Life Skills for College
The minute you walk onto campus, you'll be surrounded by companies trying to hawk their credit cards. Before you sign up for anything, be aware of these credit card essentials:
- Look for a card that has a low interest rate and does not charge an annual fee. Many cards offer tempting incentives that are worth less than the annual fee you end up paying. Always read the fine print on the contract.
- Limit yourself to one credit card, two at most.
- Pay your credit card bill before the due date to avoid late fees -- often $25 or more. Study your credit card statements carefully, and contact your credit card company in writing if you spot a mistake on a billing statement.
- Always stay within your credit limit and pay your balance in full each month, or else you'll be charged penalties and interest. If you can't pay the whole bill, be sure to pay more than the minimum required.
- Avoid using your card to charge more than you can pay off at month's end. Falling into credit card debt not only costs you huge amounts in fees but also goes on your credit rating, and a bad rating endangers your chances of renting an apartment, securing loans and mortgages, and even getting a job.
- If you find you're unable to resist overspending on your card, consider getting rid of it and using your ATM debit card instead. Debit cards can almost always be used in place of credit cards, and because they draw straight from your bank account, you can't spend more than you actually have.
- Keep a list of your credit card account numbers in a safe place and immediately notify your credit card company if your card is lost or stolen.
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