A reader is getting a credit card, and it scares her to death.
Question: My parents are fighting over a credit card — mine. I just started college, and my dad wants to me to get one so I’ll learn how to use it responsibly. My mother is really against it. She thinks I’ll run up big bills and not be able to pay them off.
My dad wants to get me a BP or Exxon credit card so I can save money on gas when I come home to visit. My mom says if I have to get a card, it should be a Kroger card so I can save on groceries. I don’t care, I’m just worried.
I’m in the middle on this. It sure would be nice to not always have to carry around cash or ask my parents to buy me a plane ticket to visit relatives. Then again, what if my mom is right? I don’t know the first thing about credit cards. What do I do?
— Annalisa in New York City
Howard Dvorkin CPA answers…
The timing of your question is impeccable. So is your location. Right now, we’re in the middle of America Saves Week, which promotes responsible spending for all Americans. You also live in New York, and your state Legislature is right now considering a bill that would mandate “juniors and seniors at secondary schools must take a financial literacy and personal finances course.”
Of course, that bill, even if it passes, comes too late for you. But luckily, if you want to learn about being responsible with a credit card, there’s no shortage of places to learn.
I’m biased, but I’d suggest starting here at Debt.com. You’d quickly discover that literally the worst cards you can get are a Kroger card or a gas card. Their rewards and fees aren’t the best. You can do better.
In fact, there are a slew of cards aimed squarely at college students like you, Annalisa. Some allow your parents to monitor your charges, while others deposit cash back directly into a savings account. You and your parents can review Debt.com’s list of the best college credit cards and find one that’s right for all of you.
I’m actually glad to hear your so scared of credit cards, Annalisa. Sometimes, a little fear is healthy. Too many college students don’t fear debt enough, and it gets them into trouble. You don’t want fear to paralyze you, however, so keep consulting Debt.com for advice on credit cards, and you’ll master your cards.
Have a debt question?
Email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org and Howard Dvorkin will review it. Dvorkin is a CPA, chairman of Debt.com, and author of two personal finance books, Credit Hell: How to Dig Yourself Out of Debt and Power Up: Taking Charge of Your Financial Destiny.