Archive | Credit Cards

Image by frankieleon, Flickr

Image by frankieleon, Flickr

With students just getting into the grind of the Fall semester, the last thing they are thinking about is traveling home for the holidays. Holiday travel can be expensive and coming up with the extra cash to pay for it might be hard to come by with all of the normal expenses that students have. But, there is a way to score free, or discounted, travel and you can get it by spending the money you are going to spend anyways with a travel rewards credit card.

Travel rewards credit cards offer rewards for the money that you spend with them in the form of points or miles. These rewards can be redeemed to cover travel costs that you may have in the future. The best part is that many of these credit cards offer signup bonuses when you open an account and spend a minimum amount, usually within the first 3 months – leaving you just enough time to earn your rewards and be home for the holidays at little to no cost to you.

Note: If you decide to utilize a travel rewards credit card to help offset future travel costs, you need to make sure to pay your bill on time and in full each month. Late fees and interest charges will greatly devalue any rewards that you earn.

American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card

The Amex Premier Rewards Gold Card is a great travel rewards card that students can take advantage of because of the benefits it offers. To start out you will earn a bonus of 25,000 points (up to $250 in free travel) when you spend $2,000 within the first 3 months of opening your account. On top of that you will earn 3x points for every dollar you spend directly through airlines, 2x points for every dollar you spend at U.S. gas stations and restaurants, and 1x points for every dollar you spend on everything else. The Premier rewards also gives you an annual $100 American Express airline credit that can be used to offset the cost of baggage fees, inflight meals and entertainment, and more. Last, but not least, the Amex Premier Rewards Gold Card gives you the ability to transfer your rewards points to partnered loyalty programs at a 1:1 ratio. For example, you can transfer Amex Points to Delta Skymiles and use them to claim a free or discounted Delta flight.

Venture from Capital One

The Capital One Venture Rewards Card is one of the easiest and simple to use rewards credit cards available. You earn double miles for every dollar that you spend. Then you book your travel as you normally would and claim your miles as a credit on your Capital One statement to cover the cost. No worrying about blackout dates and unavailable seats. You can also get a signup bonus of 40,000 miles (up to $400 in free travel) when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months of opening your account. The Venture Card comes with an annual fee of $59, but it is waived for the first year.

If you want to earn some Capital One rewards and never pay an annual fee then check out the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card. You will earn 1.25 miles per dollar that you spend and can earn a bonus of 20,000 miles (up to $200 in free travel) when you spend $1,000 within the first 3 months.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

If you have found a way to put almost all of your college expenses on a credit card then you should take a look at the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. To start out you will earn 2x points on all travel and dining purchases and 1x points on everything else. What sets this card apart is that the current signup bonus is 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months of opening your account. That’s up to $625 in free travel when you book through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal due to the fact that you receive a 25% bonus when you redeem your points this way. The annual fee is $95, which is not bad considering the bonus and rewards that you can earn.

Now that you know some of your options to achieve free to discounted travel this holiday season it makes it seem like the end of the semester isn’t that far away. Getting a credit card while in college may not seem like a decision that you want to make. But, if you use it responsibly, you can take advantage of some great savings for using it to spend money that you are going to spend anyways. If you want to see if you and your credit profile are being targeted for any of the credit card offers above, a great place to check is the free to use CardMatch Tool.

This article was contributed by guest author Matthew Coan.

Image by 401(K) 2012, Flickr

Image by 401(K) 2012, Flickr

With the fall semester starting up, you have some big decisions to make. Where are you going to stay, who will your roommates be, and what classes will you take? You also have to decide if you will continue on the same financial path you’ve been on all this time, or if you’ll take the next step to building your credit score as high as possible by the time you graduate. If used responsibly, a student credit card can do just that. So, we’re going to show you one of the best options for student credit cards available today.

