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Student Money Matters: Credit Savvy

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One of the basic keywords for the college experience is money. That word spawns many questions:

- How much does college cost?


- How much will it cost me?

- How much will I need day-to-day at college?

- How much do textbooks cost?

- How much will my travel expenses be? … and so on.

Knowing the answers to these and other questions is an important part of the college experience. Getting the money you need is one thing; but knowing how to handle that money -- and the credit to obtain it -- is something else. That’s where many college students (and some parents) fall short.

In light of all that, today I would like to present some key points from WalletHub’s 2019 College Student Financial Survey, which may provide some helpful information for you to improve your college (and general) credit-related savvy.

First, the Surprising Information

WalletHub conducted a nationally representative survey of college students, asking about everything from how they’d grade their financial know-how to which spending categories they most want bonus credit card rewards for. Here’s what the survey found:

- 30 percent of students give their financial knowledge a grade of C or worse. Five times more female students than male students graded their financial knowledge an "F."

- 14 percent of students would rather miss a payment than a party. Lower-income students are four times more likely than high-income students to say they’d rather miss a payment than a party.

- One in 10 students say their parents would not approve of their credit card transactions. Nearly two in five students say their friends would make fun of their credit card transactions.

- Best Credit Card for Students: Discover it® Student chrome – two percent cash back on your first $1,000 in restaurant and gas purchases each quarter. One percent cash back on all other purchases. No annual fee or foreign transaction fee.

- Best Checking Account for Students: Capital One Money Teen Checking Account – No monthly fee, overdraft fee or ATM transaction fee. 0.25 percent APY on all balances.

Answering some questions about the survey’s findings, WalletHub CEO, Odysseas Papadimitriou, adds his perspectives:

- Are you surprised that one in 10 students think credit cards are free money?

Unfortunately, I am not surprised that one in 10 students think credit cards are free money, considering the current state of financial literacy education. Schools aren’t teaching money management, at least not nearly enough, and many parents are actually more comfortable talking about sex than money!

- Do you have any tips for parents teaching young people about money?

It’s important to lead by example, for starters. Even if you don’t manage your finances responsibly, having an open dialogue about money management matters in your household and recognizing your mistakes can go a long way. Your children will naturally pick up a lot of good habits and useful information. As with any other skill, however, practice makes perfect. So it’s important to give young people experience managing a checking account and a credit card before they head off to college, while you can still supervise and provide feedback.

Making your child an authorized user on a credit card account is a good way to introduce them to credit before they can qualify for a student credit card. Most issuers don’t have an age requirement but do allow you to set a custom spending limit for authorized users. You’ll have full visibility of their transactions, and they’ll start building credit history.

- How old do you have to be to get a student credit card?

A lot of people have misinterpreted the post-recession credit card laws to mean that only applicants age 21 and up can get approved for a credit card account. That is not true. The minimum age to qualify for your own credit card account is still 18 years old. The post-recession rules just specify that applicants under the age of 21 will be judged based on their independent ability to pay, rather than household income.

The survey page also lists some money-saving tips for college students:

- Consider Credit Building Your Top Priority A good credit score will save you thousands of dollars per year on loans, lines of credit and insurance premiums. It may even help you land your dream job or lease a new car. And two of the keys to building a good credit score are making on-time payments and establishing a long track record of responsible borrowing.

- Don’t Make Purchases If You Don’t Trust Yourself Credit cards report information to the major credit bureaus every month even when you don’t make any purchases. And while you may build credit faster by making purchases and paying them off by the end of the month, overspending and missing payments is counterproductive. So if you don’t trust yourself to spend responsibly with plastic, give your card to your parents for safekeeping. You could even cut it up. Just make sure to save your account number in case you need to call customer service.

- Make a Budget If you combine credit card use with a well-defined budget while in college, you’ll be well ahead of the curve. Only two in five consumers have a budget, according to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, and that’s one of the main reasons why credit card debt levels are so high.

- Take Advantage of Campus Resources Most colleges and universities offer financial literacy resources of some sort. For example, there might be a personal finance class you can take, a money-management help center you can visit or online educational materials to peruse. Find out and soak up as much information as you can, especially if it will fulfill a curriculum requirement. Because unlike much of what you’ll learn in college, financial skills translate directly to everyday life.

- Approach Student Loans with Caution Taking out a bunch of student loans might not seem like a big deal now, considering how long you’ll have to pay them off. But too few students truly consider how big of a burden they can wind up being. Student debt increases the pressure to find a job and can delay major life events such as buying a home, getting married or starting a family. No one wants to be paying off education debt into their 40s, which is all too common these days. So try to supplement your tuition money with scholarships, grants and work experience. This will also give your resume a boost.

There’s a huge amount of helpful financial information on this one page. In addition to what I’ve highlighted above, you’ll find: Best Student Credit Cards of 2019, 6 Best Credit Cards for Students Who Are New to Credit, Best Cards for Students with Good Credit, Questions & Answers, and a link to ask your own questions.

Finally, don’t miss assessing your financial literacy level here. Check it out. It will be to your credit!