Tag Archives | credit cards

Image by Blue Coat Photos, Flickr

Image by Blue Coat Photos, Flickr

College life is a period where you become the most autonomous you’ve been in your life so far. However, you might not have any idea about identity or credit protection – that means physical, digital, and everything in between.

You may have heard the terms identity fraud and identity theft, where someone wrongfully acquires and utilizes someone else’s personal information in a misleading way – and most of the time, they do it for financial gain.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, “People between the ages of 20 to 29 made up 20% of all reported identity fraud casualties a year ago”. That is the most exploited age group, closely followed by ages 30 to 39. According to the statistics of the Bureau of Justice, “More than 16 million individuals, or even 7% of the country’s populace age 16 and more, report having their identities stolen each year.”

So obviously, this is bad. Here’s how to make sure you’re not one of the victims:

1. Never Use Public Wi-Fi
College grounds are overflowing with public Wi-Fi. And if you’re cost-cognizant, you’ll do your best to always use free Wi-Fi. However, doing anything remotely over open Wi-Fi makes your information simple pickings for identity thieves. So while you’re encouraged to use public Wi-Fi, never check your bank balance or sign into your credit accounts while on an open Wi-Fi network.

Be careful about public computers. While they are fantastically valuable assets and frequently free for college students, they may create problems. They are a center for individuals signing onto public PCs that many others will use that day alone. Limit your use on public PCs to college managed destinations and schoolwork. Don’t use them for anything to do with billing, and don’t forget to log out!

2. Never Leave a Paper Trail
Do not leave any receipts. When you close your tab, bring your receipt with you. For example, when you get pizza and mozzarella sticks at 3am, do not advise the person behind the counter to toss out your receipt. At the ATM machine, either bring the receipt with you or choose not to have your receipt printed.

You may simply toss out an arbitrary receipt you find on the ground. However, people hoping to exploit others will absorb any data they can find. Taking a receipt from a pizza shop with your name and last four MasterCard digits is just the tip of the iceberg. Do not make it simple for thieves.

3. Lock Your Laptop or Mobile with a Password
No one ought to ever have the capacity to get to your laptop or mobile without a password. There is an undeniable accommodation to opening up your laptop and seeing the home screen momentarily. However, it is worth setting up your password and taking 8 to 12 keystrokes to concede access for yourself. This is an access that nobody else can infiltrate without learning your secret password.

4. Leave Important Documents with Parents
Important documents like birth certificates and social security cards shouldn’t stay with you. If you need to have them close by, store them in a security store box, or if nothing else, a lockable box. It’s a good idea to only carry with you ID that you really need, like your student card, passport or driver’s license.

5. Never Click any Unknown Links
Spam emails have been around since practically the beginning of the internet. But in case you need a reminder, if you get an email saying you have won something, or an email with an ambiguous portrayal alongside an enticing link, never click that link. You can also receive an instant message or text from somebody you do not know with a link appended. Do not click it. A click can help the identity thieves get all your important information.

6. Download Anti-Virus
This is undoubtedly a helpful tip. Everybody has personal data on their laptops. It can be information from your social media accounts, your username, email address or more. It would be a disgrace to get an infection that either does not permit you to get to your own accounts or one that totally wipes out your hard drive. What’s more, the computer virus could be planted by somebody searching for your personal information.

7. Never Bother with Credit Card Offers
Those online shops offering a free shirt or Game CDs if you fill out a MasterCard application are also regular sights on college grounds. Do not give your credit card information to anybody, even to apparently legitimate people. On the off chance that you have to fill out a credit application, do it using a protected connection. They will try different ways to attract you, but there are 100 ways to prevent identity theft – so you can beat them.

8. Never Loan Your Credit Card
Working on a tight budget is common for a college student between managing costs for food, books, and extracurricular activities. With a restricted income, you will sooner or later find yourself short on money. It is not uncommon for one individual amongst a gathering to pay for something, like a round of drinks, and the others pay them back. When it is your turn to pay the bill, make sure you don’t give your credit card to anyone but the waitress.

