One of the rites of passage of being a college student used to beto apply for a student credit card and to then get that first (and often second, third and fourth) credit card. Before the Credit CARD Act of 2009, college students could easily get as many credit cards as they liked. Now, it’s often difficult for students to get even one credit card. But that’s OK. You don’t need to thoughtlessly run up a huge amount of debt anyway, which is what happened before the CARD Act. You probably can still get a student credit card if you know how. Once you do, remember to use it responsibly.
If you have a checking or savings account at a bank or credit union, ask there about how to apply for a student credit card. It’s generally easier to get a credit card from a place you already do business with than it is to apply online or through a financial institution where you don’t have any history. Your financial institution probably wants to keep your business and to maintain a good relationship with you. Approving you for a credit card is one way to do that.
If you can’t get a credit card from your financial institution, look elsewhere. Credit cards issuers often change their deals and terms, so you need to shop around and do some student credit card comparison before you apply for one. In 2014, two student cards gained a reputation for offering easier approval than most: the Journey Student Rewards Credit Card from Capital One and the Citi Thank You Preferred Card for College Students.
You need to consider how many times you apply for credit. Each time you apply for a card, the card issuer sends an inquiry to the credit bureaus. It’s understandable to havea couple of inquiries show up on your credit report when you are shopping for a student credit card, but too many inquiries signals to lenders that you might be a bad risk. They don’t know why you have so many inquiries, so they might assume that you were turned down for a card, or they might assume that you will accept all your offers, thereby possibly overextending yourself. Both reasons makea card issuer likely to turn you down.
Best Practice: It’s best to apply for a card only if you think you’ll be approved. It’s more difficult to be approved once another issuer denies you.
If you can’t get a credit card on your own, ask one of your parents for help. Some credit card issuers allow cosigners, but not all do. As of 2014, Bank of America and Discover allowed cosigners. Card issuers that allow cosigners are more likely to approve you when you have one because if you default on a payment, the card issuer can get the money from your cosigner. You should not rely on your cosigner, however, because you will not learn how to use credit responsibly that way.
Piggyback means becoming an authorized user on your parent’s card. When you do that, you merge your credit with your parent’s credit. This gives you an instant boost to your credit score, which should help you get your own credit after building a history on your parent’s card. A downside to doing this is that if your parent maxes out the card or makes late payments, it affects you, too.
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