When you get your first credit card, it can be tempting to spend money on items that you don’t necessarily need or can’t afford. Determining which purchases are appropriate and which aren’t is important. There should be a reason for each purchase you make with your card.
Your credit card usage is included on your credit reports, and each charge to your credit card can help you build your credit score. However, a credit card requires responsibility and self-control, as it can be easy to overspend and accumulate debt. Whether you just received your first credit card or are considering applying for a credit card, here are 6 things you should buy with a student credit card.
For many college students, purchasing gas is a regular weekly or biweekly event. Using your student card to buy gas allows you to practice using credit responsibly each month. At the end of the month, pay back the outstanding balance with one easy payment. This will help you build your credit score.
Not only is using your credit card to purchase gas beneficial to building credit and responsible spending habits, but it can also be safer than using a debit card. Gas stations are hot spots for card theft using credit card skimmers. Skimmers are small electronic devices that thieves place in payment terminals to steal card information. If this does happen, credit cards often offer better fraud protection than debit cards. You won’t be held liable for any purchases you didn’t make.
"Helps build my credit in a safe and efficient way. Also, allows me to buy groceries and gas, then immediately pay it off, so I don't lose money." - Hannah, 1FBUSA cardholder from TX
Similar to gas purchases, buying groceries can be a regularly occurring activity for many students. Using your student credit card to do your grocery shopping is a great way to start practicing responsible card habits. Create a monthly budget for your grocery expenses to help reduce overspending and ensure you don’t surpass your credit limit.
While in college, it can be difficult for students to maintain healthy eating habits. Many incoming students worry about the “freshman 15.” When shopping at grocery stores with your student card, it’s easy to find healthy alternatives to food served in the dining hall or at fast food restaurants.
"I am thankful to have this credit card. I needed my card for college to cover minimal gas and some light groceries. Thank you to 1st Financial Bank for trusting me and helping me get a head start on my future! I recommend using 1st Financial Bank to all college students!" - Tony, 1FBUSA cardholder from IL
3. College Textbooks & Supplies
Textbooks and supplies for college can be expensive. Books alone can cost hundreds of dollars, and additional items for class can increase your total even more. Instead of having a large amount of cash on hand to purchase books and supplies at your college bookstore, consider using your student credit card to purchase costly textbooks and other class items online.
You should aim to budget for your books/supplies in advance, even if you plan to use your credit card. However, textbooks and supplies costs can be more than expected, or their prices can change at the last minute, making it difficult to budget an exact amount. If you buy your textbooks online, you’ll need a card to complete the purchase, but books and supplies may be more affordable than at your college bookstore.
"Using my credit card was very helpful to me this month when buying books for this semester of college. I am also happy this is my first credit card and will help build my credit." - Frank, 1FBUSA cardholder from NY
"I was able to purchase the books I needed online with my credit card!" - Madison, 1FBUSA cardholder from MS
A student credit card can be beneficial when the need for a quick or unexpected trip home arises. If you are in between paychecks and need a way home, using your student credit card can be a lifesaver when it comes to paying for airfare, bus tickets, gas, or other travel expenses.
Student credit cards are designed to help you if you get into a pinch. Along with purchasing airfare or bus tickets, a student credit card can come in handy when maintaining a personal vehicle. Use your credit card to help pay for any emergency expenses needed to repair or maintain your car. However, transportation costs can be high, so always keep your credit limit in mind.
"I was able to purchase discounted tickets, that are only offered annually, to travel from campus to home. Thank you!" - Anonymous
"The recent credit line increase helped me to pay for costly car repairs in May." - Anonymous
Hotels often prefer that guests reserve rooms with a credit or debit card. Using a card allows you to secure your room reservation in advance and have a form of payment already on file with the hotel. If you attempt to pay for a room with another method, such as cash, the hotel will most likely require a credit card on file for any incidentals.
While your credit card limit may be enough to afford a fancy hotel, always consider affordable options first. If you pay for a hotel with your credit card, do your best to pay off the balance in full before your due date. You won’t have to pay interest on your balance, but you’ll still be building your credit score.
"This month, I had a trip out of town, far away from home. The night coming back, it was around midnight, and one of my tires blew out. Thankfully I had my credit card and was able to pay for an extra night in the nearest hotel. Very glad I had received the card the week I left!" - Anonymous
Credit cards are an excellent way for students to practice smart spending habits and build their credit. However, it’s important to understand how credit cards work before you complete any student credit card applications. A good way to start using your student credit card is to make purchases of only everyday and essential items, like gas and groceries. While it may be tempting, try your best to avoid frivolous purchases that may cause you to overspend and accumulate credit card debt.
When using your credit card, remember not to spend more than you can afford. Your goal should always be to have enough money in your bank account to cover your full balance and pay on time.