Student Credit Cards

Student credit cards work the same way regular credit cards do, except that they are only available to college students. The reason for this is because there is an approval process that goes into applying for a credit card, and most students do not have enough credit history to qualify. Student credit cards make this approval process a little easier and help college students get approved for a base level credit card that may come with some great tools and knowledge on how to use them responsibly to build and maintain an excellent credit score. Choosing which student credit card is right for you is a personal decision – you should make sure to choose the card that will work best with your financial situation. We will show you a great example of one of the best student credit cards available and the features that come with it, so you know what to look for when choosing for yourself.

Journey Student Credit Card from Capital One

The Capital One Journey Card is one of the best student credit cards available, for many reasons. Remember that the main objective for getting a student credit card is to build up and maintain your credit score. You will need the tools and education to know how to monitor your score, along with the process to follow in order to build your credit history as much as possible.

Capital One CreditWise

What makes the Journey Card one of the best options is that it comes with unlimited access to the Capital One CreditWise Program. This program allows all Capital One account members, and even anyone who doesn’t have a Capital One account, access to their personal credit score anytime and anywhere they have internet access. It will also let you know key factors that have an effect on your credit score, and simulate how future financial decisions may affect your score. The best part is that it is completely free! To complement the Capital One CreditWise program, you will also have access to Capital One’s Financial Education website to improve your knowledge even more.

Journey Card Benefits

Besides having unlimited free access to your credit score and insight into the effect spending with your credit card will have, there are even more benefits that come with the Journey Student Credit Card. First, after you make your first five payments on time, you could gain access to a higher credit limit. It is important to always stay well below your credit limit to give your credit score the best chance at improving. You can also enjoy extended warranties on the items you use your card to purchase, sign up for auto rental insurance and travel insurance, and eliminate foreign transaction fees. The best part is that you will earn rewards for every dollar that you spend.

What sets the Journey Card apart from many other student credit cards is that you have the ability to earn 1% cash back on all purchases you make. And, if you make your monthly payment on time, they will boost your cash back up to 1.25%. You’re pretty much getting paid to spend money that you had to spend anyways.

Excellent Credit Score

Now that you know one of your options for a student credit card, you can do your own comparisons to find the right one for you. A great place to start is the CardMatch Program. It’s free to use and can even tell you what student, or regular, credit cards you are already approved for. After you get your card, utilize any tools and credit knowledge centers that might be included to get the most out of it. That way by the time you graduate, you will have a diploma along with an excellent credit score to help you tackle whatever personal financial situations may come your way!

This article was contributed by guest author Matthew Coan.

Image by stevepb, pixabay.com

Image by stevepb, pixabay.com

Student debt is a hot topic in the world of North American higher education. As colleges and universities continually boost tuition costs, many students tend to get buried in a mountain of debt in order to survive their college years. Financial assistance is becoming increasingly common in the college world, and is one of the key culprits behind the student debt issue; however, many students are not fully aware of how to align their personal finances before and after they start college. This tends to create a downward spiral effect on many students’ well-beings, and is creating an overall negative feeling towards the idea of attending college.

However, student loans are not as excessive as they are portrayed to be. Of course, we have all seen student loans on T.V. that range upwards of $100,000, but the average student loan amount is around $38,400.

So what is causing so many current and former students to be stuck in an unmanageable mountain of debt?

Well, there are many other avenues in the college life that, if not carefully managed, can cause a large impact on a student’s finances. Below I will highlight three of these debt-causing vultures that are constantly circling overhead within the college world:

Credit Cards
Credit cards have always seemed to have somewhat of a dark history. There are countless horror stories of individuals being drowned in credit card debts, and this epidemic has always floated around the college world. The relationship between college students and many students’ credit card debts can be attributed to not fully understanding how exactly to use a credit card. After all, it is not free money.

The truth is credit cards can actually be quite the helping hand to a college student. Understanding that credit card spending should be tracked and paid off on time each month can help skyrocket an individual’s credit score, setting them up for better opportunities in the future. In the world of college, this can mean better student loan interest rates – we all want those.

