Opinion: Should college students have credit cards?

College students are typically at the beginning of their adult life, thus push­ing them to establish the big, bad credit. Establishing credit is very im­portant, especially before putting your own name onto anything from car loans to housing leases. Needless to say: If you have bad or no credit, you’re going to have to pay more.

Applying for a credit card needs to have a seriously important understand­ing to college students. We’ve heard it from teachers, parents and peers, warn­ing us about the pros and cons of a credit card — especially at an age where we are already struggling for cash. So here’s the dilemma: Should college stu­dents apply for credit cards?

The answer is a hard yes; but college students need to educate themselves before they go and spend money that they don’t have.

By applying to and having a credit card, you can begin to establish — hopefully good — credit. According to researchers of Student Monitor of Sal­lie Mae — a U.S. corporation that pro­vides consuming banking of loans for most college students — in 2015, 62 percent of college students believed credit card to be the most important payment method because it builds a credit history and establishes budget controls. According to the survey, 59 percent wanted a credit card to build credit history and additional 26 percent had a parent or peer suggest they do so, followed by 20 percent that applied for a credit card for the rewards pro­grams that it offers.

It’s fairly difficult to make any grown up purchases without a fair credit score, and if you have little to no credit, you will have an even more difficult time making any adult purchases.

Having a credit card also teaches us discipline. If you are someone who doesn’t have any bills, or have bills that your parents vouch for, then this is a key reason to start establishing credit. Having to pay at least the minimum monthly credit card statement will dis­cipline you into budgeting and saving money, a skill all adults need. The more you use your card and pay it back, the more credit you’ll build, and keeping on top of your minimum monthly statement will help you learn more complex financial management.

Although I am pro-college credit cards, I am wary of them. College stu­dents are notoriously poor with mon­ey, and getting a card with money that needs to be paid back seems like a di­saster. However, as a college student myself, I know the struggles of it, and my advice to you is to proceed with caution. For instance, do not get a credit card if you do not have a steady job or any type of income. If you aren’t able to make the monthly payments, it is useless to have a credit card. Start with opening a savings account and disciplining yourself with your money. Remember, credit card money isn’t money that you’ve earned — it all has to get paid back before it turns into a big hole that will be even harder and more expensive to get out of.

My challenge for UW this week is for anyone who doesn’t have a credit card: educate yourself. Post-college is the start of the rest of our lives, and preparing yourself not only with edu­cation and experience, but with credit history as well, is important. Proceed with caution when you start establish­ing some credit — happy adulting!

PHOTO BY STEVE BUISSINNE
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