Paying for College with Credit Cards

You wouldn’t jump off a cliff without looking, would you?

Unfortunately, this metaphoric scenario plays out again and again with each incoming batch of college freshmen.

These students have to set up a new life, making decisions about shelter, food and recreation— not to mention the inevitable expenses of tuition and textbooks.

While student loans and scholarships can offset a good chunk of the cost, the day-to-day necessities still rack up. Enter credit cards.

Swiping that plastic means taking out a small loan— which is not necessarily a bad thing. There are good reasons for a student to whip out their Visa:

Build credit. Making on-time payments for reasonable purchases builds your credit. This will reflect well in the future when purchasing big-ticket items, like a house or car.

Shop online. College towns can’t offer the same amenities as a big city, so many students turn to Internet stores.

Have a cushion. Fender benders, emergency repairs, towing fees… they happen. Credit cards can provide an easy installment plan for one time expenses that cost more than what a student has squirreled away. Just be sure to pay it off soon…

…because you can’t get something for nothing. Everyone has experienced the horror of mounting expenses take a toll on their savings. When those figures arrive on a credit card statement, that’s pure debt.

A student needs to be proactive with their cards, becoming a credit manager instead of a victim:

What are your fees? Look for “teaser rates”, yearly membership fees, and penalties. Please, never sign up for any credit card unless you understand how you are expected to pay for it! Check your bungee cords and the rocks below before you make that plunge.

How much credit do you need? I’ve known several students who bought into the allure of cards that promise cash rewards and other “incentives”. A dozen indebted accounts later, their reward was a greater understanding of bait-and-switch tactics.

No company offers you a card because you are super-special-creditworthy; they are out to make a profit off of you. Using a credit card is one method of fulfilling your needs, not your financial panacea. Charge responsibly.

Alexander Carl

Alexander Carl

I find it difficult to brag about myself. Too modest? Perhaps.

Anyway: my name is Alexander Carl. I am a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I spent four blissful years earning a degree in Communication Studies. Now I face the real world of economic downturns, student loans, and the absence of “academic” camaraderie.

Yet I refuse to be bummed. My economic philosophy is to live simply, save, and maximize whatever I can. Consumer culture is undeniably pervasive, but you don’t have to sell your soul to co-exist with it— there is great power from using your economic resources wisely.

I started writing when I figured out how to hold a pencil. Since then I’ve written short stories, poetry, screenplays, and have blogged. In fact, three of my screenplays have been produced into short films, two of which I directed. I’m no stranger to the media, having served as a DJ at a freeform radio station and worked as a crew member for live TV.

Pastimes include traveling (I’ll visit virtually anywhere), swimming, jogging, hiking, and hunkering down with a good movie.

Overall I’m a peaceful person, though not in a creepy New Agey way. I get my energy from music, good conversation, and the outdoors (I was an active Boy Scout, earning my Eagle). I consider myself “inquisitive” and “wry”, and for the sake of autobiography I’ll assume that I am.
Alexander Carl

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