Not Working
Going to college is stressful, and many students fear the thought of acquiring a part-time job, because it would cut into their ability to do homework or go out on the weekends. While this is understandable, many students see their financial aid as a secondary bank account. Much like credit cards, this can get out of hand very quickly.

It is important to take a step back and look at the big picture – your future. Getting a part time job, in order to avoid unnecessary spending on everyday items, can help a student avoid any added burden on top of their student loan repayments.

Going Out
Having a night out on the town seems to be a weekly tradition throughout the college world, and truthfully, after spending Monday through Friday in a classroom, it is well-deserved. However, it is important to be mindful of spending when doing so. Going out to dinner, buying drinks, and paying for a ride home for you and your friends can easily – and quickly – add up.
Thankfully, there are a number of frugal alternatives for students to still have fun on the weekends without going broke. For example, here in Boise we have a $3 movie theatre, and there is almost always an opportunity to go to a punk show for $5 at a DIY venue. The opportunities are out there, you just have to actively be looking for them.

In summary – yes, college can be a stressful time – both mentally and financially. However, being financially responsible and acknowledging how to conquer your student debts can be a lifesaver – both during and after your time in college.

Thank you for reading. Let’s keep the conversation going! What are some financial tips you have for your fellow college-goers? Tell me about them on Twitter (@trvshlvrd_rr).

This article was contributed by guest author Taylor Tomita.

Resisting the urge to open up a credit card at your favorite department store, paying for Spring Break with plastic, and the appeal of buying now and paying later is sometimes so tempting for college students. The truth of the matter is that while in college, there is an opportunity to begin building your credit so you will be able to buy a house or car once you graduate. You should never have to wonder if you’ll be approved for a mortgage or a loan because you have no credit history or you really screwed up your finances while in college. Take a look at our helpful tips and advice on how to build the most important score of your life with a student credit card. If you have any questions on what the best card could be for you to open to pay for things you were going to buy anyways, please contact us.

This article was contributed by guest author Matthew Coan.

Image by frankieleon, Flickr

Image by frankieleon, Flickr

Being a college student comes with a ton of daily decisions you have to make. You want make the most of your time and your money, get good grades and keep up relationships with friends and family, all while trying to find time to get quality rest. So when it comes to getting a credit card, you want to make the process as simple as possible, but you also don’t want to take it lightly – we’re talking about maximizing the money you’re spending. There are some factors you need to consider before choosing which credit card is best for you:

Your Credit Score

Credit card companies don’t just hand out credit cards to anyone. When used responsibly, getting a credit card while in college can be a good thing, and can make your financial life after graduation much easier.

Your current credit score will come into play when applying for a credit card. Just like your GPA is a reflection on how well you’re doing in school, your credit score is a grade on how well you pay back money that you borrow – which is what you’re doing when you spend with a credit card. You do not have to prove that you have the money in your possession when you buy something with a credit card; you just have to be able to pay it back at the end of each month when your credit card payment is due. If you have some form of a credit history (which can include a car loan, rent, student loans) then you will have a credit score. If your credit score is good, you will have many options when it comes to choosing which credit card you want. If you have bad credit, or do not have any credit history, there are still options, such as student credit cards and secured credit cards.

Interest Rate and Fees

One of the most important things to learn about credit cards is how interest works. If you do not pay your bill on time or do not pay it in full each month, you will be charged interest on what is left. So basically, you are paying money for spending money. With a credit card, you need to be diligent in paying off what you spend on it. Just because you have a credit card does not mean that you need to use it to pay for everything. If you know that you have the money to pay it off, then use your credit card to spend, possible earn some rewards (see below), and use it to increase your credit score. Not paying your bill in full each month will end up costing you more money and making your financial life more difficult than it already is. But on the off chance that you do miss a payment, or cannot pay off your credit card balance in full, you need to know what interest rate you will be paying – an important factor when it comes to researching credit cards.

