How to Avoid Ruining Your Credit in College
In college, one of the biggest financial worries students have is the debt they’re building up each semester. Student loans can be a nightmare and the only way to get rid of them is to pay them off. (Sorry, bankruptcy won’t get rid of student loans.)
But there is another financial issue that a lot of students run into while in college — bad credit.
Ruining your credit while you’re young can really set you back. The upside is that you’ll have an opportunity to recover, but bad credit can shut a lot of doors for you such as:
- Needing a cosigner for any financing
- Not being able to buy a home
- In some cases, not being able to land a job
Don’t let your mistakes in college haunt you for the rest of your life. Take these tips for keeping your credit score as high as your grades are in college. Or at least as high as your grades should be.
Related: How to Pay Off Credit Card Debt
Say NO to Credit Card Offers
As soon as you turn 18, you’re going to get a ton of credit card offers in the mail. Once you graduate high school and are getting ready to go to college, you’ll get even more of them. Banks and credit card companies love to target college students because some students can be young and naive.
They’ll pitch the irresistible offer of 0 percent interest for 6-12 months or tell you about the savings you’ll earn through their rewards program. The reality of the situation is that they’re banking on you missing a payment during that interest free period and hoping that you spend money unnecessarily for the sole purposes of earning rewards points.
To be on the safe side, you might consider getting one credit card strictly for emergencies. Unless you already have good credit, your limit will be pretty low so you shouldn’t be too tempted to go on a balling spree. Tear up any new credit card offers you get and throw them directly in the trash.
Don’t Cosign for Anyone, EVER
So your friend just has to have a new TV for their dorm room but they can’t afford to buy it on their own and the furniture store won’t give them a loan. Who do they turn to? You! What do you tell them when they ask you to cosign on a loan for them? No!
Cosigning for someone else is probably one of the easiest ways to ruin your credit. You’re pretty much putting your credit on the line in hopes that the person you’re cosigning for will be responsible enough to make payments on time. Once they start missing payments, your credit will start going down the toilet and their debt will become yours.
Unfortunately, most people don’t realize the trouble that comes along with cosigning for someone until they’ve been screwed over at least once. But as plenty of plaintiffs on Judge Judy will tell you, cosigning can ruin friendships and your credit.
Unless you’re rich and can afford to pay for someone else’s debt when they default on a loan, don’t cosign for anyone, EVER! Especially while in college.
Don’t Make Long-Term Financial Commitments
It’s usually not a good idea to make any long-term financial commitments while in college. Your college tuition alone will put you tens of thousands of dollars in debt. Getting yourself buried under even more debt will only make things worse.
As tempting as a new car sounds, spend a lot less money and keep the car you drove in high school or invest in a reliable cheap car instead. Don’t go off and finance a bunch of expensive furniture for your dorm room. Get some secondhand furniture or shop on a budget at Walmart.
And if you’re even thinking about shacking up with your college sweetheart and buying an apartment or home together while you’re still in school, think again. Wait until you’ve graduated and landed a steady job before you start making big purchases that you’ll be paying off for years.
Adopt a Frugal Lifestyle
I’d rather be called cheap than broke. (Trust me, there’s a difference.) One of the easiest ways to avoid ruining your credit while in college is to simply not spend money. People start using credit cards and even resorting to payday loans in college because they end up spending way more than they make.
The less money you’re spending on clothes, eating out, and going out on the weekends, the more money you’ll have saved up in case an emergency strikes.
Related: How to Be Frugal in College