9. Avoid Doubtful Business Opportunities
College students are a main target for many organizations. While open doors can be great opportunities, some of these are simply tricks. Phishing tricks and fraudulent business models are spreading like wildfire over college grounds.

10. Clean Your Desktop and Inbox Routinely
It is crucial to clear space on your PC. Notwithstanding leaving space for future reports and messages, you are not helping yourself by sitting on messages from years back. If you keep up an organized inbox, there will be fewer data archived for another person to see if they get onto your PC.

11. Shred Sensitive Material
Sensitive documents, for example, bank proclamations, bills, and MasterCard offers ought to be destroyed, not just tossed in the trash. Putting resources into a $20 paper shredder is a much less expensive and easier alternative over the long run.

In conclusion, numerous victims do not even realize their identity has been compromised until it’s too late. In a brief timeframe, you could be a huge number of dollars under water. Identity theft is a genuine risk. Adopting healthy practices at an opportune time is the ideal approach to protecting yourself.

This article was contributed by guest author Irene Fatyanova.

Image by stevepb, pixabay.com

Image by stevepb, pixabay.com

Student debt is a hot topic in the world of North American higher education. As colleges and universities continually boost tuition costs, many students tend to get buried in a mountain of debt in order to survive their college years. Financial assistance is becoming increasingly common in the college world, and is one of the key culprits behind the student debt issue; however, many students are not fully aware of how to align their personal finances before and after they start college. This tends to create a downward spiral effect on many students’ well-beings, and is creating an overall negative feeling towards the idea of attending college.

However, student loans are not as excessive as they are portrayed to be. Of course, we have all seen student loans on T.V. that range upwards of $100,000, but the average student loan amount is around $38,400.

So what is causing so many current and former students to be stuck in an unmanageable mountain of debt?

Well, there are many other avenues in the college life that, if not carefully managed, can cause a large impact on a student’s finances. Below I will highlight three of these debt-causing vultures that are constantly circling overhead within the college world:

Credit Cards
Credit cards have always seemed to have somewhat of a dark history. There are countless horror stories of individuals being drowned in credit card debts, and this epidemic has always floated around the college world. The relationship between college students and many students’ credit card debts can be attributed to not fully understanding how exactly to use a credit card. After all, it is not free money.

The truth is credit cards can actually be quite the helping hand to a college student. Understanding that credit card spending should be tracked and paid off on time each month can help skyrocket an individual’s credit score, setting them up for better opportunities in the future. In the world of college, this can mean better student loan interest rates – we all want those.

Not Working
Going to college is stressful, and many students fear the thought of acquiring a part-time job, because it would cut into their ability to do homework or go out on the weekends. While this is understandable, many students see their financial aid as a secondary bank account. Much like credit cards, this can get out of hand very quickly.

It is important to take a step back and look at the big picture – your future. Getting a part time job, in order to avoid unnecessary spending on everyday items, can help a student avoid any added burden on top of their student loan repayments.

Going Out
Having a night out on the town seems to be a weekly tradition throughout the college world, and truthfully, after spending Monday through Friday in a classroom, it is well-deserved. However, it is important to be mindful of spending when doing so. Going out to dinner, buying drinks, and paying for a ride home for you and your friends can easily – and quickly – add up.
Thankfully, there are a number of frugal alternatives for students to still have fun on the weekends without going broke. For example, here in Boise we have a $3 movie theatre, and there is almost always an opportunity to go to a punk show for $5 at a DIY venue. The opportunities are out there, you just have to actively be looking for them.

In summary – yes, college can be a stressful time – both mentally and financially. However, being financially responsible and acknowledging how to conquer your student debts can be a lifesaver – both during and after your time in college.

Thank you for reading. Let’s keep the conversation going! What are some financial tips you have for your fellow college-goers? Tell me about them on Twitter (@trvshlvrd_rr).

This article was contributed by guest author Taylor Tomita.

Image by succo, pixabay.com

Image by succo, pixabay.com

Millennials are widely recognized as the most tech-savvy generation. The generation who grew up at the dawn of the digital age and can hardly recall a time before the internet. However, studies suggest that, for all their tech fluency, millennials are shockingly susceptible to identity theft.