Fees are another variable that you need to do some research on. When you miss a payment, or are late, there will be a fee that you have to pay. Again, you will be paying money for spending money. If you go over your credit limit there could be a fee for that as well. Some cards even come with monthly fees. Read all of the fine print on the credit card you are researching to understand the fees that could be associated with it.

Rewards

Yes, there are credit cards that offer rewards for spending money with them. What pays for these rewards? The people who do not pay their bill in full each month and end up paying interest. But, as we said above, if you pay your bill on time and in full each month, you won’t pay any interest and you can take full advantage of the rewards that credit card companies offer. These rewards come in the form of cash back, free to discounted travel, or points that can be used for just about anything. There are even student credit cards that offer rewards for having good grades. So when looking at which credit card is right for you in college, take a look at the rewards that each card offers and see which card can maximize the money that you are spending.

Research

Now that you know the factors you need to consider when choosing a credit card, you need to do some research. Knowing your credit score will make this process a lot easier. You don’t want to apply for credit cards that require an excellent credit score when you don’t have one. Companies like Equifax and TransUnion are dependable and will mail you your credit score. You may even find a rewards credit card that comes with a great sign up bonus, as they sometimes have offers that cannot be found anywhere else. And of course, when in doubt, head to your bank and talk to a financial services representative about what your options are. After you obtain the credit card that you want, and use it responsibly, you will be on your way to getting the most out the money that you spend by increasing your credit score and earning some nice rewards in the process.

This article was contributed by guest author Matthew Coan.

Image by succo, pixabay.com

Image by succo, pixabay.com

Millennials are widely recognized as the most tech-savvy generation. The generation who grew up at the dawn of the digital age and can hardly recall a time before the internet. However, studies suggest that, for all their tech fluency, millennials are shockingly susceptible to identity theft.

A study by Javelin Strategy & Research found that in 2014, 22 percent of students found themselves the victims of identity fraud, a rate three times higher than the overall national average.

This leads us to an obvious question: what behaviors are college students engaging in which lead to such astronomical rates of identity theft?

What is Identity Theft?

The United States Department of Justice defines identity theft as the following:

Identity theft and identity fraud are terms used to refer to all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain.

With such a broad, generic definition, it is sometimes hard to discern identity theft attempts. It doesn’t help that ID theft tactics have changed significantly throughout history.

identity theft infographic

As new technologies are developed, new identity theft tactics are sure to emerge. It is essential for everyone, including college students, to remain vigilant.

How Does Identity Theft Affect You?

Some students might not believe that identity theft is such a major concern, and that misconception is a big part of the problem. Identity theft can quickly turn your financial situation, as well as your life in general, into a nightmare.

First and foremost, these people can steal from you. If an identity thief gains access to your bank account, they can easily drain your funds. In addition, they may have access to any savings accounts you have tucked away as well.

Besides this, becoming the victim of identity theft can be disastrous for your credit. As a college student, you are probably just starting to develop credit. However, becoming the victim of identity theft early on can put you into a hole right from the beginning. A bad credit score as a result of identity theft can affect your ability to:

  • Open a credit card
  • Take out student loans
  • Buy a car
  • Rent a house or apartment
  • Get the job you want after graduation

That’s right – some employers check job candidates’ credit scores before hiring, so having a bad credit score may ultimately stand between you and your dream job.

Ways to Prevent Identity Theft

So what can you do to protect yourself? Try adopting these responsible behaviors:

