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Credit cards for college students

When you send your child off to college, you're sending him or her to get a financial education as well. One aspect of financial responsibility is learning how to maintain good credit.

Although it may be tempting to withhold a credit card, college provides an opportunity to establish credit before they join the workforce. Besides, if an emergency arises at college, a credit card can make it easier on everyone. Also, most college students get credit card offers in the mail just like you do. The key to success is to help your child develop healthy-credit habits.

Educate your student about credit cards
Even many adults don't understand credit card lingo that includes grace periods, annual fees, finance charges, etc. Make sure your student understands the meaning,and consequences, behind each definition.

Consider starting your student with your card
During this "practice" period, you'll be able to keep track of charges and assess financial responsibility. A debit card, which deducts charges directly from his or her checking account, can also provide good practice and discipline for future credit-card holders.

Have only one card
The more credit that's available, the more tempted your student will be to ring up a dangerous balance. Even if a card only has a limit of $500, a handful of such cards can add up to big debt.

Don't cosign the card
If you cosign the card agreement, your child can run up charges without your consent, and you'll be legally responsible for the debt. In other words, your credit rating will be on the line as well as your students.

Watch out for teaser rates
As it is for all card holders, it's important that your student understand that teaser rates are only for a short time. As an alternative, look for a card with no annual fee, a reasonable grace period and a low interest rate. Check out the best credit cards for college kids for a list of good offers for your student.

Pay off as much as possible every month
Low-income students can't afford to fall behind on payments. If your student can't pay the balance in full each month, make sure he or she understands the high cost of making only minimum payments. Help you student work out a credit-card budget in advance.