Don't Pay for College on a Credit Card

Credit cards can be a good way for parents and students to help manage money while in college and to handle emergencies. But if not used carefully, students can rack up too much debt, often with a high interest rate. This can lead to financial hardship and cause students to drop out of college -- leaving them with no college education and a mountain of debt.

  • Parents who used credit cards to pay for college borrowed, on average, over $4,400.
  • Students who used credit cards to pay for college borrowed, on average over $1,600.
  • More than half of college students have credit cards and use them regularly.
  • More than two-thirds of college students have some type of outstanding debt.

Before You Apply for a Credit Card

  • Get all the free money available to you in the form of grants and scholarships.
  • Student loans are another good way to help pay for college. But borrow only what you need.
  • If paying back your loan is difficult, help is available through HESC's Delinquency Resolution Team. Counselors will review available options and provide solutions for you. Contact us at 1-800-888-0741 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Ten Ways to Manage Your Credit Card

  • Before you apply, know the terms. Read the small print.
  • Choose a card with no annual fee.
  • Avoid cards that offer free merchandise; they usually come with a higher interest rate.
  • Be wary of low "teaser" rates that may only apply for a few months - and then a much higher rate kicks in.
  • Look for hidden fees, such as late fees, over-the-limit fees and cash advance fees.
  • Beware of buying credit protection you don't need. Federal law already protects you if your card is lost or stolen and a thief runs up a balance.
  • Don't play the credit card shuffle — using balance transfers on one card to pay down another.
  • Charge only what you can pay off at the end of the month.
  • Make monthly payments on time.
  • Always pay more than the minimum requested. Paying the minimum can result in paying two to three times more than the amount purchased.

For example: Suppose you have a balance of $2,500, an interest rate of 19.9%, and your minimum monthly payment is $50. Assume you never use this card again and continue to make the minimum payment. Any idea how long it will take you to pay off your debt?

It will take you 9 years and 1 month to pay this credit card off by paying the minimum. And you end by paying $5,450 for $2,500 in purchases.

These links can help you better understand credit, credit cards and the impact debt can have on your life:

US Federal Trade Commission

National Federation for Credit Counseling

Money Matters for Students

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