  • Beware of Oversharing: Take advantage of privacy settings on social media, and don’t follow any links unless you know the person who posted them. Keep personal information like your birthdate and address off of the internet.
  • Limit Public Wi-Fi Use: A public Wi-Fi network is vulnerable to identity thieves. Never do anything sensitive like shop or check your bank account on an open connection. It’s better to spend a little bit of data than leave yourself vulnerable to attack.
  • Don’t Bother with Credit Card Offers: Those booths offering a free t-shirt if you fill out a credit card application are common sights on college campuses. Do not give your personal information to anyone, even to seemingly reputable individuals. If you need to fill out a credit application, do it online using a secure connection.
  • Lock Up Your Personal Information: Don’t keep documents such as your social security card or other highly sensitive information in your wallet. Get a good quality, easily-concealed lockbox to store your private documents. Also, don’t just leave the lockbox sitting out on the coffee table – hide it, and don’t let your roommates know where it is.
  • Shred Sensitive Material: Documents such as bank statements, bills and credit card offers should be shredded, not simply thrown in the trash. Investing in a $20 paper shredder is a much cheaper and easier option in the long run.
  • Keep an Eye On Your Bank Account: It’s not always the most pleasant sight, but you need to check your bank account regularly. If you detect any unfamiliar activity, contact your bank right away.
  • Cash is King: Avoid carrying around a debit card or checkbook. Instead, try to pay for everything with either cash or a credit card. It’s much easier to correct fraudulent activity with a credit card than with your bank account.
  • Use Unique Passwords: Do not use one password to access all of your social media and financial accounts. Pick out a unique password for every account, and try to avoid writing down any of your passwords.

If you suspect that you might be the victim of identity fraud, contact your bank or credit company immediately. You should also contact all three credit reporting bureaus in order to issue a fraud alert, so that the abuse does not ruin your credit.

Only through due diligence and responsible financial and personal management can you protect yourself from identity theft and credit fraud.

Image by frankieleon, Flickr

Image by frankieleon, Flickr

It’s a milestone, a rite of passage that marks the journey into adulthood: holding your very first credit card with your name in shiny, raised letters.

There’s a sense of freedom in the moment – you can go buy things, no matter what your bank balance shows. But before you peel that “Activate your card now” sticker off and head out to your favorite stores, make sure that you have a handle on what’s about to happen.

Choosing a Card

Card issuers offer a variety of incentives to attract new users. These offers can include waiving the annual fee, zero interest fees for the first year or bonus points that can be put towards future purchases. While the incentives may be appealing, it is important to remember that they are typically temporary. Check out what happens when the initial ‘new card’ phase is over before applying for a card.

Know the Basics

Before using your card, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the card’s key criteria.

Annual Percentage Rate
Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the yearly rate of interest on your credit card. Determined by using an index (such as the U.S. Prime Rate) and adding the bank’s margin, the APR is a method of assessing fees on credit card usage.

The APR for a card can change over time. For example, the card might have an introductory rate or a promotional rate (applicable to balance transfers).

Higher APRs are assigned to individuals with lower credit scores. As both your credit reputation and score improve, see if you can get a lower rate.

Start by talking to your bank and requesting a lower rate. “It’s a simple phone call, and the worst they can say is no,” says Patricia Hasson, executive director of Consumer Credit Counseling Service.

Interest Fees
By calculating the Daily Periodic Rate (the APR divided by 365), credit cards assess fees based on the amount charged on your card. These fees can vary, based on card polices and variable APR rates. Some cards offer an initial grace period for interest fees or offer one year of low interest as an incentive to use their card.

Minimum Payment
The lowest amount of money a cardholder is required to pay each month is known as the minimum payment. Each card has its own formula for determining the minimum payment due, specified in the card agreement.

Card Smarts

Unchecked spending can lead to financial disaster. Before you start swiping the card, make a plan of action.

Use Your Power Wisely
The secret of successful credit card usage is understanding that just because you CAN charge something doesn’t mean that you SHOULD. Credit card use should be filtered through a need vs. want criteria. Taking your credit card out of your wallet when the purchase is a legitimate need will help prevent excessive credit card debt and abuse.

Cash Advances Can Really be a Set-Back
Sometimes, you really ‘need’ some cash. That cash advance option on your card is tempting, but what are the long-term effects of hitting the ATM? Interest rates on cash advances are calculated differently than on purchases, resulting in higher fees and a reduction in your available credit.

