Why Young Adults Should Consider Getting Their First Credit Card in College

We partnered with Capital One to help explain the importance of student credit cards. All opinions are our own. 

As adults, we’re often thought to have life “all figured out.” Whether knowing how to cook or manage money efficiently, our kids often look to us as examples. But just because you’re an adult who owns a house and has kids, it doesn’t mean you can’t make a significant financial misstep — or two. 

As my kids went through their teenage years and headed off to college, I thought I knew how to teach them to manage the money they made from their first jobs and live within their budgets. For starters, I helped them open bank accounts to experience financial independence. That part was not the mistake. I also encouraged them to get debit cards when they wanted to charge things and didn’t have cash. I reasoned they would have the convenience of a card but wouldn’t overspend or have the burden of dealing with interest. After they were comfortable with debit cards, I wish I had gone one step further and taught them how to have the financial discipline to responsibly manage credit. 

Capital One Student Cards are an excellent option for a first card if your student has the financial discipline to responsibly manage credit. (Twenty20 justingovender_)

Learning to use a credit card

The first and easiest way to help your teen enhance their credit history is to add them as an authorized user on your credit card. By using the card responsibly, they can improve their credit history. At the same time, you monitor their spending and teach them about responsible budgeting as the first step toward having their card. You can work with your teen to pay off the monthly balance while they earn and enjoy rewards, points, and cash back. It’s a little like a credit card with training wheels. That being said, it’s important to remember that any negative actions, like missed payments, could reflect poorly on both of your credit ratings.

The second way to help your teen establish good financial habits is to guide them into getting their own credit card when you think they have the financial discipline to use one responsibly. Once you’ve taken the time to explain credit card basics to students and you’re confident your teen understands the concept, it might be time to consider trying the real thing.

Explore the card that’s right for you

Part of my hesitancy in urging my college students to apply for a credit card was the annual fees they would incur and the fact that a student with minimal experience with money could find themselves with unmanageable debt. 

Fortunately, there are credit cards that are designed specifically for college students to meet their financial needs. Capital One student cards are high on recommended lists published by Buy Side from WSJBankrateUS NewsNerdWallet, and The Points Guy. As a long-time Capital One Savor card holder, I’m excited that younger adults can now experience similar card benefits and perks with the SavorOne Student card. 

Features I rely on that can benefit students include notifications when they’ve been double-charged, flexible payment due dates, and instant card locking, all of which have helped me stay in control of my credit card usage in the past. Additionally, no foreign transaction fees have been especially helpful when traveling. 

With zero annual fees and responsible credit limits, Capital One student cards are the perfect vehicle for young adults to manage their new purchasing power and learn healthy money management habits while establishing their credit. Cardholders also get access to great cash back rewards and the Capital One Travel portal, just like their counterparts. Students can even see if they are pre-approved before applying without impacting their credit score. 

Teaching your kids the basics of responsibly using a credit card, including paying balances in full and on time every month, are important life lessons that will serve them well throughout their lives. While they may feel overwhelmed about starting a new chapter and going off to college, they’ll thank you in the long run for setting them up for a positive financial future. 

About Grown and Flown

Mary Dell Harrington and Lisa (Endlich) Heffernan are the co-founders of Grown and Flown the #1 site for parents of teens, college students and young adults, reaching millions of parents every month. They are writers (Lisa is a New York Times bestselling author), moms, wives and friends. They started the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook Group and are co-authors of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults (Flatiron Books) now in paperback.

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