As you prepare to enter college, you need to make sure that you also set yourself up for success when it comes to your credit score and financial future. If you do not start working on it now, you will not be able to finance the things you want as you transition from college life into real life. Below, we will go over some ways that you can start to build up your credit while you are in college.
Get a Credit Card
One of the first steps that you can take to build up your credit in college is to get yourself a credit card. You will find that there are MANY choices when it comes to credit card options. You should evaluate all of your options before you apply for any.
As you look for a card, think about whether or not you want cash rewards, point rewards, or none of those options. You also need to study the information presented to you and make note of any annual fees, interest fees, and minimum payment charges.
If you do apply for a card and are approved, you should only use your card to purchase items that you know you can afford. It would not make much sense to purchase a $750 television set if you know you do not have that much money in your account.
Be wise and spend frugally when it comes to your card.
Consider Being an Authorized User
If you cannot get your own credit card or you do not want to make that big of a step just yet, consider talking to your parents and find out if you can be an authorized user on their credit card.
When you are an authorized user, you can start to build up your credit score, but you do not have as much liability. Of course, you are responsible for your own payments, but your parents can safeguard you and themselves by controlling the spending privileges you have too.
Also, even if you do not use the card, you will receive a boost in your credit score when your parents make their monthly payments and use the card.
Put a Bill in Your Name
Another way to start building up credit while you are in college is to open up an account with a billing company in your name. What we mean by this is something such as a cell phone or a utility bill.
These companies report your payment history and balance to all credit bureaus and you will find that as you pay your balance each month, your score receives a small boost.
The more you pay your bill on time, the more likely it is that you will start to receive enticing offers for credit cards that have zero interest, no fees, etc.
Pay Your Bills
We mentioned that you should put a bill in your name above, but just a bill alone will not boost or build your credit score. You need to pay that bill too!
You want to do your best to avoid missing payments or paying late on your bills because this will negatively impact your credit score.
Remember, pay ALL of your bills on time ALL of the time! If you ever find yourself in a situation where you cannot afford the payment, call the company you have a balance with immediately. They may be willing to work with you and when they do, they do not typically report the outstanding balance as a late payment.
Pay Your Student Loan Interest
Paying your student loans or at minimum, the interest on them, will help you build your credit while you are in college. These interest payments are not going to be much, but your federal student loans do show on your credit report. Therefore, if you pay them, it will show and it will improve and build up your credit score.
Keep Your Debt Low
If you do have some debt, make sure you keep it to a minimum. Companies look at your debt to income ratio and if you have more debt than income, you will hurt your credit score.
Even if you use your credit card, make sure you do not max it out and do not carry a balance on it from month to month without making full payments.
Building credit in college will take some financial discipline and work, but it is possible. You will find that if you build your credit now, you will have a wonderful financial future ahead of you.