Should Your Freshman Have a Credit Card in College? - Genisys® Credit Union

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Should Your Freshman Have a Credit Card in College?

on 7/29/2020

Young Woman Holding Credit Card

Though we aren’t sure what classes will look like, you are likely planning to send your child off to college in the fall. One thing that may be on your mind is whether or not your child should have their own credit card.

The reason you’re likely asking yourself this question is that you know credit cards can be extremely beneficial in certain situations. Yet they also have the potential to become financial burdens. To best answer this question, begin by reviewing some reasons why your child should have their own credit card.

Benefits of Having a Credit Card

As a parent, you want nothing but the best for your child. Throughout their lives, you’ve been able to provide for them and protect them. Now that they are heading to college, you won’t be there to help them as quickly as before. That is where a credit card can provide peace of mind for you and your child.

  • Emergencies: Should unexpected expenses arise, such as a car breaking down, a credit card would provide the ability to pay for repairs immediately. This is extremely helpful if they are unable to get into contact with you right away.

  • Supplies: Students will need to purchase books and other materials for their classes throughout college. A credit card would ensure your child will not fall behind in their classes because they cannot buy the required supplies.

  • Credit History: Time spent in college is an excellent opportunity for your child to build their credit history and score. This will be helpful when they purchase a car or begin looking for an apartment or home after graduating.

While there are many benefits to your child having a credit card in college, what is likely keeping you on the fence are the potential negatives.

Credit Card Challenges

It’s no secret that credit cards can become tempting, especially to those without first-hand experience managing debt. You may be worried that your child will fall into the trap of frivolous spending or purchase items you wouldn’t approve of, such as expensive computers, phones, or even trips with friends. It’s important to teach your child about the risks of abusing their credit card. Talk to them beforehand so they know how to prevent poor credit card health.

However, college is a time when many young adults will open their first credit card. Being hands-on in their decision to get a credit card will allow you to help them make smarter decisions and understand the importance of managing their credit card use.

Be Proactive With Credit Cards

Being part of the decision for your child to get their own credit card allows you to help them avoid the harmful pitfalls of credit cards. Aside from simply providing guidance on spending and managing debt, there are two strategies to help keep spending under control.

    1. Request a Lower Credit Limit

When you help your child apply for their credit card, request a lower credit limit, such as $500. With a lower limit, your child will have smaller, more manageable monthly payments. If they need assistance, the balance would be low enough that you could step in and help without burdening your own finances too much.

    2. Open a Secured Credit Card

A secured credit card acts exactly like a normal credit card, but with one key advantage. You or your child will put money aside to cover the balance of the credit card, for example, $500. If your child is unable to make the monthly payments, the financial institution will use the money set aside to make the payments. This is a perfect option for those just learning to manage credit card debt. 

We’re Here to Help!

Not all credit cards are the same. Extravagant rewards-earning credit cards often come with high-interest rates and other hidden fees. These costs can lead to even more financial hardships. Check out our Credit Basics video from our MoneyFit Series to learn more. 


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