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When Should I Get a Credit Card?

Finances
Written by Fiza Usman
Updated: March 25, 2023
7 min read
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Deadline11 days left to apply
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In today's day and age, most people use credit cards for their purchases. When utilized correctly, credit cards can have a positive impact on your personal financial health.

Before worrying about the correct timeline, it is crucial to understand why obtaining a credit card is so important to assess whether it is the best choice for your particular needs. History has demonstrated the long-term consequences of taking advantage of credit cards which are more detrimental than helpful.

Credit cards are, in short - a tool to help build credit scores. Each month credit card issuers lend a set amount of money, also known as the credit limit, to spend on all your purchases. After that monthly period is over, you are expected to pay all the spent money in full or through extended installments.

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Interest charges on all late payment fees, so in order to use a credit card responsibly, it is important that you are on top of all your minimum payments. Consistent patterns of paying your payment history on time, staying within the credit limit, and keeping track of your debt will increase your credit score.

This score will determine your eligibility for bigger purchases in the future, such as a house, investment, auto loan, and even renting out a unit. A good credit score will encourage more lenders to work with you because your credit history will confirm that they can trust you with their money.

At Bold.org, you can learn more about credit cards and gain valuable insights!

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Otherwise, a low credit score or limited credit history indicates financial irresponsibility and a bad track record of making timely payments. As you begin to make bigger purchases later in life, your credit score can either make your life more difficult or easier.

You can be rejected from taking out personal loans or even vacating an apartment for your credit score or lack thereof. Given the magnitude of life decisions that prompt a credit check, it is worthwhile to begin building a credit history as soon as you are able.

Suppose you are interested in increasing your credit score to set your future financial life and are committed to doing your due diligence to maintain an excellent credit score. In that case, a credit card might be an option for you.

While students are eligible to apply for a credit card as soon as they turn 18, it is recommended that they wait until they are financially comfortable to pay off their spending habits. For healthy spending tips, check out how to save money in college.

Keep in mind that a credit card can completely alter your financial situation. One wrong move could land you in a lot more debt than you are prepared for at an early age. Before you borrow money, you must have established proper control over spending.

Credit cards can easily feel like free money which can result in spending more than is actually in your bank account. It is best to use a debit card until you can create a healthy relationship with your finances to build a proper foundation.

Get a credit card once that foundation is established, and you gear up to make bigger expenses in the future. Ideally, this would be sometime during your collegiate years. That way, you have the comfort of not being too financially independent and only balancing limited expenses, which will make staying on top of credit card responsibilities simpler.

What is the difference between a debit card and credit card?

Although they are considered a similar medium of paying for your expenses, credit cards and debit cards operate under different systems. A credit card is borrowed money, so it will go to your line of credit after purchasing something. All purchases on a credit card indicate that you will pay later or at the end of the month.

A debit card, however, takes the money out of your checking account almost immediately. There are no monthly payments, as all purchases are paid for immediately with the money you deposited. To put it simply, a debit card is using the money you already have in the bank account, while credit cards are borrowed money from the bank.

Both have benefits, as you are encouraged to use them interchangeably, depending on the situation. By implementing monthly payments, credit cards give you extra time to pay for purchases.

For example, if you need something for your education and do not have access to the money right now, a credit card extends your gratitude to worry about finances later. Simultaneously, you get to work on your credit which will benefit you in the long run.

Discover how to qualify for financial aid and achieve your academic goals by browsing our blog today!

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How do I choose a credit card?

With hundreds of credit cards to choose from, it can be overwhelming to decide which is the best fit for you. Following these easy steps will hopefully give you a more knowledgeable perspective to narrow it down.

1. Check your credit score

There are a handful of credit bureaus that make it easy to look at your score without damaging it. Some credit cards require a minimum score to be eligible. Consider those with a range your score falls into that will also help boost your credit.

Remember that all card issuers will evaluate more than just your credit score when considering your application; nonetheless, you want to have a good baseline. If this is your first credit card, chances are that your credit score is underdeveloped. It's best to start with a student credit card to work towards a good credit history.

