As a college student, owning a credit card has its pros and cons

By Kelsey Hebert

(Sean MacEntee/Flickr)
(Sean MacEntee/Flickr)

Whatever your academic year, there has probably come a point in your college life when you were faced with the question about whether it’s wise to use a credit card. Typically regarded as taboo for students, the positives of owning one may outweigh the negatives. Owning a credit card can help students build a healthy credit history while they are in college, which will ultimately prove beneficial upon graduation.

Purchasing

items and making on-time payments is an easy way to boost one’s credit score. Using a card can bolster a score determined by student loans or can be used as a type of borrowing service for students who do not have loans. As long as students are making payments on time, their credit score will rise rather than be hurt. A healthy credit score can help with getting an apartment during or after graduation or applying for loans later in life.

Conversely, late payments may negatively affect your credit score. Those who have trouble keeping to deadlines should be wary of this when making payments.

Students who prefer to use cash for purchases may have an adjustment to make with credit cards. While cash is always a safer option to purchase goods on and off campus, having a credit card on hand may be helpful and convenient. Even so, one must beware of mindlessly purchasing items with a credit card. If you do not trust yourself with purchasing power, try setting a spending limit on the card.

Having a credit card for emergency situations is also a good idea for young students who may not have enough money on their debit cards or in cash to pay. Credit cards can come in handy during instances like hospital trips, car accidents or other catastrophes that need large amounts of fast cash if unable to be billed to your parents. Some students may look into obtaining a credit card solely for usage in emergency situations.

When it comes to online purchasing, having a credit card may be a safer way than paying with a debit card. The rise of technology has led to much more cyber theft than ever before. A credit card is not tied to a bank account like a debit card is; if the credit card number is stolen it is less devastating and inconvenient than if your bank account is depleted.

Since many college students purchase their textbooks online, having a credit card for this purpose may be helpful in avoiding cyber theft.

Although owning credit cards has its advantages while on a college campus, students should evaluate themselves about whether or not they are ready to handle the responsibility of having one.

If you think you are an impulsive person or perhaps a compulsive shopper, having a credit card may be more of a bane than a benefit. It’s important as a student to pay off your bills on time and, whenever possible, in full. Keeping a balance on a credit card can have extreme financial consequences if the balance and interest rates are high. It is important to pay off more than just the monthly interest, as this will increase as your balance increases.

Don’t get a credit card simply because you don’t have the money to pay for products that are not essential. Even though they allow you to purchase these items, a bill at the end of the month and accrued interest without payment can get you in trouble with a bad credit score in the long run.

Kelsey Hebert can be reached at [email protected]