Nineteen Year-Old Wants Credit Card Advice

As a college student without a whole lot of outside expenses, I have delayed getting a credit card due to the extra costs involved. Recently after deciding I liked shopping on the internet over conventional stores, I’ve begun to rethink my position. I’ve also heard that it can be a good idea for people to build up a good credit rating. So, in the opinion of the members of this community, should a nineteen year-old college student get a credit card? I don’t expect to be running up debt on it, an expectation that is supported by my fairly conservative spending habits, but it does have a certain convience that I would like to posess. Unfortunately, I’ve also heard of the risks involved, and that generally any cards that a student could get at my age would be a pretty bad deal.

I got my first credit card when I was about your age. I didn’t buy anything on the credit card unless I knew I would be able to pay it off that month. This is a habit I’ve stuck with for almost 20 years - I use it as a convenience only, never for an easy loan.

If you’re disciplined enough to not use it for impulse buys and pay it off every month, then go for it. If you have any doubts, skip it.

I got a credit card when I married my husband at the age of 23. I, too, was a bit scared of them because of the many horror stories of people getting in debt way over their heads. Believe me, those stories are true – I personally know someone who was 10 grand in debt, and was hardly able to pay the interest.

But, to me, it sounds like you’ve got your head on straight. You seem to be very aware of the risks involved. As long as you pay it off every month you won’t have that extra interest to make good on. Like you mentioned, it is very handy for shopping on the internet.

Just be aware of the things that can go wrong, budget carefully, and you will be all right.

Don’t. Get some student loans or a job instead.

What extra costs involved? If you get a card with no annual fee and pay it off each month there shouldn’t be any. Also, try to get a card that “pays you back” in some form or another. Discover, for example gives you a little yearly kickback based on how much you spent. has a card that lets you earn $25 gift certificates for every 2500 points racked up. (A point = $1 in a standard transaction. You get triple points on everything you buy through I think Toys R Us and some other stores might have similar cards.

If you pay the card off consistently every month, you’ll find they “reward” you with either more credit, or credit checks which you can use either to transfer balances from another card, or buy something you wouldn’t be able to use a credit card for. These are just ways they try to trick you into spending more than you can afford. Yes, it is nice to have that credit available for emergencies (say, a car repair) it’s not such a good idea to stretch the definition of “emergency” though. (“I HAVE to have the $1000 boxed set limited edition digitally remastered works of the Firehouse Five Plus Two!”)

As to the cards available to someone your age being a bad deal, I’m guessing this is most likely true. You’ll probably run up against either an annual fee or an absurdly high rate. I’d go for the higher rate card since you plan to not carry a balance; it won’t cost you any more than a low-rate card. If you do end up having to pay a yearly fee, go ahead and get that and use it frequently. Within a few months you should start receiving insane amounts of mail from other cards offering you a better deal. When you find a winner, get it, and most importantly CANCEL THE OTHER CARD. Call the customer service line and have the other account actually closed and make them send you a written confirmation. (If you end up having it way less than a year, I’d see if you can get them to refund the fee as well. Couldn’t hurt to ask!)

Credit cards are great, if you know how to use them properly. The problem is that many people think of them as “free money” and aren’t careful about how much they charge, make only the minimum required payment every month, and thus get hopelessly into debt.

If you get a credit card, get only one and make it one with a very low limit (say $500). That way, if you do make the mistake of charging too freely at first, you can’t run up a mountain of debt. Get in the habit of paying it off in full every month. Don’t worry too much about the interest rate - if you pay the card off in full every month, the interest rate isn’t very important because you’re never carrying over a balance. And after a few years, you’ll qualify for a card with a lower rate, and can cancel this first one.

You might also look at an American Express card as an option; a standard American Express account REQUIRES that you pay the balance off in full every month, so it’s not a card that encourages credit abuse. It does charge an annual fee, though (about $45), and may be a bit harder to qualify for.

Do you have a job? Without a continuing source of income, having a credit card is almost (I won’t say absolutely since you seem to be responsible) a certain disaster.

If you like the convenience of shopping with plastic, get a debit card from your bank. There’s no chance of ruining your credit, because they’ll simply stop letting you use it if you run out of money.

I’d say the fact that you didn’t run out and get one the minute you could is good enough for me. I think you can probably handle a low limit card…just pay it off every month. Or pay the credit card first if you’re just trying to build credit.

I fell into the credit trap and have been paying every since. Definitely not worth it if you’re not really disciplined.

Cardinal Rule of Credit Cards: Pay off the entire balance when the bill arrives.

Have been doing this for almost twenty years, and my credit is excellent.

