By Summer Bozeman
Senior Shannon Buckmaster currently has over $1,600 of credit card debt, and is not sure where it came from.
“I have a $500 [car insurance] deductible,” she explains, “and when I was in an accident I had to put that on my card. Then when I got [my dog], I put a lot of her expenses on it too.”
How well does she manage her debt, though?
“If by manageable you mean making the minimum payments every month, then sure,” Buckmaster said.
According to youngmoney.com, Buckmaster isn’t alone. Seventy-eight percent of students have at least one credit card, and the average student holds three credit cards.
With the holidays fast approaching, it is important to remember that debt will sneak up on you. So here are some tips to help:
• That lunch at Molly’s and a movie after work will look a lot more expensive when you add interest on top of it. Using cash instead of plastic whenever possible will keep your credit free in case of emergency, such as need of a last minute plane ticket or car repairs.
• Make use of your debit card — it allows for better budgeting. When the money is spent, there is no way to charge more.
— Adapted from money.cnn.com
Student applicants receive some of the highest interest rates from lenders due to the fact that they are considered high-risk for not making payments regularly or on time.
Marilyn Madden is Senior Loan Officer at a branch of Bank of America. Madden says that of the credit cards her company issues, a large portion is to students.
“It seems that many young people are prone to forget that credit has to be repaid with compounded interest,” Madden affirms.
“And credit will stay with you your whole life. It’s attached to your social security number,” Madden added. “When you make late payments, that’s on your record, and it can be really hard to make up for later. You have to take it seriously, which means not going overboard with your spending, and making sure you make your payments on time.”
Madden advises “The best thing to do is pay off your bill every month.”
Patty Bent, who graduated last April, didn’t realize her credit card debt was out of control until her student loans were called in.
Bent was forced to consolidate her debts into one monthly payment, but still finds herself having to work more than 40 hours per week to manage her debt. She had three credit cards throughout college.
“My advice is to pay off your cards and cancel them as soon as you can,” she said.
“Once you graduate, you’ll be sorry if you don’t. Plastic isn’t free money. It all has to be paid back, and the older you get, the bigger the chunks they’ll ask for.”