Getting a credit card is easy. Sometimes it can be too easy, especially since college students are often targeted by credit card vendors. Keep the following tips in mind for responsible credit card use.

Understand that any time you use a credit card, you are borrowing money. If you do not pay off your balance each month, interest will be added to the total amount you owe.

  • Think before getting your first credit card. Do you really need one, or would another option work just as well? Could you use your debit card instead? What about setting up a secured credit card, where a savings account is established specifically for the card to make payments if you do not? Try waiting. Put off your decision for six months or a year and see how well you do without a credit card.
  • Choose wisely. There are tons of options out there when it comes to credit card offers. Shop around for the best deal, and compare cards based on your own situation. Look at the following details:
    • Low fixed annual percentage rate
    • Interest calculation method
    • Low or no annual fees
    • All other charges (late payment fees, transaction fees, over-the-limit fees, etc.)
    • Grace period on charges
    • Credit limit
    • Services and features (cash rebates, frequent flier miles, extended warranties, etc.)
  • Keep just one card. It will be easier to keep tabs on your spending if you aren’t putting charges on multiple accounts.
  • Consider ways you can track your expenses. Check your account frequently and save receipts.
  • Make a copy of your card for your records. Photocopy the front and back of your card or keep a record of the account number, issuer’s name and phone number, just in case your card is lost or stolen.
  • Do not spend more than you can afford to pay back each month. Using your credit card wisely can help you establish a solid credit rating and avoid financial problems. By borrowing more than you can afford, however, credit cards can seriously hurt your credit rating and your financial future.