The average credit card debt for college students is $1,183, according to Sallie Mae’s 2019 Majoring in Money report. That’s a 31% increase from the 2016 report. Recent college graduates owe nearly twice as much ($2,351). And former students who haven’t earned a degree have even more credit card debt ($3,281), on average.
The Sallie Mae report took in data from three groups: currently-enrolled college students age 18-24, graduates age 21-29 with at least one degree, and former students age 21-29 who don’t have a degree and aren’t currently enrolled in college. The report found that 57% of currently-enrolled students, 83% of graduates, and 61% of former students without degrees have at least one credit card. A majority of currently-enrolled students and graduates (60% and 64%, respectively) pay their credit card bills in full every month.
Paying your credit card bill in full every month is a great habit to get into, especially for students. The financial habits you establish in college will follow you after graduation, whether those habits are positive or negative. Financial obligations, such as student loan repayment and health insurance, only increase after graduation. And a few years of credit card debt from college will make it harder to save in post-graduate life.
If you’re carrying a credit card balance from month to month as a college student, make a plan to pay it off. Step one might be drawing up a budget and cutting your expenses anywhere you can. Then, determine how much time you need to pay off your debt, and how much you’ll have to pay per month to stay on that schedule. If you have more than one credit card, plan to pay off the highest APR balance first. And until you pay off what you owe, stick to your budget as best you can.
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