Student Credit Cards: The 10 Tips to Save on Tuition

Student Credit Cards – Whether you’re a first-time college student or a returning alum, it’s likely that you’ve been offered a credit card to help with your education. These cards are typically referred to as “tuition debit cards,” and they can help cut down on costs while also giving you the opportunity to purchase things with some of your school-issued money. Unfortunately, there are many downsides to having a credit card. While using one wisely can help you save money on things like gas or dining services, using it the wrong way can have negative consequences. Here are some tips for choosing the right one for your unique needs:


Look for cash-back rewards and other easy-to-reward benefits

If you have a credit card that offers cash-back rewards, consider yourself lucky. Most credit cards don’t have the kind of benefits you might find at a certain bank or credit union. Instead, they typically have rules that limit your rewards to a certain amount each year, and then they stop all together after that. If you want access to the full rewards pool, you’ll need to make sure you keep your card active and open to new cardholders at all times. This could lead to higher interest rates, fees, and empty cardholders.

Consider where you’ll use the card

If you have a ton of extra money to spend, consider using the card at places where you can just walk in and order whatever you want. If you’re going to a fancy restaurant, plan to call ahead and order a takeout meal. Just because you have the card, that doesn’t mean you have to use it in an unappealing way.

Know your limits and don’t get trapped in debt

Like most financial products, credit cards come with a catch. You have to know your limits, and don’t get trapped in debt by accidentally going over them. Spend $5 and get your first credit card? That’s $5 you didn’t even know you needed. Over time, adding more cards and charges can add up, leaving you with a higher interest rate and more debt. To avoid getting yourself into debt, start by keeping track of your monthly bill and coupons, and then only use the card when you’re actually owed money.

Get to know your credit report

Unlike with a paycheck, you can’t just “flip” your credit report for a new card. You’ll have to pay attention to every statement and report that comes in, and make sure you’re not overlooking anything. Your credit report is actually three separate pieces of information — one from each credit bureau — and each piece has different rules about how and when you’re allowed to see it. To avoid a big mistake that ends in a potentially long wait for a credit report, make sure you know what each bureau has to say about your credit report.

Create a budget and stick to it

Like most things in life, budgeting is a crucial part of using a credit card wisely. While it may be tempting to splurge when you can just withdraw some money from the credit card company’s account, that’s actually a bad idea. You can easily get in over your head, and spend more than you can afford to pay back. Instead, save up your regular income, and then use that money as leverage to pay off your credit card debt. Your credit score is the most important thing that determines your ability to get a loan, and it’s important to pay it off as quickly as possible.

Look out for fraud, confusion, or bogus offers

Like cash-back rewards, certain credit card companies will offer codes, notifications, or other incentives that can help you score points towards different offers or rewards. Be on the look out for these kinds of opportunities, as they can be a sign that the card company is trying to trick you into making a mistake. Some companies will also offer “cash-back” without a code, or offer to “redeem” points for cash. Be careful, as these types of offers are often deceptive.

Try to Avoid High Interest Debt

While interest rates on credit cards are lower than what you might find at a traditional bank or credit union, they’re still significant. Credit card companies tend to charge a much higher percentage than banks or credit unions. An average credit card carries an interest rate of around 24 percent, and some credit cards even charge as much as 36 percent. Some may call this “quality of funding,” but it’s actually calculated as a percentage of the amount borrowed. Knowing this, you can see why it’s a bad idea to take out high-interest debt. It’s often better to pay off your credit card in full each month, and then use the money from the remaining balance to build a small emergency fund.

Final thoughts

Choosing the right credit card for your unique needs can be tricky. There are tons of different credit cards out there, and while they all have different features and benefits, they also have different downsides. Some of them can be really helpful when you’re just starting out in life, while others can be really expensive when you want to splurge. If you’re lucky enough to have a credit card, make sure you take the time to learn how it works, and make sure you use it accordingly.

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