Credit card offers have become as much a part of the college experience as late-night pizza and parties. You don't have to have a parent's signature or a job to have a card dangled in front of you. But many students who succumb to the temptations of plastic end up thousands of dollars in debt.
Here are some tips to help college students keep credit cards under control:
One is enough. Don't sign up for every credit card you are offered no matter how much you'd like that T-shirt or gym bag the bank is giving away as an incentive.
Keep track of spending. Write purchases down in a notebook or check register so you know how much you have spent.
Don't max out. A credit limit is not a green light to charge your card to the limit. Keep credit in reserve for a real emergency.
Budget your spending. Credit card spending should be part of an overall spending plan. Don't spend more than you can quickly repay.
Count the cost. Be sure you understand how much you are paying in interest and what fees you could incur. By carrying a balance, you could end up paying double for that movie ticket or pair of shoes you charged.
Scrutinize your statements. Check your statements for accuracy each month. Save your receipts and compare them with your charges.
Pay more than the minimum. Minimum payments will keep you out of trouble with the bank, but they could leave you drowning in debt.
Never be late. Routinely paying late or missing payments can quickly ruin your credit. That will increase the cost of the car loan or mortgage you may want a few years down the road.
Fight fraud. Sign your card as soon as you get it. Never lend it to anyone or give out your card number to someone who calls you on the telephone. Guard your card and report it missing if you lose it.