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How To Build Credit As a College Student


By Steffani CameronUpdated on June 18, 2022

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As summer ends, it’s back to school and off to college. For first-timers, embarking on college life is your first significant step in becoming an adult – it lays the foundation for your career and life to come. A credit card should be part of your foundational planning, too, because underpins all your credit-based milestones to come, like buying a car or your first home, getting some jobs, or even starting a business.

Responsible spending is crucial to staying on top of credit, but establishing a strong credit score is important, and credit cards are part of that.

Using Your First Credit Card

If you’re lucky, your credit life started off with training wheels courtesy of Mom and Dad, via authorizing your access to one of their credit card accounts, teaching you responsible use early. But if not, there are lots of cards designed for new users in mind.

It’s not hard to find stories about some student who racked up credit card debt and student loans, only to become a cautionary tale for others. But there’s no reason that needs to be your story. Start off with a low credit limit and establish good spending – and debt repayment – practices before piling on more credit.

This is why we like the – it rewards good behavior. There’s annual fee and this card gives, plus .

The Card with Big Rewards

If you like strategizing and planning things out, you might be the perfect person for the card. A big myth a lot of parents teach their kids is credit cards should only be used in emergencies. But if you never use it, how can you raise your credit score and show lenders you are a responsible credit user? Instead, use cards strategically to build credit.

With this card from Discover, Plus their sign up bonus is pretty sweet – . also provides an online calendar to help you plan your year of finance and when to maximize the cash back categories.

Set It and Forget It

In fact, credit cards are a great way to handle all regular reoccurring payments – those subscriptions to Spotify and Netflix, your bus pass, meal plan and fitness centers. You’re paying for them anyhow, so why not get a few bucks back? A great card for that is the , because it’s got an autopay option. With autopay, you’ll always make the minimum balance payment on time every month – helpful for a busy student with their mind on other matters. So many people ruin their credit through forgetfulness, so using autopay keeps your credit in good standing and helps you build it along the way.

Also, Capital One offers All things you’ll use most in college, especially if you’ve got a crappy dorm kitchen and messy roomies. Even better, there are no foreign transaction fees, so if you’re heading to Mexico on spring break or studying abroad for a semester, you won’t pay the high foreign transaction fees so many other cards charge.

It’s How You Use It

Don’t forget, you have to use your card. In fact, carrying some balance is good for your credit, so don’t panic if you have to carry a 35% of your limit on your credit for a while. Sometimes, you need the help. But remember, it’s not free money – you’ll pay interest, so the cash rewards can be moot. Sometimes, it’s worth the price of interest.

Still, having a credit card makes life easier. Get a card that works for you, and use it responsibly. Having good credit isn’t rocket science – it just takes discipline and some “pay bill today” reminders in your calendar.