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Five Credit Card Tips for College-Bound Millennials

It's that time of year again. A summer full of partying, baking in the sun, and maybe even a job (heaven forbid) is coming to a close for hundreds of thousands of college-bound Millennials.

Retail companies love them because Millennials are prepping for the big move by spending, or convincing their parents to spend, millions on MacBooks, iPods, iPhones, furniture, and the latest in trendy clothes. It's no secret that credit card companies love them too, but new legislation has made it much more difficult for credit issuers to market credit cards for college students on campus. No more free subway sandwiches or glow-in-the-dark pens for filling out a credit card application!

You may wonder why credit card companies are so interested in targeting a demographic that statistically has minimal income and a lot of debt while in school? The main reason is because it's a proven fact that the first card in a student's wallet will stay there for a very long time, and even if they do choose to live beyond their means and eventually default, parents are often willing to step up and bail them out.

According to , 56% percent of undergraduates get their first credit card at the age of 18, and 91% of students have at least one card by their senior year. The average outstanding balance on undergraduate credit cards was $2,169 back in 2005, and that number continues to increase at a dramatic rate each year. Add the credit card debt on top of students loans, which now have up to a 7% interest rate, and Millennial students are beginning their lives in the "real world" in a real deep hole of debt.

The problem is most college students get their first credit card before they're 21, but many have never been taught how to properly manage credit and establish a solid credit score. It's not taught in High school classes, and parents often fail to teach their children the importance of credit and its role in their financial future.

There certainly aren't any step-by-step directions in the credit card application either. As a result, tens of thousands of college graduates enter the workforce each year with a lot of debt, poor credit scores, and a rude awakening when they apply for a loan on their first car, condo, or home.

If you are a college-bound Millennial, or a parent of one, keep the following five tips in mind as you head off to freshman orientation this year. They will not only save you from headaches later on, but they will also save you a lot of money.

1. Only parents should cosign

New credit card rules prevent students under 21 from getting a credit card if they don't have adequate income or a cosigner. Unfortunately, one way to get around this is by convincing college friends over 21 to cosign for you. Bad idea!

If you need a cosigner, look to your parents or another responsible family member—don't look to your friends. If you do, you're just asking for trouble down the road.

2. Don't sign up on the spot - Do your research online!

There are many reputable companies providing excellent credit cards for students; however, signing up on the spot in your local bank or at an airport isn't a good idea. Take the informational pamphlets home with you instead, and then do a little online research to find the best possible card.

The online credit card marketplace provides consumers with more power than ever to compare and contrast the best offers in the industry and apply securely online in about 60 seconds. Take a few minutes to browse through our recommendations for Student Credit Cards to find the best offers with no annual fees, low interest rates, and attractive reward programs.

3. One card is enough

Once you've found the perfect student credit card, keep life simple. One credit card is enough for a college student. Set up your account online, keep your credit utilization under 30% of the credit limit, and pay off your balance each month.

If your limit is too low at first, use cash or a debit card to pay for anything that would take you above the 30% threshold. When you are prepared to responsibly manage a higher credit limit, call your credit card issuer and they will likely be happy to increase your limit.

4. Imagine you never heard of "Cash Advance"

If you ever need quick cash, your credit card is generally not a good option. Forget about it.

Interest rates for cash advances could be up to 30%, which is highway robbery. Sell old textbooks back for cash, throw something you never use on craigslist at discounted price, or call good-ole Mom and Dad to give them the sob story. Anything is better than paying 30% on a short-term loan.

5. Educate yourself

An integral part of every college student's education should be developing an in-depth understanding of consumer credit and how it will affect their personal financial future. Take 15 minutes to browse the information in our Learning Center and provide yourself with an important education you won't receive from even the best Ivy League schools.

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on Thu, 2011-09-08 17:00