College Connect Spring 2019: Are Credit Cards Necessary for Students?

By Tyler Head

Will that be cash or credit? These days this question almost seems redundant.

Our society is continuously advancing its technology and the thought of paying for things with physical dollar bills feels slightly antiquated to many students.

According to a 2016 study done by Sallie Mae, a federally-back lending institution, 56 percent of college students have credit cards.

However, the responsibility that comes with having credit cards isn’t for everyone and managing that responsibility raises the question among some of whether they should have credit cards or not.

“Credit cards are not necessary for anyone, but if used responsibly can be a great tool for building credit as a college student,” said Kristy Archuleta, editor of the Journal of Financial Therapy and an associate professor in the College of Family & Consumer Sciences at the University of Georgia.

An individual cannot get a credit card in their name until they are 18 and cannot independently obtain one until age 21, according to  Archuleta.

“This is a regulation to help protect the students from predatory credit card companies and to learn how to use a credit card wisely,” she said. Archuleta explained that college years are an important time to learn about financial tools.

Amanda Bowden, a sophomore majoring in atmospheric science at UGA, agrees with Archuleta’s sentiment.

“I heard a story from my friend who said that her brother wanted to like buy a house kind of right after college, but he couldn’t because he didn’t build up his credit,” she said. “So it’s  important to build it up now.”

Archuleta said college is a time where many often learn very valuable lessons like how not to spend too much. “However, it’s easy to overspend on such a tight budget and when an emergency arises and cash is needed but there is no savings, many college students look to credit cards,” she said.

Archuleta said the way students handle credit cards often relates back to their parents’ history with them and how they are taught.

Bowden doesn’t consider herself an extravagant spender by any means. She credits this to the lessons her parents taught her about money as a child.

“My mom would buy me one of the Visa gift cards. So I kind of knew about handling a card at an early age,” she said. “So I was always very aware of like okay how much money is left on the card and stuff.”

Additionally, she posed an interesting point that credit cards offer a degree of safety as well.

“It’s dangerous to carry cash these days,” Bowden said. “A good thing about a credit card is that it helps you if it does get stolen or robbed you can cancel it and you get all your funds back.”

For those students who are using credit cards to build credit and learn financial responsibility, Archuleta offered a simple piece of advice.

“Never put more on your card than you can afford to pay off every month,” she said.

Tyler Head is a journalism student at the University of Georgia.

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