A study by Javelin Strategy & Research found that in 2014, 22 percent of students found themselves the victims of identity fraud, a rate three times higher than the overall national average.

This leads us to an obvious question: what behaviors are college students engaging in which lead to such astronomical rates of identity theft?

What is Identity Theft?

The United States Department of Justice defines identity theft as the following:

Identity theft and identity fraud are terms used to refer to all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain.

With such a broad, generic definition, it is sometimes hard to discern identity theft attempts. It doesn’t help that ID theft tactics have changed significantly throughout history.

identity theft infographic

As new technologies are developed, new identity theft tactics are sure to emerge. It is essential for everyone, including college students, to remain vigilant.

How Does Identity Theft Affect You?

Some students might not believe that identity theft is such a major concern, and that misconception is a big part of the problem. Identity theft can quickly turn your financial situation, as well as your life in general, into a nightmare.

First and foremost, these people can steal from you. If an identity thief gains access to your bank account, they can easily drain your funds. In addition, they may have access to any savings accounts you have tucked away as well.

Besides this, becoming the victim of identity theft can be disastrous for your credit. As a college student, you are probably just starting to develop credit. However, becoming the victim of identity theft early on can put you into a hole right from the beginning. A bad credit score as a result of identity theft can affect your ability to:

  • Open a credit card
  • Take out student loans
  • Buy a car
  • Rent a house or apartment
  • Get the job you want after graduation

That’s right – some employers check job candidates’ credit scores before hiring, so having a bad credit score may ultimately stand between you and your dream job.

Ways to Prevent Identity Theft

So what can you do to protect yourself? Try adopting these responsible behaviors:

  • Beware of Oversharing: Take advantage of privacy settings on social media, and don’t follow any links unless you know the person who posted them. Keep personal information like your birthdate and address off of the internet.
  • Limit Public Wi-Fi Use: A public Wi-Fi network is vulnerable to identity thieves. Never do anything sensitive like shop or check your bank account on an open connection. It’s better to spend a little bit of data than leave yourself vulnerable to attack.
  • Don’t Bother with Credit Card Offers: Those booths offering a free t-shirt if you fill out a credit card application are common sights on college campuses. Do not give your personal information to anyone, even to seemingly reputable individuals. If you need to fill out a credit application, do it online using a secure connection.
  • Lock Up Your Personal Information: Don’t keep documents such as your social security card or other highly sensitive information in your wallet. Get a good quality, easily-concealed lockbox to store your private documents. Also, don’t just leave the lockbox sitting out on the coffee table – hide it, and don’t let your roommates know where it is.
  • Shred Sensitive Material: Documents such as bank statements, bills and credit card offers should be shredded, not simply thrown in the trash. Investing in a $20 paper shredder is a much cheaper and easier option in the long run.
  • Keep an Eye On Your Bank Account: It’s not always the most pleasant sight, but you need to check your bank account regularly. If you detect any unfamiliar activity, contact your bank right away.
  • Cash is King: Avoid carrying around a debit card or checkbook. Instead, try to pay for everything with either cash or a credit card. It’s much easier to correct fraudulent activity with a credit card than with your bank account.
  • Use Unique Passwords: Do not use one password to access all of your social media and financial accounts. Pick out a unique password for every account, and try to avoid writing down any of your passwords.

If you suspect that you might be the victim of identity fraud, contact your bank or credit company immediately. You should also contact all three credit reporting bureaus in order to issue a fraud alert, so that the abuse does not ruin your credit.

Only through due diligence and responsible financial and personal management can you protect yourself from identity theft and credit fraud.

Image by frankieleon, Flickr

Image by frankieleon, Flickr

It’s a milestone, a rite of passage that marks the journey into adulthood: holding your very first credit card with your name in shiny, raised letters.

There’s a sense of freedom in the moment – you can go buy things, no matter what your bank balance shows. But before you peel that “Activate your card now” sticker off and head out to your favorite stores, make sure that you have a handle on what’s about to happen.

Choosing a Card

Card issuers offer a variety of incentives to attract new users. These offers can include waiving the annual fee, zero interest fees for the first year or bonus points that can be put towards future purchases. While the incentives may be appealing, it is important to remember that they are typically temporary. Check out what happens when the initial ‘new card’ phase is over before applying for a card.