Rich Bialek, a credit card industry expert, said, “A cash advance typically would involve a higher APR than a retail purchase because the card company doesn’t earn a merchant fee on a cash advance.”

Keeping an Eye On the Bottom-Line
Most cards come with a credit limit, a maximum amount that can be charged. Spending over that amount can result in additional fees and fines, which can quickly add up. Keep control of your card usage by paying attention to your credit limit and staying under it.

Know Your Chargeback Responsibilities
Chargebacks are a consumer protection mechanism. If you experience fraud, either from a business owner or a criminal, you have the right to a refund. A chargeback is a forced credit card refund, facilitated by the bank that issued your card.

However, chargebacks should only be used in extreme circumstances as a last resort. You should always try to get a refund from the merchant directly before contacting the bank. If you dispute a transaction with the bank instead of dealing with the merchant, you’re engaging in something called friendly fraud. Merchants consider this illegitimate use of the chargeback process to be cyber shoplifting.

There are major consequences for businesses when chargebacks are filed. A credit card expert, Monica Eaton-Cardone, said:

I don’t think the majority of consumers who file friendly fraud chargebacks are doing it to create a consequence. I think… they are ignorant to what really happens behind the scenes. They think that it is just their bank giving them the money back.

Don’t be ignorant of your credit card responsibilities and liabilities.

Paying Off Debt

Using your credit card is easy, but paying it off just doesn’t have the same ‘fun factor.’ However, it’s a necessary part of the credit card system.

Save the date
Many credit card companies allow you to choose your own due date – a feature that can come in handy for planning purposes. Choose a date that is just after payday to ensure that you have funds available to make your credit card payment. Making your payment on time is an important factor in building your credit and preventing additional fees for late payments.

More Than the Minimum
Your credit card statement will tell you the ‘minimum payment’ that you must make to be in compliance with your cardholder agreement. As long as you pay the minimum amount due each month, your account will stay in good standing.

The reality, however, is that by making the minimum payment you may end up paying for items years after your initial purchase. Your interest is calculated on the amount of credit used on the card, increasing the amount you’re actually paying back by sometimes hundreds of dollars. To maximize your credit, make more than the minimum payment each month. Ideally, you should pay the entire balance off every month.

Anisha Sekar, a contributor to Nerd Wallet, also points out that paying the minimum can hurt your credit score:

Thirty percent of your credit score is determined by how much debt you carry… This means that accruing charges on your card and failing to pay them off is like putting a dent in your credit score every month; over time, this adds up to a lot of damage.

Check Your Status

Using credit cards is both good and bad. Used wisely, credit cards can be helpful in an emergency or for making large purchases. Used improperly, however, these cards can have a negative effect on your credit – a result that can haunt you financially for years.

Monitoring your credit is important. Credit bureaus offer consumers free credit reports annually and many credit card companies offer credit reporting as part of their services. Checking your credit report not only lets you see what your financial habits look like, it allows you to keep an eye on any fraudulent activity on your accounts.

Think Long Term

Incorporating basic financial principles into your college education will help establish a reputable credit history that will benefit you for years to come.

Image by GotCredit, Flickr

Image by GotCredit, Flickr

Credit is fairly essential in today’s world. And at this stage of your life, there’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news is, you probably haven’t had a chance to ruin your credit just yet. The bad news is, you likely haven’t had the ability to build any credit history either. In order to get credit, you need a credit history, and it needs to be good. It’s important, however, that you know what you’re doing before you start building credit in order to avoid common mistakes that will haunt you and your credit score for years to come.

Take responsibility for your own finances and credit history

As a college student, you’ve already taken an important step towards moving into adulthood and making your own decisions about your future. Now, you need to go one step further and take responsibility and ownership for your finances and your credit. While you may still need some help from mom and dad, it’s a good idea to move into the mindset that the buck stops with you.

