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What to Know Before Applying for a Student Credit Card

Building good credit takes time, and it can be a few years before college students or graduates have a good enough credit score to get a credit card or loans at low interest rates.

A student credit card can help as a college student’s first credit card, though it does come with some conditions.

First, a student will have to do more than attend college. They’ll need some type of income, and without any credit history, a card may be difficult to be approved for.

One way to get around this is to get a secured credit card, which requires a cash deposit of anywhere from $300 to $5,000 as collateral. The deposit will be paid to the card issuer if you don’t pay your bill. Secured cards may have high activation fees, as well as annual fees.

Some secured cards allow customers to move to unsecured cards, which simply means that you won’t have to give the lender a deposit after 12 months of good credit behavior, such as paying bills on time.

Other credit cards aimed at students allow co-signers, or people you know who have an established credit history and will be responsible for the bill if the student doesn’t pay it. Such a card may be needed if you don’t have a steady income and are applying for your first credit card.

Most student credit cards don’t have sign-up bonuses, rewards points and other perks, though some offer lesser rewards for newbies; however, that shouldn’t be the point of getting your first credit card as a student.

The main point is to use your student credit card as a tool to learn how to responsibly use and manage small amounts of credit, pay bills on time, and spend within your means. Students are unlikely to buy big purchases with credit cards, but to pay off what they can afford each month without paying interest.

Starting good credit habits early in life can pay off years later when you want to get an auto loan, home mortgage or apply for additional credit cards.

If you don’t use your credit card well, remember that any negative information can stay on a credit report for seven years in most cases. That can be a long time until you’re able to qualify for a credit card at all, let alone one with a good interest rate.