There is a certain amount of piece of mind that comes with having a credit card. Unexpected car repairs, emergency medical expenses, etc. are no longer a cause for instant financial panic. Also, there is the e-shopping, as you mentioned.

Get a card. Pay it off every month. Use the card, instead of letting it use you.

Good luck.

I’ve often thought that the whole ‘college credit card’ program and ‘recent graduate car loan’ programs were the most evil scams to hit America. Where else can you saddle the future of America with debt before they even have a job to pay for it…and all so you can squeeze more profit out of the bottom line?

If you need an emergancy credit card, see if your parents can help you out. You’ll think twice about buying beer & renting motel rooms on credit if you know your parents will see the bill. As for a car, nothing will drag your head underwater in school like a carpayment you can’t make. Lets face it: these things were designed for someone with a weekly or montly income…and you’re not that person yet. Do yourself a favor & ditch the application.

This sounds really really bad.

There are plenty of good reasons for getting a credit card in college: building good credit, paying for things that require credit cards (some hotels, rental cars), unexpected emergencies.

It would be really bad to get a credit card for the “extra costs” involved in college. To me, that sounds like you plan to charge what you can’t afford. Do not do this.

Credit card companies aren’t offering you cards to be nice to you, they are offering you cards so they can make gazillions off you in interest. Credit card company secret: They DON’T want you to pay off the cards, ever. For this reason, they will keep upping your limit while keeping your monthly minimum payment LOW.

It would be good to get one card and use it for small, common, monthly expenses (gas, internet cable bill) and set up a system with your bank so it is paid automatically, in full, every month on time.

I’ll second some previous advice, keep the limit low. When they raise it (and they will, they WANT you to charge lots of money) immediately call and have the limit lowered to where YOU want it.

You will appreciate good credit later, you won’t appreciate trying to dig your way out of 10K in credit card debt.

I don’t think he meant he wanted the credit card for “extra college costs.” I think the OP meant he had NOT wanted to get a credit because he didn’t want to deal with interest, fees, etc. – the “extra costs” of having a credit card.

My daughter just turned 18 and we’re about to get her a student VISA thru our credit union. Now’s as good a time as any to learn how to handle it properly, and a low limit will be just a little extra insurance.

Never too soon to build a good credit rating.

I got one in college, and as long as you can keep control of your spending, it’s a great thing to have. Buying things online, especially plane tickets, is really convenient with a credit card. And it is good to build up your credit history.

However, be sure you don’t put things on there you can’t pay off when the bill comes. Never ever use it to finance things you can’t afford. If you’re tight on money, the last thing you need is to be paying 19% interest.

Credit cards come in handy for late-night beer runs! :smiley:

I got a credit card in college. I’ve maxed its $1500 limit out twice: once in my senior year of college, when I simply couldn’t find enough money to make ends meet for the last month of classes; and once when I bought my wife-to-be’s engagement ring the day before my car died :(.

Both times, I cut way back on other expenses until I was able to pay the card off, and managed to get it paid off in full within two to three months.

Otherwise, I pay the card off in full about twice a month, via my bank’s online department.

It’s a great thing to have for emergency short-term loans like that, as long as you really treat it as an emergency: don’t rely on the credit card unless you’ve exhausted all your other options, and always have a plan for paying it off very quickly.

It’s also a decent way to keep track of what you’re spending: put as many of your expenses on the card as you can, and at the end of the month, you get a niced itemized list of where you spent money.


should a nineteen year-old college student get a credit card?

No, no, NO! No more than 2 year olds should be allowed to play with loaded guns!

You may be part of the 1% of kids your age who can handle it. Or you could be in the other 99% that will create nothing but future misery with it. If you don’t get a card, whether you’re in the 1% or the 99%, you STILL won’t have credit card debt :slight_smile:

Take out student loans if you need money. Uncle Sam doesn’t buttrape you with interest like credit card companies do.

Yes, yes, yes.

Join the leagues of people who are in debt and have to transfer balances every so often to a new lower interest credit card.

Accept your fate. Cave into that burning need to buy something through Amazon that is in the Gold Treasure Box.
In an alternate universe: never use a credit card for anything that by the time the bill comes in whatever you bought will be in the toilet ( food) or ozone layer (gas). I pay cash for those items and it pays off.
Better yet, have a checking account and a friend with a credit card. Ask if you can write a check for a credit card online purchase and write the check out to his credit card company so that he cannot spend it before the bill comes in. This will be a safe guard against those silly little purchases.

I got my credit card at… 17? 18?

I’m 21 now and have never had to pay any interest. I, too, am moderate in my spending, and I just will not charge anything to it if I don’t have the money in my account. It is definitely convenient, for internet, restaurants, big purchases etc.

As long as you pay back your balance every month and get a card with no annual fee, there are no extra costs at all.