Learn to save, budget and track your finances

Once you’ve taken ownership of your financial situation, you can start controlling it. It’s never too early to start saving. This is a valuable skill that will serve you well your entire life, but one that most young people aren’t taught. Your first step should be tracking all of your finances – your incoming and your outgoing. Mint.com is a popular application for this task. This will demonstrate how you’re spending your money and help you create a workable budget. Resolve to stick to a spending plan and to pay yourself first by putting money into savings.

Don’t max out on student loans

Student loans are another thing that will follow you for many, many years. It’s important that you only borrow what you need. Look very closely at all the lending terms, such as the interest rate and repayment terms. Don’t just accept whatever the school suggests. Do your research and compare lenders. It’s a good idea to consider a part-time job while attending college to help offset your educational costs instead of relying entirely on student loans.

Educate yourself about credit and credit scores.

You’re in college, so you understand the value of education. Understanding how credit works, credit scoring and how your financial decisions impact all of this, are essential for building credit and making smart financial decisions. Many credit card issuers now offer several tools, services and tips to help card holders keep track of their credit score and their card usage, and to be responsible with their finances.

Get a credit card and use it wisely

Research credit cards that are available to college students (here are some). Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by “shiny” offers. Identify what you need in a credit card and look for those features. After you narrow down your search to 2 or 3 possibilities, carefully read all the terms and conditions to make sure there are no nasty surprises in store. Once you’ve chosen and received a credit card, treat it responsibly and respectfully. Pay on time every month. Don’t max it out, and keep track of your credit card spending on a regular basis.

Consider becoming an authorized user

Despite the large number of credit cards targeted towards college students, you may not be able to qualify for one right away. If this is the case, you may want to speak to your parents about being added on one or more of their cards as an authorized user. Being added as an authorized user with bad credit or no credit can be a very effective way to boost your credit score and enable you to then qualify for your own credit card so that you can begin building credit through experience. Your parents can use this method to help you start on the path towards a long and excellent credit history.

This article was contributed by guest author Michael Austin.

Image by Tax Credits, Flickr

Image by Tax Credits, Flickr

Courtesy of the Canadian Bankers Association (CBA), the following provides a quick overview of student banking in Canada. Whether you are an international student or you have had an account for quite some time, it gives you information on how your bank can be a good partner during your post secondary school life: Download the Banking for Students PDF.

Choosing a bank can be an overwhelming experience – almost as stressful as choosing which car to purchase or which school to attend. All banks offer similar features, but when it comes to students, you’ll see different perks and benefits. The following table outlines the big Canadian Financial Institutions and their fee structures and benefits to students. A few of the banks offer Advice Centres for students, which can be helpful when it comes to budgeting and ultimately paying for school. Other banks offer perks such as points for Scene cards, Student Price Cards (SPC) and Air Miles.

We hope the following table allows you to narrow down your selection on the bank that will best meets your current and future needs!

NameMonthly Fee/Min Balance to Avoid Fees# Transactions per MonthATM NetworkExtrasAssociated Credit CardOtherAdvice Centre
Bank of Montreal Student BankingNone30Bank of Montreal2 free Interac email money transfers per month, earn AIR MILES reward miles on debit purchasesNo-fee BMO SPC MasterCard with built-in SPC Card benefitsBMO Student Budget Calculator; BMO MoneyLogic
CIBC Everyday Chequing Account (Advantage for Students)NoneUnlimitedCIBCNoneCIBC Classic Visa CardCIBC Professional Edge Student Program – borrow up to $270,000 towards studiesCIBC Advice Centre
Royal Bank Student BankingNone25RBCNoneSignature RBC Rewards, RBC Visa Cash Back, WestJest RBC MasterCard; save up to $39 a year off annual feeAccess to myFinanceTracker, online financial management tool
Scotiabank Student Banking Advantage PlanNoneUnlimitedScotiabankFree usage of Scotiabank’s Global ATM AllianceLEARN VISA card, SCENE VISA cardSCENE movie rewards earned when using debit card; Special Grad Auto Loan programs available
TD Canada Trust Every Day Chequing Account with Student DiscountNone25TD Canada TrustNoneTD Classic Travel VISA Card (annual fee waived for year 1)Eligible customers get free access to concert discounts, exclusive contestsTD Student Life
HSBC Performance Chequing – Student$3.97 / $2,00040HSBC, The Exchange, BMONoneNo student specific card
Laurentian Bank Student AdvantageNone15Laurentian BankNoneVISA Black Card, VISA Black Reward Me Card
PC Financial No Fee Bank Account (not student specific)NoneUnlimitedCIBCEarn PC points towards free groceriesNo student specific card