Know the Basics

Before using your card, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the card’s key criteria.

Annual Percentage Rate
Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the yearly rate of interest on your credit card. Determined by using an index (such as the U.S. Prime Rate) and adding the bank’s margin, the APR is a method of assessing fees on credit card usage.

The APR for a card can change over time. For example, the card might have an introductory rate or a promotional rate (applicable to balance transfers).

Higher APRs are assigned to individuals with lower credit scores. As both your credit reputation and score improve, see if you can get a lower rate.

Start by talking to your bank and requesting a lower rate. “It’s a simple phone call, and the worst they can say is no,” says Patricia Hasson, executive director of Consumer Credit Counseling Service.

Interest Fees
By calculating the Daily Periodic Rate (the APR divided by 365), credit cards assess fees based on the amount charged on your card. These fees can vary, based on card polices and variable APR rates. Some cards offer an initial grace period for interest fees or offer one year of low interest as an incentive to use their card.

Minimum Payment
The lowest amount of money a cardholder is required to pay each month is known as the minimum payment. Each card has its own formula for determining the minimum payment due, specified in the card agreement.

Card Smarts

Unchecked spending can lead to financial disaster. Before you start swiping the card, make a plan of action.

Use Your Power Wisely
The secret of successful credit card usage is understanding that just because you CAN charge something doesn’t mean that you SHOULD. Credit card use should be filtered through a need vs. want criteria. Taking your credit card out of your wallet when the purchase is a legitimate need will help prevent excessive credit card debt and abuse.

Cash Advances Can Really be a Set-Back
Sometimes, you really ‘need’ some cash. That cash advance option on your card is tempting, but what are the long-term effects of hitting the ATM? Interest rates on cash advances are calculated differently than on purchases, resulting in higher fees and a reduction in your available credit.

Rich Bialek, a credit card industry expert, said, “A cash advance typically would involve a higher APR than a retail purchase because the card company doesn’t earn a merchant fee on a cash advance.”

Keeping an Eye On the Bottom-Line
Most cards come with a credit limit, a maximum amount that can be charged. Spending over that amount can result in additional fees and fines, which can quickly add up. Keep control of your card usage by paying attention to your credit limit and staying under it.

Know Your Chargeback Responsibilities
Chargebacks are a consumer protection mechanism. If you experience fraud, either from a business owner or a criminal, you have the right to a refund. A chargeback is a forced credit card refund, facilitated by the bank that issued your card.

However, chargebacks should only be used in extreme circumstances as a last resort. You should always try to get a refund from the merchant directly before contacting the bank. If you dispute a transaction with the bank instead of dealing with the merchant, you’re engaging in something called friendly fraud. Merchants consider this illegitimate use of the chargeback process to be cyber shoplifting.

There are major consequences for businesses when chargebacks are filed. A credit card expert, Monica Eaton-Cardone, said:

I don’t think the majority of consumers who file friendly fraud chargebacks are doing it to create a consequence. I think… they are ignorant to what really happens behind the scenes. They think that it is just their bank giving them the money back.

Don’t be ignorant of your credit card responsibilities and liabilities.

Paying Off Debt

Using your credit card is easy, but paying it off just doesn’t have the same ‘fun factor.’ However, it’s a necessary part of the credit card system.

Save the date
Many credit card companies allow you to choose your own due date – a feature that can come in handy for planning purposes. Choose a date that is just after payday to ensure that you have funds available to make your credit card payment. Making your payment on time is an important factor in building your credit and preventing additional fees for late payments.

More Than the Minimum
Your credit card statement will tell you the ‘minimum payment’ that you must make to be in compliance with your cardholder agreement. As long as you pay the minimum amount due each month, your account will stay in good standing.

The reality, however, is that by making the minimum payment you may end up paying for items years after your initial purchase. Your interest is calculated on the amount of credit used on the card, increasing the amount you’re actually paying back by sometimes hundreds of dollars. To maximize your credit, make more than the minimum payment each month. Ideally, you should pay the entire balance off every month.

