For incoming freshmen, college means one thing: freedom. It also is usually a person’s first experience with credit cards. According to a 2006 study by Student Monitor, a publisher of nationally syndicated market research of college students, nearly two-thirds of college undergraduates acquire their first credit card before age 19. Eighty-seven percent of those are freshmen.
While college is full of exciting and new adventures, CCCS of Savannah wants to remind college freshmen that these years are critical to one’s financial future, too.
“These young adults need to know the importance of getting credit and maintaining a good credit score and it’s our job to teach them,” says Sonny Colley, president of CCCS of Savannah.
Because students often are inundated with credit card offers on college campuses, CCCS of Savannah has what is called College Credit for Life, a DVD to help incoming freshmen learn the right way to use credit and establish a good credit history.
“CCCS of Savannah steadfastly committed to providing preventative financial literacy strategies to help today’s youth avoid the sting of bad credit,” says Colley.
Realizing that a credit card is often an essential part of college life, the CCCS suggests the following credit card tips:· Shop around for the best card. Not all credit cards are the same. Don’t select a credit card company on a whim, or simply because they have a booth set up at your college. Research which one is best for your circumstances, spending habits and paying ability. Five things to investigate when shopping for a credit card includeo the annual APR (annual percentage rate), o if an annual fee is assessed,
o the length of the grace period,
o the dollar amount of penalty fees,
o the balance calculation method.
· Set up a budget. Always be aware of how much money is in your checking and/or savings account(s), as well as how much you’re obligated to pay when the credit card bill arrives. A good way to keep track of spending is to record all purchases in your checkbook as though you’ve written a check, deducting the amount of each purchase. When you’ve exhausted the money in your checking account, it’s time to stop charging.
· Use prepaid cards or a debit card whenever possible to avoid spending money that is not readily available and accessible. Make sure to record all debit charges to avoid overdraft fees.
· Do not take advantage of the card, or let the card take advantage of you. It is very easy to let charging get out of control. Never max out your credit card. If possible, use the credit card for emergencies only.
· Be aware of the risks of credit fraud. Know that identity theft and credit card fraud are serious issues, but there are ways to protect yourself. Never let someone else borrow your credit card. Do not leave your card or receipts lying around for anyone to see. Also, never give out your credit number unless you know it is legitimate company or organization. When in doubt, don’t give it out.
· Establishing and maintaining good credit is very important. How you handle credit today will affect your access to credit later. Banks, prospective employers, credit card companies, most utility companies and property management companies run credit reports when you apply for a credit card or loan, apply for a job, purchase a home or a car, rent an apartment or sign up for utilities. Paying bills on time is a great start to establishing good credit.
· Know what’s on your credit report. All U.S. consumers are entitled to a free copy of their credit report every 12 months. The report can be ordered online at www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228. In the state of Georgia, two copies per year can be obtained for free .
· Help is available. Remember, to prevent a financial crisis, or if you find yourself with questions about your personal financial situation, affordable and reliable financial help is only a phone call away. To schedule a confidential appointment, call (912) 691-2227.
Copies of the college financial literacy DVD, College Credit for Life, and accompanying materials are available to the media by calling the NFCC at (301) 576-2537.
CCCS of Savannah was established in 1965. It is a non-profit community based organization that helps people manage debt by setting up a budget and payment plan. To date, the local CCCS offices have returned more than $70 million to creditors; money that would have otherwise gone unpaid or been lost to bankruptcy. CCCS of Savannah offers several services, including credit education, which includes identity theft as well as how to improve your credit report which leads to increased credit scores.
CCCS of Savannah is open from 9am-5pm Monday through Friday. Evening appointments are available at 4:30 and 6:00 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The office is located at 7505 Waters Avenue, Suite C-11.
For more information, log on to www.cccssavannah.org or call 912-691-2227.
In addition to the main office there are several CCCS satellite offices. They are in Statesboro (912) 489-2227, Brunswick (912) 261-0060, Hinesville (912) 370-2227, Beaufort (843) 379-2227.