Building Credit as a College Student: Why it’s Important and Where to Start

By Alec Heaton

Credit is perhaps one of the most important factors of adulthood, but unfortunately, many people fail to see this. Want to buy a car? You need good credit. Buy a house? Need good credit. Get insurance? You guessed it; you need good credit. Landlords and employers may review your credit history to see whether you’re financially and personally responsible.

While establishing a good credit score can seem like a daunting task, it’s actually much easier once you have a plan of action. But where to begin? Here are some easy steps to help make the transition into adulthood a little bit easier.

Apply for a credit card that’s right for you and use it wisely. Companies like Discover, Chase, Capital One, Bank of America, Citi and U.S. Bank all have great credit card options for students. Once you’ve found the right card, you have to be smart about your usage.

First, make sure you actually use it; you can’t build credit if your card sits at home in your nightstand. Use your credit card for small purchases, and avoid big buys unless it’s an emergency. Once you make a purchase, make sure you pay off the balance on time. Missing payments can make make your interest rates go up and your credit score go down.

Don’t apply for multiple accounts at once. Applying for multiple credit cards in a short span can drastically hurt your credit score. Wait until you’ve established good credit with one card before considering applying for another. In most instances, one credit card can be enough for students.

Be smart when choosing roommates and never cosign for friends. When looking for a place to live, always make sure to room with people you can trust. If your roommates were to make any financial mistakes like not paying rent or utilities, your credit score will also take a hit.

Also, never, I repeat, never cosign for a friend. There is simply too much risk involved. The moment they slip up and miss a payment, not only are you responsible for picking up their slack, but your credit score will plummet as well. No matter how responsible they are or how stable their job might seem, you have no way of knowing or controlling if they stop paying.