SHOULD YOU GET A STUDENT CREDIT CARD?
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When approached with sense and a plan, a student credit card can help a student spend money on necessary things before the ‘student loan’ comes in, help cover unexpected expenses and help them start building that all-important credit record. Furthermore, it can even go as far as providing peace of mind – who would have thought that something that has brought ruin to several people over the years can bring you peace of mind?
But before you start wanting or rushing towards some of that peace, may Congrapps advise you on some important aspects concerning student credit cards?
What is a Student Credit Card?
Just like in most Western countries, UK companies operate an initiative of serving students with a student credit card. These student credit cards work in the same way as other credit cards but are more likely to accept students studying full time.
This (a) student credit card is a credit card designed specifically for students and is a way of spending money you don’t yet have as a way of budgeting. Student credit cards tend to also have lower spending limits and charge a higher interest rate than standard credit cards.
A typical student credit card can be designed to offer the student cashback and rewards, introductory periods for purchases, spending ability overseas, and allow balance transfers to help manage existing debt. As we have said earlier, the student credit card can be useful in dealing with emergencies and building a credit history. This is particularly important – for those who want to have a credit card later – because credit card providers have different rules on who they will lend to and many turndown applicants who have low income or have no credit history. Student credit cards are more lenient.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Student Credit Cards
|Builds your credit||Low credit limits|
|Can be useful in an emergency||You can still mess up your credit score|
|May have added rewards||Extra fees|
|Helps with financial literacy||Higher interest rates|
|Purchase Protection||Danger of getting into debt|
Eligibility Requirements for a Student Credit Card
Different card providers will have different requirements for applicants to satisfy before they can be issued a student credit card. But generally, you should:
- Be a UK resident
- Be at least 18 years old
- Not hold another student’s credit card with another bank
- Have a UK bank account
- Not have had previous debt problems like bankruptcy
- Be studying or about to start studying a suitable course
A suitable course is usually an undergraduate course of at least two years at a college or university in the UK. You may need to prove that you have been accepted onto the course. Some providers will only offer deals to existing customers and some cards are only available if you open a student bank account with them as well. Some providers may also take your student loan and any other income into account.
Important Things to Know before you Apply for a Credit Card
Have a plan for what you’ll use a credit card for
Different students will have different needs, as such, there is no one-fit-all approach when it comes to what you should use your credit card for. But if truth be told, we can all agree that you need to be sensible and honest with yourself about how you might use your student credit card. Because you’ll need to pay back anything you spend on the card, and you don’t want to build up an amount of debt you’ll struggle to get rid of.
So does it make sense to spend it on expensive drinks or clubbing, or is it better to spend it on necessities like uni supplies or food? Whatever you think is sensible, have a plan for when you will and won’t use it.
Know your Credit Limit
When you get a student credit card, you’ll be given a credit limit. This is the maximum you can spend and owe on the card. Your credit limit will depend on several factors, including the provider and your financial history.
It’s important to know your limit and not to go over it as this could affect your credit score and mean you may have to pay extra fees and interest. This is why we put these latter points as the two drawbacks of student credit cards
Make the Repayments on Time
One of the most important questions when taking out a student credit card: can you afford to make the repayments? If you miss one, you could lose certain benefits or have to pay a late fee and this could affect your credit score. It’s very important that you pay on time each month, doing so will help to improve your credit score and show lenders you are a responsible borrower. If you struggle with remembering, you might set up a monthly direct debit.
Some student credit card providers may request you to pay the full balance each month, while others may only need you to repay a minimum amount. If you can pay more than the minimum amount the better as it can bring your debt down quicker and reduce the amount of interest you pay.
Can I get a Student Credit Card without any Income?
No matter how incredible you may think a student credit card provider is, you’ll need to show you have a regular income. This can come from any of the following:
- Student loan.
- Regular payments from your parents.
- Your salary from a part-time job.
Be careful with using student loans as your source of income as some providers don’t count student loans as income. Their perspective is if you use a student loan to pay off a credit card, this would just be one form of debt paying off another.
OK, I want one, what do I do
First, to get one, you have to know the credit card providers that are offering one to students. Second, you’ll need to compare every credit card that is considering applications from students. You’ll need to read our article on ‘The Best Student Credit Card Providers in the UK’.
After you are done, you should then make sure that you meet up with their eligibility requirements. Before you apply also make sure that what they are offering will satisfy your needs. You can then apply. If for some reason your application has been unsuccessful, avoid applying for more credit cards immediately because it can harm your credit history.
Instead, it is advised that you wait at least six months, during which you should take steps to improve your credit score.
What happens after you graduate?
You are allowed to keep and keep using your student credit card after graduating or leaving your course. However, if you have been excellent with the use of your card, you may likely be able to get a card with better benefits like cashback, rewards or interest-free purchases.
Are there Alternatives to Student Credit Cards?
If after you have gone through the above information and you still don’t feel confident about getting a student credit card, there are other alternatives to help you access money:
- Interest-free overdrafts: Often a cheaper way to borrow and offered with most student bank accounts, you could even make money with interest-free overdrafts.
- Have a look at our article on ‘Part Two: Top Student Money Tips’ for guidance on this.
- As a secondary cardholder on a parent’s credit card: This would give you a card to use in an emergency. Your parent would be in charge of paying the bill and managing the account, so they would have to trust you not to overspend.
- Grants and student loans: These can be some of the cheapest ways to fund your education.
Charles is a writer, practising lawyer and personal trainer who loves learning and developing himself. He graduated from Middlesex University, London with eight first-class grades in the second and third years of his law degree, and received a postgraduate offer from Cambridge University. He loves strength training, boxing and encouraging people to succeed in their pursuits (legal ones)
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