If you’re thinking about getting your first credit card, you may have some unanswered questions about how credit cards work. Personal finance habits, such as how to use credit responsibly, aren't always taught in school. Whether you're unsure of what a credit card is or how to get a credit card, keep reading. Below are the answers to 7 commonly asked credit card questions.
1. What is a credit card?
A credit card is a form of payment that allows you to make purchases using borrowed money. When you first get a credit card, the credit card company will set a maximum amount of money that you’ll be allowed to borrow each month. This maximum amount is known as your credit limit.
Whenever you buy something with a credit card, you don’t have to have the funds in your bank account at that moment. For this reason, a credit card can be a great tool for when you’re between paychecks and need to make a purchase. As you use your credit card throughout the month, you will accumulate a balance. It is then expected that you pay some or all of this balance by your monthly due date. If the balance is not paid in full by the due date, you will be charged an interest fee.
2. How is a credit card different from a debit card?
Debit cards and credit cards are similar because they are both used for making purchases. However, there are key differences between the two. One difference is that a debit card takes money directly from your checking account, which holds funds that you already have. On the other hand, a credit card uses money that you are borrowing from a credit card company to be paid back at a later date.
Another key distinction is that credit cards have a credit limit. While your credit limit is set by your credit card issuer, it can be increased or decreased over time, depending on your credit card habits. On the other hand, debit cards do not have a specific purchasing limit unless you decide to set one or if you run out of funds in your checking account.
Finally, a credit card typically offers better fraud protection than a debit card. If your credit card is lost or stolen, you won’t be liable for any purchases that you didn’t make. With a debit card, it’s difficult, time consuming, and often impossible to retrieve stolen funds.
3. Why should I get a credit card?
Credit cards are especially helpful for students because they can help you learn good credit habits, offer a sense of security, provide support in emergencies, and teach budgeting skills. Credit cards also make purchases simple. After you tap, insert, or swipe your card at a retailer, your purchase is made. This means you can buy necessary items, like textbooks, without having to carry cash or a bulky wallet around campus.
While there are many reasons why you should get a credit card as a young adult, one of the most important reasons is that it can help you build a good credit history. Having a good credit history will be important to you later in life. Attempting to rent your first apartment, seeking approval for an auto loan, and applying for student loans are all situations in which good credit is important. You want to make sure you use your credit card responsibly now in order to positively impact your credit in the future.
4. Will a credit card cause me to go into debt?
It is a common myth that you will automatically accumulate debt if you open a credit card. Whether or not a credit card will cause you to go into debt depends on your personal financial habits. If you make smart purchases and stay on top of your payments, you are on track for credit card success. However, poor spending habits and missing monthly payments can lead to an accumulation of credit card debt.
Using a credit card requires you to hold yourself accountable for your purchases. When you have a credit card, you will receive a summary of the purchases you’ve made and how much you owe in the form of a monthly credit card statement. This will be sent to you in the mail. You can also opt to receive paperless statements, which can be viewed online. If you need to check your balance or purchase history on the go, many issuers allow cardmembers to do so through the convenience of a mobile app.
Credit card statements come with a minimum payment you must make each month to keep your credit account in good standing. Yet, only paying the minimum amount isn’t always the best option. If you’re financially able to, you should pay as much of your bill as possible to avoid paying interest on a larger sum. If you pay off your credit card balance in full at the end of the billing cycle, you won’t be charged interest. To avoid debt, pay off your bill as soon as you can, and avoid spending more than you can afford.
5. Can I get a credit card if I have no credit history?
If you have never had a credit card, student loan, auto loan, or other loan account in your own name, then you may not have a credit history yet. While having a strong credit history is important, it is not always required in order to get your first credit card. There are even some financial companies, like 1st Financial Bank USA, that cater to first-time credit cardholders.
When shopping around for your first card, student credit cards are one of the best options. These cards are designed with college students in mind. They often come with a lower credit limit, enabling you to learn how to use credit without an enormous risk. If you are not in college, consider applying for a secured credit card instead of a student credit card. These cards require a deposit in order to secure your credit line, but otherwise function like any other credit card.
6. How old do you have to be to get a credit card?
In most U.S. states, you will have to be at least 18 years old to open a credit card account in your own name. Some states may require individuals to be 19 years of age or older. In addition, you must have a source of independent income in order to pay your credit card bill each month.
Your income can come from various places. It’s most common for students to have a part-time job, work study, or side hustle to cover the costs of their purchases. You should also take into consideration other expenses you’re responsible for, such as rent and utilities. If you don’t have enough to pay your balance at the end of the month, you’ll need to adjust your budget.
7. How do I apply for a credit card in my own name?
If you’re considering applying for a credit card, begin by researching the different options available to you. Once you’ve found a card that will meet your needs, you can gather the necessary information needed for the application. You will need to know your social security number and all of your contact information. If you need any help filling out your application, don’t hesitate to ask a parent or trusted adult who has been through the process before.
Depending on the card issuer and the information you provided when completing your credit card application, your application could either be approved or denied immediately. Alternatively, the issuer will review your application and provide a timeline of when you can expect a response. Before filling out an application, you should make sure you’re ready for the responsibility of having your own credit card. Try taking our quiz to see if you should get a credit card in college.
Getting a credit card for the first time requires a lot of responsibility. Before swiping your credit card, be sure to identify what you should and shouldn’t buy with your card. You’ll be more likely to stay out of debt, save money, and build good credit when you use your credit card on essential or emergency purchases only. As a current or soon-to-be credit cardholder, it’s up to you to make smart choices with your plastic card. Your credit card will help you build financial habits that will carry over into life well after you graduate. Make the most of your credit card experience by paying your bill on time, watching your spending, and making smart purchases.