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Parental guidance is key when college students get credit cards

As young people throughout Arizona prepare to head off to college over the next few months, many parents are wrestling with the question of whether their college student should have a credit card. Even when parents don't help their kids acquire a card, they'll likely be inundated with offers once they get to school with incentives designed to be attractive to them.

Either way, if your teen is headed off to college, this is a good time to have a discussion about how credit cards work. In a survey done this spring of students preparing to graduate, 30 percent reported that they had credit card debt. The average credit card balance was over $2,500. No one wants their child graduating from college already saddled with a poor credit rating and credit card debt.

By educating them about the pitfalls of debt before they apply for a card, and then remaining vigilant about their college students' credit card use, parents can help prevent that from happening. Having a credit card when they are in college helps students build good credit, learn to use credit wisely, get in the habit of paying the card off every month and realize how quickly interest and fees can build up. These are all things that will benefit them when they finally go out on their own. Moreover, from a practical standpoint, it helps give them the independence to make necessary purchases like textbooks and room furnishings without having to bother mom or dad.

Generally, it's better to let kids have their first credit card while you still have some control and influence over them. Many banks, such as Bank of America, offer credit cards specifically designed for students.

When a student graduates from college with a good credit history in place, it can have advantages like:

-- Helping them land a job (since many employers look at that)-- Lower insurance premiums-- A lower deposit requirement for an apartment

Of course, parental oversight and guidance is necessary as kids learn to deal with finances. This includes teaching them how checking accounts and debit cards work as well, if you haven't already. If parents see their students getting into credit card debt, it's essential to take action as quickly as possible before it becomes unmanageable and threatens their budding credit record.

Source: Wall Street Journal, "Should College Students Have Their Own Credit Cards?," Beverly Harzog, June 12, 2016

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