families, both good and bad financial months. It was instilled in me at a young age that working hard for my money is a given and if I spend that money- I’m the one who has to make it back.

During this time, I knew I had a credit card, but never really understood what that truly meant. I knew it was basically like a loan from the bank and that I had to pay it back in a timely manner, but I didn’t really know what happened if I didn’t pay it back on time, if I went over the limit, or even how they determined my limit! What even is a credit score and how do I get one? I didn’t ask questions and the bank didn’t really provide much answers freely. That all came to an end when I finally took matters into my own hands and started to look into my credit score and what this all meant.

In the blog today, I will be giving you tips on how to build your own credit, as well as helping you understand what it actually means!

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WHAT IS CREDIT?

Credit is the act of borrowing money from the bank that you have to pay back later.

WHAT IS A CREDIT SCORE?

Credit scores are 3 digit numbers that rate your trustworthiness as a borrower. The higher the number, the more likely lenders are to trust you to borrow money from them. This also affects how much money lenders are willing to give you (this is your credit card limit).

Credit scores range from 300-850.

Everyone has a credit score. Think of it kind of like grades in school. If you’re bad with money, you’ll have a low credit score (i.e – low grade), if you’re good with money, you’ll have a high credit score (i.e – high grade). The goal is to keep our credit scores about 700!

WHAT AFFECTS YOUR CREDIT SCORE?

Something I’ve noticed is that credit scores typically are stable as long as you don’t do any drastic changes. If you completely miss a payment, your score may drop, if you open up a new card or take out a new loan, your score may also go down a few points. Things like, how much money you owe (amount of debt), if you make payments on time, and the types of debt you have also affect your credit score.

WAYS TO BUILD CREDIT WHILE IN COLLEGE

BECOME AN AUTHORIZED USER ON YOUR PARENT’S ACCOUNT

Before actually getting your own credit card, you can start building credit by becoming an authorized user on your parent’s account.

This does not mean you get to use their credit card (unless you both agree to it), but your name will be put on their account and their credit report will be added to your name. If your parents have good credit scores and they pay their bills monthly and on time, then both yours and their credit scores will continue to grow. It’s termed “piggybacking”. Your credit score will get a boost with fewer risks associated with having your own credit card, since the primary account holder (your parents) will be able to monitor spending.

Get a College Credit Card

College cards are great for young adults looking to build credit. These cards are designed to help college students with no credit history to build that credit, or even to help fix credit history in some cases. Student loans can do a number on one’s credit history, so by having a college card and being responsible with it, your credit score can increase!

I started out with a cash-back college card (shout out to WellsFargo for trusting 18 year old me!), which gave me a small limit that was enough for certain items like paying for gas, monthly bills such as phone bills or car payments, and textbooks. By using them on monthly payments, this helps the borrower because they’ll have time to re-pay before the next payment. To keep your credit score high, paying in full each month is the best way to go.

PAY ALL BILLS ON TIME

To add to the title – Pay all bills on time, preferably in full!

This one is really important. Let’s say you spent $200 this month on your credit card and your next payment is May 15th. Your credit card company will give you the option of paying the minimum amount if you don’t have enough money to pay in full. Although this option is tempting, paying the amount in full will help in your goal to build financial credit. Even if this means asking your parents for help paying it off this month.

DO NOT APPLY FOR SEVERAL CREDIT CARDS AT ONE TIME

By signing up for several, you’re asking multiple banks to loan you money. This can actually hurt you in the long run if it’s your first time dealing with financial credit since, 1) having the options of borrowing a large sum of money from multiple cards can be tempting, and 2) banks can see that you’ve applied for multiple cards, which will affect your credit limit each time.

Applying for a credit card actually does affect your credit score by a good amount of points. If you have built up strong credit over several years, it will hurt you less, but if you have barely established credit and apply for multiple cards, it can lower your credit score significantly.

STUDENT LOANS

Student loans are just like credit cards, except in a much larger and scarier amount. Although it’s a lot more money, it’s still borrowed money, which is what credit is. If not paid on time, it will affect your credit score significantly.

Having trouble finding the money to pay off your student loans? Check out my top tips for earning extra cash to pay off loans faster.

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What are ways you find are helpful to help build credit? Do you have a favorite bank? Comment below!

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