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Office of Financial Aid & Scholarships

General Credit Card Information

Having a credit card is not a good choice for every college student.  There are advantages and disadvantages to having a credit card while in school.

If used responsibly, credit cards can have many advantages for college students including:

  • Beginning to establish a good credit report.  Making small purchases and paying them off every month will be reflected on your credit report.  These positive records will be beneficial when you want to rent an apartment, buy a car, or apply for certain jobs after college.

  • Learning fiscal responsibility.  Living on a limited income is not easy but learning to control your spending is a habit that will carry for the remainder of your life.

  • A resource for emergencies.  An emergency is not a new pair of shoes, a $70 pair of jeans, or video games.  When emergencies such as car repairs or additional textbooks appear, a credit card can be an option for students.  When using a credit card for emergencies it is important to have a repayment plan and to stick to it!

If NOT used responsibly, credit cards can have many disadvantages for college students including:

  • Not learning fiscal responsibility.  Student who don’t have a solid understanding about credit cards often run up a large amount of debt that is difficult, if not impossible, for a college student to repay in a timely manner. (The average senior college student graduates with over $4000 in credit card debt.)

  • Building a credit history.  If a student does not use a credit card responsibly (paying the card on time, paying the at least the minimum payment, carrying a large balance), these negative marks will appear on a credit report.  Ruining your credit report while in college will make it difficult to be approved for a car loan, rent an apartment, and possibly obtain employment after college. If students do not feel they are ready for a credit card, it is much easier to establish credit after college than to fix it after mistakes have been made.

  • A resource for luxuries.  Students often mistake wants for needs, especially when a credit card is available to use.  Credit cards make it easy for students to live beyond their means.

If you are unsure if a credit card is a good option for you, talk to your parents or another adult who is financially responsible.