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Personal Finances

Building Credit 101: A College Student’s Guide to Credit Management

As a college student, it’s understood you have a lot on your plate. From attending classes to managing finances, there are countless things to keep track of. However, amidst the chaos, it’s crucial not to overlook the importance of building credit.

Establishing a solid credit history during your college years can set you up for financial success in the long term. By developing good credit habits early on, you can pave the way for future opportunities, such as obtaining loans, securing affordable interest rates, and even landing your dream job.

In this blog post, we will guide you through the steps to build credit as a college student and providing valuable tips to ensure a strong credit foundation.

Understand the Basics of Credit:

Before diving into the realm of credit-building, understanding the fundamentals is the first step. Credit is the ability to borrow money with the promise that you’ll repay it in the future, often with interest. Building a positive credit history involves showcasing responsible borrowing and repayment practices.

Open a Checking Account:

Opening a checking account by the time you get to college is a core money-management credit-building tool. Proper management of checking accounts is a primary step in managing credit. If a checking account owner constantly overdraws their checking balance, banks can refuse to open subsequent accounts.

Companies such as Chex Systems routinely rate individuals based on their checking account history, giving banks insight into whether account holders are fiscally responsible or not. Oftentimes, if a person cannot open up a checking account, opening a credit card account becomes difficult.

Pay Your Bills on Time:

The payment history plays a crucial role in credit building. Delays or omissions in payments can have a substantial negative impact on the credit score. Setting reminders or arranging automatic bill payments ensures punctuality in meeting due dates.

Demonstrating responsible payment practices generates positive reflections on the credit report, highlighting reliability to lenders and creditors.

Open a Student Credit Card:

One of the highly efficient methods to initiate credit building involves acquiring a student credit card. These cards are specifically tailored for college students and frequently have more flexible approval criteria. Seek a card without any annual fees and a modest credit limit to commence. Utilize it responsibly by making small purchases and settling the entire balance each month.

Become an Authorized User:

If one is unprepared for an individual credit card, an alternative is to become an authorized user on a trusted family member’s credit card. This permits leveraging their favorable credit history, as their payment track record will be mirrored on your credit report. Prior to considering this avenue, verify that the primary cardholder possesses a robust credit history and exhibits responsible payment practices.

Keep Credit Utilization Low:

Credit utilization pertains to the utilization of available credit compared to the credit limit. The goal is to maintain a credit utilization below 30% as a demonstration of responsible credit management. For instance, if a credit card has a limit of $1,000, strive to keep the outstanding balance below $300. Elevated credit utilization can indicate financial instability to prospective lenders and have an adverse effect on the credit score.

Monitor Your Credit Report Regularly:

Through consistent monitoring of the credit report, one can remain well-informed about their credit status and identify any inaccuracies or fraudulent activities. Acquire a free copy of the credit report annually from the three primary credit bureaus—Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Carefully scrutinize the report, giving careful attention to inconsistencies in personal information, accounts, and payment history. Should any errors be discovered, initiate the dispute process to ensure the accuracy of the credit report.

Building credit as a college student entails investing in one’s financial future. Understanding the basics of credit, responsible use of a student credit card, leveraging authorized user status, making timely payments, maintaining low credit utilization, and monitoring the credit report contribute to establishing a robust credit foundation.

The process of building credit requires time and discipline, with the habits developed yielding long-term benefits. Following these tips and adopting sound financial practices sets the path towards creating a positive credit profile, unlocking future opportunities.

It’s important to remember that building credit is just one aspect of overall financial well-being. As a college student, continuous education in personal finance and cultivating healthy money management habits are crucial. Explore Amerant’s Student Checking account, offering exclusive benefits and services tailored to students, such as no monthly balance requirements, $0 Cashier’s Checks, free first-year 3×5 safe deposit box at any location, no fees on incoming wire transfers, and more.

Additionally, every Student Checking account is automatically enrolled in CoverMe, providing no-fee overdrafts up to $100. Learn more at https://www.amerantbank.com/products/personal/personal-checking/student-checking/.

Amerant Editorial Team
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