3 Ways To Start Building Credit In College

By Bethany Fischer on March 15, 2021

Building credit in college is an easy way to set yourself up for financial success in the future. This can be difficult when many adults don’t educate their college-aged children about the importance of building credit. While the idea of credit scores can be intimidating for young adults, building credit in college is an important skill to learn before you enter to world of real adulthood.

What is credit?

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Credit is the ability to borrow money or access goods and services with the understanding that you will pay it back. To put it simply, it is the trust that lenders put in borrowers to pay back the money that they are lending. When you borrow money from lenders, your repayment habits are tracked by credit reporting agencies. This tracking is analyzed and reported as your credit score. Having a “good” credit score means that you are a reliable borrower that pays back your debts on time and have a variety of investments. On the other hand, having a “bad” credit score can reflect poor investment decisions and unreliable repayments.

Many factors play into calculating credit that includes but is not limited to, credit card usage, loan repayments, hard and soft inquires, and number of open accounts. You can still begin building credit in college even if you are unfamiliar with these terms or are overwhelmed with the general idea of credit.

Why should I try building my credit in college?

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Building credit as a college student is beneficial for several reasons. The main reason is that building credit as a college student sets you up for financial success and stability as soon as you leave college. But, why is having good credit so important?

Having good credit is important because your credit will determine your ability to live comfortably as an adult. Most of the big financial decisions you make as an adult will be dependent on your credit. This includes buying a car, buying a home, getting a business loan, and even getting a job. Many people wait until they are out of college to start worrying about their credit and have to wait years before their credit is “good” enough to benefit from it. If you start building credit in college, you will already have a head start!

How to start building credit in college

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Building credit in college may seem like a difficult task, especially if you are years away from making financial commitments. Fortunately, there are several ways for college students to easily build their credit.

1. Become an authorized user on someone’s credit card

One of the easiest ways to begin building credit in college is to become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card. This means that someone has given you authority to make purchases with their credit card in your name without you being the primary account holder. Because you are not the account holder, you are not responsible for making payments towards the credit card balance. This is a great way to start building credit in college because it gives you good marks on your payment history without the responsibility of handling your own credit card.

The best way to become an authorized user is to be added to an account by a trustworthy account holder, such as a parent, family member, or responsible friend. Because this tactic is dependent on timely payments, it is important to choose your account holder wisely. If the primary account holder misses payments, makes payments late, or spends over their credit limit, your credit will be negatively affected. Make sure you are trusting the right people when building credit in college.

2. Get your own credit card (and use it responsibly)

Many people think that getting a credit card at a young age is a bad idea. However, it can be useful if the credit card is used smartly and responsibly. Using a credit card to begin building credit in college will only work if you are informed and make good financial decisions.

To get the most out of your credit card, it is important to keep a few things in mind. First, you must make monthly payments on time, and you must meet the minimum. Buying things on a credit card doesn’t make it free; it just means you can pay it off in increments at a later date. You are still responsible for paying the balances that you are putting on the card. Building credit in college this way shows potential lenders that you can be trusted to pay off your debts. It is also recommended that you only utilized 30% of your credit limit. Going over this percentage can affect your credit negatively. It can also make paying your debts off difficult due to large interest fees. Credit Karma has a list of credit cards good for building credit in college because of incentives, cashback options, and fee waivers.

3. Pay on your student loans while you’re in school

While having student loans is a common way to build a credit history, they can be difficult to pay back even when you’re out of college. Building credit in college by making payments on your loans can help you financially AND personally. Making regular payments not only shows lenders that you are reliable but also helps keep interest costs down. Most student loan agencies require regular payments 6 months after graduating. This means that starting early will allow you to have less debt once you graduate.

Building credit in college in this way is not as difficult as it may seem. While many students are not able to have a high or steady income while in school, they may have part-time jobs that give a little bit of spending money. Setting aside even a little bit of money can pay down interest loans that add hundreds of dollars to your student loan debt. Even choosing one loan with a high-interest rate to pay on is better than not paying on them at all. Building credit in college benefits you financially as well as personally. Paying off large loans quickly can take enormous financial pressures off of your shoulders and allow you to spend money on more important assets.

Conclusion

It is never too early to start thinking about your financial future. Building credit college is a smart way to ensure financial stability once you graduate. Becoming an authorized user, having your own credit card, and paying on your student loans early are just a few of the many ways that students can get a head start in their adult lives. By having a proven record of responsibility, you can enjoy assets early that many adults take years trying to acquire. College is often the first taste of adulthood for many, and building credit in college will set you up for success later in life.

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