College represents an excellent time for you to develop sound financial behaviors to use throughout your life. During this period, it's important to build credit the right way through responsible behaviors. By doing so, it can help you achieve a good credit history by the time you graduate. To assist you with this, here are some tips to employ.
Pay All Bills on Time
Living on your own for the first time will provide you with tremendous freedom and responsibility. If you rent an apartment, it may be the first time you will have financial responsibilities. It's imperative you implement a plan to ensure you pay your bills on time. If you fall behind on bills or rent, they can report you to the credit bureaus. To combat this, set up each payment to automatically deduct from your account, as this will help you stay current on bills.
Use Student Loans as a Last Resort
The draw to student loans is they are easy to receive. However, the more debt you build throughout college, the more it will effect your future earnings, which can directly impact your ability to pay bills or afford things you may need such as a car or a home. Therefore, it's ideal that you find alternatives to student loans and if you need them, use them sparingly. The less reliant you are on these loans the better your financial future will be.
Open a Secure Credit Card
In college, it's likely you will have either no credit history or a limited one. As such, there will be a smaller pool of lenders that will approve you for a credit card. Instead of applying through multiple credit card companies, save up $200 to $300 and open a secured credit card through your local bank or credit union. A secured credit card uses your deposit as your credit limit. From there, it works like a regular credit card in that you can make purchases and after you do you'll receive a statement to repay them. By making punctual payments, you are building a history of responsible behavior that will reflect as such on your credit histories. After doing this for a year, ask your lender to see if they can switch you over to an unsecured credit card.
Use Credit Wisely
Once you receive an unsecured credit card, it's important to use it wisely. To achieve this you can use the card for one budgeted expense per month. Whether that's your Netflix bill or for another item, the goal is to use it for an accounted expense. When the statement arrives the following month, pay off the entire balance. When you adopt this mindset, you are building sound financial behaviors because you are paying your bills on time and not relying on credit to accomplish this. In addition to building great behaviors for the future, you will build a solid credit score, which can help you in a wide variety of areas from renting an apartment to financing a vehicle.