John S Kiernan, Managing Editor
The best ways to build credit as a college student are to become an authorized user on a parent’s account and to use your own credit card account responsibly when the time comes. You don’t need to be a certain age to build credit. You can actually do it before getting your own credit card account, which you become eligible for once you turn 18 years old. Being an authorized user can help you establish credit and even build a good score. The primary accountholder just has to pay the bills on time. So if one of your parents will add you as an authorized user on one of their credit card accounts, that’s one way for you to build credit while in college.
Your other option is to get your own account. Student credit cards are designed for applicants with limited or no credit history. So a lack of experience shouldn’t keep you from being approved. You just need enough income (or assets) to pay the minimum monthly bills. Those are usually $10-$15 for students. Student cards often give terms that are much better than other cards for limited credit. That’s because credit card issuers know college students are more likely to have higher incomes after they graduate.
How to build credit as a college student:
- Become an authorized user. For fast credit building, without having to apply for your own card, ask a parent or other adult to add you as a user. You’ll share a credit limit with the primary cardholder. Only the primary cardholder is required to pay, but both of you build credit.
- Apply for a credit card. If you have no existing credit history, you will probably qualify for a student card with good terms as long as you have an income. But you can also apply for a secured card if you’re worried about approval odds, as secured cards are easiest to get.
- Use the card responsibly. The biggest thing to worry about is not overspending. Don’t spend more than you can afford to pay off. And try not to exceed 30% of your credit limit, if possible.
- Always pay on time. Missing a due date is very bad for your credit. It’s essential to make at least the required minimum payment on time each month. But paying in full is better, because it means you won’t owe interest.
- Monitor your credit and statements closely. Check your credit report for free with WalletHub on a regular basis. Make sure there is no inaccurate information. Go over your credit card statements in depth to make sure there are no purchases that you didn’t authorize.
- “Graduate” to better cards. Once you’re out of school, your credit card company may offer to upgrade your card based on the credit history you’ve built. Or, you could simply apply for a second card with better terms.
You can learn more from our full guide on how to build credit as a student.
If you want to take your credit-building efforts to the next level, sign up for a free WalletHub account. WalletHub is the only site with free credit scores and reports that are updated daily. And we’ll perform a personalized credit analysis, telling you what to improve, how to do it and how long it will take.
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