Student credit cards are specifically tailored to college students, making it easier for those with no credit history to get a credit card.

2. Compare rewards and financial goals

Every credit card is designed for a different purpose and will have rewards accordingly. You want to ensure that the benefits you receive for your utilization will benefit you in the long run.

For example, some cards are strictly intended to earn travel rewards. If that isn't something you prioritize, then it may not be worth your time. You must be purposeful when making a decision.

If your sole intention is to build your credit, then a student credit card will be perfect for you. The features are designed toward a student's needs and responsibilities while helping you grow your credit.

Most credit issuers understand how novel the entire process is for new credit card owners, so they might offer waived late fees or cash back on popular student expenses, including dining, entertainment, and gas.

In addition to these perks, a handful of student credit cards do not charge any annual fees. Its entire goal is to help you save the most money in your pocket and help your future self.

Once settled on a particular card type, contact multiple issuers to compare APR rates and interest charges. Inquire about rewards, fees, and credit limits.

3. Apply for a credit card

Upon deciding on a credit card, all you have to do next is apply! Getting a credit card can be exhilarating, so being in this position is a great accomplishment.

Contact the card issuer to see if you can be pre-approved for a particular credit card. While this does not necessarily guarantee your application will be accepted, it does mean you are a good candidate.

After being pre-qualified, you may proceed with the process and submit a formal application to the bank institution providing the card. Ensure you have everything you need to complete the application, including basic contact information and annual income.

For student credit cards, not having a full-time salary is completely okay. Consider discussing any income from part-time jobs, scholarships, grants, or money provided by your family. Once all this information is filed, a decision should take a couple of days.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a secured credit card and an unsecured credit card?

Both credit cards work roughly the same but have some key differences that make them fulfill different purposes. With a secured card, owners are expected to make a security deposit to receive a credit limit. The average deposit is usually around $200 and will coincide with what your limit will be.

While some providers offer a lower minimum deposit and still offer that $200 credit limit, it is not always the case. Like a student credit card, secured credit cards are geared toward people looking to build their credit. To ensure that you do not fall into debt right away, the security deposit is intended to cover any defaulted payments.

If the account was treated responsibly with 0 defaulted payments, the security deposit will be refunded back to you upon being paid off and closed. Some card issuers make it easier for those with a secured credit card to graduate with an unsecured credit card over a period of time.

Aside from that change, both credit cards operate the same way - as regular cards. If you have a low credit score, consider pursuing a secured credit card first. The limits are lower, and the deposit is a cushion should you ever need it.

How long does it take to get a credit card?

Depending on the issuer, acceptance can be instantaneous or take a couple of days; in some cases, it can take weeks. The decision should be given to you within 30 days of completing the application.

After approval, the credit card should be mailed and at your doorstep within 7-10 days. Before it is ready for swiping, you must call the bank to activate it and select a PIN. Curious to know more? Browse Bold’s Scholarship Blog for more information about educational endeavors, scholarships, and credit cards!

Fiza Usman
Content Writer

About Fiza

Fiza is a dedicated writer and researcher with expertise in internships, scholarships, career opportunities, and financial aid. Her skills enable her to craft engaging and insightful content that guides students through the complex processes of applying for financial aid and pursuing career opportunities.

She graduated from Boston College, majoring in Applied Psychology and Human Development and Computer Science.

Experience

Fiza has experience in writing blog posts, SEO content, and creative storytelling. On her personal blog, she shares engaging narratives through personal anecdotes. Her international experiences have given her a global perspective, enabling her to connect with a diverse audience. Fiza is committed to making a meaningful impact through her writing, always considering the perspectives and experiences of others.

Since joining the Bold.org team in 2022, Fiza has channeled her passion for guiding students through pivotal stages of their academic journeys. She understands the challenges associated with college life and is dedicated to helping students adjust to their degree programs and manage their finances. Motivated by her own experiences, Fiza is passionate about empowering students by providing guidance and support that she wished she had during her undergraduate years.

Quote from Fiza

“To educate is to empower.”

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