When you get your first credit card, it can be tempting to spend money on items that you don’t necessarily need. The allure of the newest generation of smartphone or a trendy pair of shoes can be hard to ignore, but there should always be a valid reason for each item you buy with your card. Being able to determine which purchases are appropriate and which aren’t is a crucial part of financial responsibility.
Along with responsibility, your new credit card will require restraint and self-control, as it can be easy to overspend and accumulate debt. Whether you’re considering applying for a credit card or just received your first shiny piece of plastic, here are five 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 is convenient, and it allows you to practice using credit responsibly. At the end of the month, you can pay back the outstanding balance with one easy payment. Over time, this can help you build your credit score.
Fortunately, using your credit card can also be safer than using a debit card. Gas stations are hot spots for card theft using credit card skimmers, which are small electronic devices that thieves place in payment terminals to steal card information. If your information happens to be stolen, credit cards often offer better fraud protection than debit cards. Plus, 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
“This month I used my credit card to buy gas to get to my community college. It has been super helpful to have such a low credit limit, but still build my credit score!”- Kaylee, 1FBUSA cardholder from IL
Similar to gas purchases, buying groceries can be a regularly occurring activity for many students. If you live off campus, preparing food at home is not only more cost-effective, but it is often a healthier choice than eating at the dining hall or a fast food restaurant.
Using your student credit card at the grocery store can make the checkout process as easy as the swipe (or tap) of a card. If you create a monthly budget for your grocery expenses, you can help reduce overspending and ensure you don’t surpass your credit limit. Purchasing foods that are shelf-stable and buying versatile ingredients that can be used in multiple dishes can really stretch your grocery budget.
"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
“I was running low on cash after buying books for school and I needed a couple of groceries. 1st Financial Bank bridged the gap while allowing me to build my credit history.” - Patrick, 1FBUSA cardholder from KY
3. College Textbooks & Supplies
At the beginning of each semester, your professors will announce the required textbooks and supplies for each class. Most of the time, the books alone can cost hundreds of dollars. Additional items for class can increase your spending 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 order your items.
Budgeting in advance for classroom materials is important. However, textbook costs can often be more than expected, or their prices can change at the last minute, making it difficult to budget an exact amount. A credit card can help bridge the gap between the difference of what you saved up and what you had to pay. If you buy your textbooks online, you’ll need a card to complete the purchase. This will allow you to compare prices to those of your college’s bookstore and find the most affordable textbooks.
“I used my credit card this month to help pay for textbooks. By having a credit card, I can pay back the bill for my credit cards over a period of time (the first semester). This took a lot of stress off of my shoulders, as college is stressful within itself!”- Kya, 1FBUSA cardholder from WI
“I was able to pay for my college textbooks before my financial aid was posted to my account. It was very helpful and made my summer semester enrollment less stressful.” - Dylan 1FBUSA cardholder from NV
Your first credit card in college can be beneficial when the need for a quick or unexpected trip home arises, such as if a loved one falls ill or you forget an important document. If you are in between paychecks and need transportation, using your student credit card can be a lifesaver when it comes to paying for airfare, bus tickets, gas, or other travel expenses.
Because student credit cards are designed to help you if you get into a pinch, they can also come in handy when maintaining your personal vehicle. You can use your credit card to help pay for any emergency repairs or maintenance needed on your car. It’s important to recognize that transportation expenses can be costly, so you’ll want to keep an eye on your credit limit and avoid credit card debt.
“I was able to pay a campus parking ticket before the due date and avoid fees and penalties! Without my 1st Financial Bank credit card, I would have been stressed out and worrying about how I was going to pay this on time! It saved me big time!” - Tyler, 1FBUSA cardholder from MD
“It helped me fix my tire when it went flat and I was stranded on the side of the road trying to get back home.” - Xena, 1FBUSA cardholder from OK
If you’re involved in clubs or organizations on campus, chances are that you may have to travel and stay overnight for an event at some point in your college career. Most hotels require that guests reserve rooms with a credit or debit card. It is also required that guests provide a credit card for incidentals.
While your credit card limit may be high enough to afford an extravagant 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, and 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
“I'm traveling a lot this summer so the credit increase will be nice for making any reservations and emergencies. Thank you!” - Bethany, 1FBUSA cardholder from TX
Credit cards are an excellent way for you to practice smart spending habits and build your credit. However, it’s important to understand how credit cards work and the reasons to get a credit card in college 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; that way you’ll avoid overspending.
When paying with credit, the money you charge to your credit card takes a while to be subtracted from your account, making it crucial to budget your expenses properly. Try your best to mind your credit limit and avoid frivolous purchases that may lead to a poor credit report. At the end of the day, your goal should always be to have enough money in your bank account to cover your full balance and pay on time.