Image by Sean MacEntee, Flickr

Image by Sean MacEntee, Flickr

With the summer fast approaching, some students will be getting ready for graduation, while others will just be glad for a break before the fall semester. But, with all of the knowledge and studying that students do during the year, there is one thing that most don’t know much about, and that is credit cards; not to mention the fact that being a college student gives you access to something that most people do not have. You’re able to get a credit card while having little to no credit history. For a normal person with this history, they would most likely have to apply for a secured credit card, which requires them to put money down up front. After a decent amount of time and responsible use, then they can apply for a regular credit card and go about getting their initial deposit back from their secured credit card.

By being in college, you can be approved for a student credit card without having to put down a deposit or jumping through any hoops. As time goes by and you show that you can use a credit card responsibly, you can apply for a better, possibly more rewarding credit card, without any problems.

Your Credit Score

The main reasons to get a student credit card are to start out and to improve your very limited credit history and credit score. Just like your grades in school, your credit score reflects how responsible you are with money and how well you pay back money that you borrow. There are two types of credit: installment and revolving. An example of installment credit is your student loans; you borrow a certain amount of money and promise to pay back a set amount each month until it is paid off. Revolving credit is, for example, a credit card. The amount you spend each month changes, and you have to pay a minimum amount each month or you are charged interest on what is left over, unless you pay it off in full (which is what you should always do).

By utilizing your access to a student credit card, you can prove that you are responsible with revolving credit and improve your credit score in the process.

Why Do You Need a Good Credit Score?

At some point in your life, you will probably want to buy a home, and you will most likely need a mortgage in order to pay for it. The interest rate you are charged on the money you are borrowing will depend on how good your credit score is. The lower your score, the higher interest rate you will pay.

In the future, you may also see an offer for a rewards credit card that you think would be beneficial to you and/or your family. In order to be approved for a rewards credit card, you need to have good credit; otherwise you will be stuck using your debit card or basic credit card, and earning no rewards in the process. Just like your degree, your credit score will be with you for the rest of your life. The difference is that your college classes will end at some point and your grades will be final. You have to keep working on keeping your credit score up for the rest of your life.

I Don’t Have That Much Money, So What Use Will a Credit Card Be?

Using a student credit card to help start and improve your credit score has nothing to do with how much money you spend. Chances are your student credit card will come with a credit limit well under $1,000. In no way does this mean that you need to spend $1,000 every month. In fact, you should always stay under 30% of your credit limit, no matter what credit card you have (this helps improve your credit as well). Just make sure you pay back the balance on your card each month. Find something that you already have the money for, use your credit card to buy it, and pay it back at the end of the month. All you are trying to do is prove that you can pay back money that you are borrowing. It doesn’t make a difference how much it is.

Many people, especially students, are intimidated by credit cards, and think that they will end up with a ton of debt if they get one. Almost everyone today uses a debit card linked to their checking account to make purchases. You wouldn’t go out and spend all the money in your checking account for no reason, would you? No. So why think you would do so with a credit card? Use it to spend money you already have, and remember what you are doing in the process. You are improving your credit score so that in the future you will have more financial options if you need them. It is easier to get a credit card while you’re a student than to start looking after you graduate. Then you will be able to graduate with a new degree and an excellent credit score to match.

This article was contributed by guest author Matthew C.