Financial credit is something almost everyone will need at some point in their life and it is fairly easy for college students to build if it is done right.
“There’s a little bit of a reward if you do the right thing, but you have to be responsible and you can’t run away from it, it will follow you,” Michael Ice, a finance instructor within the College of Business at the University of Rhode Island, said.
Ice said that the easiest, but also the riskiest way, for students to build credit is through a credit card. If you don’t do it well, you can end up paying exorbitant fees. “What happens is they instantly think it’s free money, which it’s not,” he said, “And if you’re really thinking about how credit card companies make their money, it’s not when you use your credit card.”
According to Ice, credit card companies want their customers to either pay the minimum on their bill or miss their payment altogether. “I would strongly suggest that if you’re going to get a credit card, have it automatically paid at the end of the month,” Ice said. This will help to avoid late payments, missing payments and avoid paying interest.
“Everybody, particularly young people, should really protect their FICO [credit score] and manage their FICO and monitor their FICO,” Ice said.
Ice said that if students want to build credit, they have to show that they can pay their credit. “If you get bad credit, a FICO score around 650, you almost can’t get a loan,” he said, “And it takes a long time to clean up your FICO.” According to Ice, to have a good credit score, you want to be above 700.
Students can also obtain credit through paying utility bills. However, he said he advises people to be careful, because your credit score can be hurt by any new credit card or bill not paid if it is under your name.
“Be careful when you share utility bills with roommates,” Ice said. “All these little tedious things can really come back and haunt you.” School loans can also help build credit, but again, only if the loans are paid on time.
“That’s my biggest fear for you guys coming out at this stage in life,” Ice said. Although the job market is improving, he said it’s too easy to take out a school loan… It doesn’t seem bad if you don’t pay them and you’re late because you’re a college kid trying to get started, but it’s still hurting your credit. Even though they may not throw you in jail, it’s still hurting your credit.”