When you head off to college, you're likely to be bombarded with credit card offers. Credit card companies will offer you free t-shirts and other gifts as a way to get you to sign up for a new card. Knowing something about credit cards and how they work before you experience this is very important and can keep you from making some bad impulse decisions.
- Credit cards are used for different purposes. Credit cards are a way to buy something that you can't pay for at that moment, but that you know you'll be able to afford a little later. Credit cards are also a way to establish good credit so that you can apply for loans for school, a house, or a car later in life.
- You improve your credit score every time you pay your bills on time. This is important because lenders, insurance companies, and landlords will all want to see your credit history to determine if you are a good, safe risk.
- Credit cards are a huge responsibility. Credit means borrowing - buying something that you will pay for later. If you keep any kind of balance on your card month-to-month or don't pay a bill on time, you'll not only pay for the original purchase, but you'll also have to pay interest and possibly late fees.
- Bills should be paid on time and in full. This is the only way to keep your finances together and ensure that you have a good credit score in the future. If you have poor credit, you'll have a hard time getting a good rate on a loan later in life.
- You don't need a lot of credit cards. Stores and credit card companies will offer you little incentives to get you to open an account. Be wary of this. You don't want to worry about several different cards to pay off or your credit score dropping if you have too many open accounts.
- Know the terms and conditions of the card before you sign up. Do some research on various credit card offers first. Is there an annual fee just to have the card? What is the interest rate? What are the late fees? What is the spending limit? Knowing these things first will help you pick the best card for you.
You and your parents may want to consider a pre-paid credit card as an option. These cards allow parents to transfer money from their own checking accounts to the card, and then the card can be used like any other credit card for purchases. This gives you great practice at paying the bill and controlling your spending, while it gives your parents the ability to set spending limits and monitor where you are spending money through monthly statements and Internet accounts.
For more information and resources to help military youth and teens navigate everything from the unique challenges of a mobile military lifestyle to managing their social lives, saving money, and going green, visit Military Youth on the Move!