Anisha Sekar, a contributor to Nerd Wallet, also points out that paying the minimum can hurt your credit score:

Thirty percent of your credit score is determined by how much debt you carry… This means that accruing charges on your card and failing to pay them off is like putting a dent in your credit score every month; over time, this adds up to a lot of damage.

Check Your Status

Using credit cards is both good and bad. Used wisely, credit cards can be helpful in an emergency or for making large purchases. Used improperly, however, these cards can have a negative effect on your credit – a result that can haunt you financially for years.

Monitoring your credit is important. Credit bureaus offer consumers free credit reports annually and many credit card companies offer credit reporting as part of their services. Checking your credit report not only lets you see what your financial habits look like, it allows you to keep an eye on any fraudulent activity on your accounts.

Think Long Term

Incorporating basic financial principles into your college education will help establish a reputable credit history that will benefit you for years to come.

Image by Sean MacEntee, Flickr

Image by Sean MacEntee, Flickr

With the summer fast approaching, some students will be getting ready for graduation, while others will just be glad for a break before the fall semester. But, with all of the knowledge and studying that students do during the year, there is one thing that most don’t know much about, and that is credit cards; not to mention the fact that being a college student gives you access to something that most people do not have. You’re able to get a credit card while having little to no credit history. For a normal person with this history, they would most likely have to apply for a secured credit card, which requires them to put money down up front. After a decent amount of time and responsible use, then they can apply for a regular credit card and go about getting their initial deposit back from their secured credit card.

By being in college, you can be approved for a student credit card without having to put down a deposit or jumping through any hoops. As time goes by and you show that you can use a credit card responsibly, you can apply for a better, possibly more rewarding credit card, without any problems.

Your Credit Score

The main reasons to get a student credit card are to start out and to improve your very limited credit history and credit score. Just like your grades in school, your credit score reflects how responsible you are with money and how well you pay back money that you borrow. There are two types of credit: installment and revolving. An example of installment credit is your student loans; you borrow a certain amount of money and promise to pay back a set amount each month until it is paid off. Revolving credit is, for example, a credit card. The amount you spend each month changes, and you have to pay a minimum amount each month or you are charged interest on what is left over, unless you pay it off in full (which is what you should always do).

By utilizing your access to a student credit card, you can prove that you are responsible with revolving credit and improve your credit score in the process.

Why Do You Need a Good Credit Score?

At some point in your life, you will probably want to buy a home, and you will most likely need a mortgage in order to pay for it. The interest rate you are charged on the money you are borrowing will depend on how good your credit score is. The lower your score, the higher interest rate you will pay.

In the future, you may also see an offer for a rewards credit card that you think would be beneficial to you and/or your family. In order to be approved for a rewards credit card, you need to have good credit; otherwise you will be stuck using your debit card or basic credit card, and earning no rewards in the process. Just like your degree, your credit score will be with you for the rest of your life. The difference is that your college classes will end at some point and your grades will be final. You have to keep working on keeping your credit score up for the rest of your life.

I Don’t Have That Much Money, So What Use Will a Credit Card Be?

Using a student credit card to help start and improve your credit score has nothing to do with how much money you spend. Chances are your student credit card will come with a credit limit well under $1,000. In no way does this mean that you need to spend $1,000 every month. In fact, you should always stay under 30% of your credit limit, no matter what credit card you have (this helps improve your credit as well). Just make sure you pay back the balance on your card each month. Find something that you already have the money for, use your credit card to buy it, and pay it back at the end of the month. All you are trying to do is prove that you can pay back money that you are borrowing. It doesn’t make a difference how much it is.

Many people, especially students, are intimidated by credit cards, and think that they will end up with a ton of debt if they get one. Almost everyone today uses a debit card linked to their checking account to make purchases. You wouldn’t go out and spend all the money in your checking account for no reason, would you? No. So why think you would do so with a credit card? Use it to spend money you already have, and remember what you are doing in the process. You are improving your credit score so that in the future you will have more financial options if you need them. It is easier to get a credit card while you’re a student than to start looking after you graduate. Then you will be able to graduate with a new degree and an excellent credit score to match.

This article was contributed by guest author Matthew C.