Establishing good credit is part of building a strong future.
The key to that statement is good credit. Many young adults find themselves getting into financial trouble because credit is easy to obtain, but difficult to manage effectively. Good credit is a financial asset — with good credit, you'll get the lowest interest rates available in the market. Conversely, if you destroy your credit rating, you'll still be able to obtain credit, but it will cost you much, much, more.
Often, getting a credit card or auto loan is the first step in establishing your credit. As a young adult — especially if you're in college — you probably can't turn around without getting hit with another credit card offer. Whether it's being "sold" through a fraternity or sorority, a clerk at one of your favorite stores, or a sponsor at an event, you should look at each of these offers closely — or better yet, throw them out. They are probably not worth it, as thousands of students before you have learned when they ended up with a pile of bills and no way to satisfy them.
When getting your first credit card, try not to charge more than you can afford, and the best way to do this is to pay-off existing credit card debt before accumulating more. If you keep the number of credit cards in your possession to a minimum, this should remain manageable.
Second, make sure you look closely at credit card offers. Many cards may offer a low interest rate that quickly escalates if you are even a day late. Many have high fees for things like balance transfers, being over your limit, and cash advances. Be sure to compare your credit card offers to make sure you're getting the best deal overall. Destinations offers a great MasterCard® Credit Builder card at low interest rates and fees.
And finally, paying your credit card bill (and all bills) regularly and on time will help you earn points toward a good credit rating.
Should you get a credit card?
If you're considering your first credit card, these true or false questions will help you predict how well you'll manage it.
- _____ I often pay for meals or buy gifts to impress others.
- _____ Having credit will allow me to buy major items I want now.
- _____ I often have trouble remembering how much I've spent in a day.
- _____ My closet is full of things I've only worn once or twice.
- _____ I've purchased many things I later wished I hadn't.
- _____ I've borrowed money from others and haven't paid it back.
- _____ I make impulse purchases to cheer myself up.
- _____ I will charge things that are gone before the bill comes (meals, gas, etc.).
How did you score?
- 0 True - A true creditworthy person, you spend wisely.
- 1 – 3 True - Look for ways to improve your spending practices, such as comparison-shopping, and increase your savings through better spending. Take steps now to curb your impulses.
- 3 – 5 True - Consider a debit card first. That way, you can't spend more money than you have.
- 5 – 8 True - A collection agency's dream. Avoid credit cards at all costs, and consider a class in financial management.