When your child goes off to college, many financial decisions must be made, but one consideration that is frequently forgotten is applying for student credit cards. The topic of selecting the best card for your college bound child is one that is often overlooked – and many parents wonder if they should co-sign on a card to ease the budget burden for housing, food and spending allowances, tuition, and books.
Obtaining the best credit card for a college student, who is now considered an adult, can be very beneficial in building up the student’s credit score. In most cases, banks will issue a card to a student who is under the age of 18 only if the parent co-signs on the card. Once the student is over the age of 18, he can likely apply for – and receive – a card on his own.
Various Advantages of Choosing the Best Student Credit Card
Through this process of establishing a good credit rating, the student would be able to obtain larger amounts of credit upon graduation, which might include a mortgage on a home or a new car. Being required to pay regularly teaches the student the responsibility of managing credit, an important lesson in today’s high credit society. The best student credit card will reinforce these values and help students learn to manage their resources constructively.
In addition, students will learn to budget their money accordingly in order to pay the monthly bills and avoid credit card debt, and you as the parent can see if your child quickly establishes good spending habits and practices. If worse comes to worst, the low limit credit card balance can be paid off, and you can revoke your child’s spending privileges. Of course, in the best case scenario, your child uses the card responsibly, establishing an excellent credit rating at the same time.
Other Lessons to Learn from a Credit Card
Moreover, student credit cards can offer the student fraud or refund protection. This security net can help prevent a student from getting ripped off in Internet scams or by identity thieves who are eager to prey on a student’s vulnerability. Also, the best student credit card will offer extended warranty protection over and above the standard warranty that comes with the product that he buys.
Student credit cards can serve as documentation of what your child is spending money on, making the card extremely helpful for tax purposes. The credit card, after a careful review from both of you, should, after all, be a learning process and a fun experience.
Rewards and Benefits of Having a Credit Card
Most student credit cards offer some type of rewards program, and the best student credit card rewards program will offer a cash-back incentive. By using charge cards, your child is actually receiving a cash savings, ranging from 1% to as high as 5% on certain purchases.
Additionally, in case of an emergency, student credit cards serve as excellent sources of protection. Your child may not always have cash on hand or money in the bank to pay for emergency purchases like car repairs or school supplies. While your child is away, it’s comforting to know he or she can always use the card should an emergency arise.
How to Choose the Best Student Credit Card
There are numerous credit cards designed especially for students, and, typically, the best card will start with a low credit limit of $500 or less. You could also consider a secured credit card, which would require the student to deposit cash in an account in advance, and then only permit charging up to this amount. Once this amount is depleted, it would need to be replenished prior to allowing the student to charge anymore on the card.
Deciding how to choose the best student credit card depends upon the needs and budget of your child. Sitting down and discussing the responsibility that comes with having a credit card is a necessity. Try to gather some material and review options in order to choose the best student credit card that satisfies both of you. Of course, as the student maintains a good payment record, the credit limit will increase and the secured credit card can be converted to a regular credit card.
Made Your Decision? Sign Your College Student Up for a Credit Card
Typically, the application process for student credit cards is easy. The application should inquire which educational institution your child attends as well as confirm he is a college bound student. There are several student credit cards from which to choose, and many will be happy to help you through the process. By giving your college student the responsibility of a credit card, you are giving him or her a sense of pride. Our best advice in using a student credit card is to spend wisely and pay in a timely manner!
Woody Alpern, CPA, is the founder and creator of MyCreditCard.com, an online service that lets you compare credit cards and choose the best fit for you. He is the co-founder of both Capital Investment Advisors and Capital Benefits Administration, Inc. He is also a partner in both firms. In addition, he serves as CEO of real estate investment company Roswell Holdings, LLC. A graduate of the University of South Carolina with both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in accounting, Alpern spent several years in the tax division of the accounting firm Touche Ross (now Deloitte & Touche) before partnering with Michael Reiner to found his own businesses.
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