As a student, getting your first credit card can be exciting because it equates to money and freedom. But, using a credit card without knowing all the facts, can lead you into financial disaster, ruin your credit history, stain your credit report and lower your credit score. You need to acquire the knowledge of how credit cards are used to either build a good credit history or destroy one’s financial reputation.
These basic tips can help you use credit cards responsibly and to your advantage:
- Use credit only if you are able to pay the debt back, in full and on time.
- Do not charge on impulse purchases
- Only use credit card in cases of emergencies that might prevent you from getting to your emergency fund, such as during travels in the States or Abroad.
- Say “NO” to opening numerous credit cards as it might affect your credit rating.
- Review your yearly free credit report from each of the three major credit agencies to verify accuracy of information on the reports and to prevent identity theft. You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit bureaus.
What’s My Score– Everything you need to know about your credit.
Buying a home is the biggest purchase for most consumers. As a student, you will most likely face this decision soon after graduation. The sooner you understand the financial process of owning a home, the better off you would be making those decisions in the future. Decide on the amount of a loan you can afford to pay back, and do not rely on the pre-qualification estimate or the pre-approval amount you received from your lending institution. Get all the facts before you embark on purchasing a home for you and your family. Start with the understanding of your budget; calculate how much you can afford in a monthly payment and a mortgage loan. Learn all the dos and don’ts as you explore the financial process of owning a home. Most importantly, steer away from first-time home buying mistakes such as not sticking to your budget, choosing a costly type of loans, skipping inspections, not evaluating your non-negotiable items and not being financially prepared.
The housing market collapse of 2008 caused over 2 million American families to lose their primary residences in bankruptcy due to overextended credit lending activities to financially trusting consumers.
You can use budget calculators to help you decide what you can afford.
Every 45 seconds, one person gets his or her identity stolen by an intruder. The electronic age has made people’s identity public despite all prevention and resistance to keep personal information private. The only antidote to identity theft is prevention. As a student, you need to protect yourself and your family from identity theft. Protect your personal basic information such as your legal name, your birthdate, your social security number and your mother’s maiden name. Be careful how much information you post on your Facebook page. Identity thieves strive in our electronic age and have made millions of dollars off innocent citizens whose intentions are solely to socialize virtually on the internet.
Take steps to protect yourself from identity theft:
- Secure your social security number. Don’t carry your social security card in your wallet or write your number on your checks. Only give out your social security number (SSN) when absolutely necessary.
- Don’t respond to unsolicited requests for personal information (your name, birthdate, social security number, or bank account number) by phone, mail, or online.
- Watch out for “shoulder surfers.” Shield the keypad when typing your passwords on computers and at ATMs.
- Collect mail promptly. Ask the post office to put your mail on hold when you are away from home.
- Pay attention to your billing cycles. If bills or financial statements are late, contact the sender.
- Review your receipts. Ask for carbon copies and incorrect charge slips as well. Promptly compare receipts with account statements. Watch for unauthorized transactions.
- Shred receipts, credit offers, account statements, and expired cards, to prevent “dumpster divers” from getting your personal information.
- Store personal information in a safe place at home and at work.
- Install firewalls and virus-detection software on your home computer.
- Create complex passwords that identity thieves cannot guess easily. Change your passwords if a company that you do business with has a breach of its databases
- Order your credit report once a year and review to be certain that it doesn't include accounts that you have not opened. Check it more frequently if you suspect someone has gained access to your account information.
- Be careful what you say on social media sites. Do not publically list things like your mother’s maiden name or the street you grew up on. These are often used as security questions and thieves search for this information to break passwords.
If you are a victim of identity theft, report it immediately to the police and the Federal Trade Commission. Learn more information on their website here.
Health insurance is required for every person due to the Affordable Care Act. If you do not have coverage, you can face thousands of dollars in fees. You can get information or enroll in coverage here.