6 Credit Cards for College Commuters

A long commute to college isn't fun, unless you have a credit card that rewards you for driving and spending money on gas.

[DISCLOSURE: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]

Waking up early to rush to class is never fun, and having to commute to school doesn’t make mornings any easier. Whether you live 15 minutes from campus or more than an hour away, every minute and mile counts. Being a few minutes late can ruin your performance on an exam, and having to drive a few extra miles can wreck your wallet.

While the first rings of an alarm clock might never get less jarring, having a credit card made for commuters can ease your mind during your morning commute. All of these cards offer great perks as well as gas-focused rewards that’ll turn every commute into an opportunity to rack up cash. (It’s a good idea to check your credit before applying for a new card. You can check two of your scores for free on Credit.com.)

1. Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

Rewards: 6% cash back on up to $6,000 in annual spending at supermarkets, 3% cash back at gas stations and select department stores and 1% cash back on everything else.
Signup Bonus: $150 statement credit after spending $1,000 on your new card within the first 3 months.
Annual Fee: $0 intro annual fee for the first year of Card Membership, then a $95 annual fee.
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): Variable 13.99% to 24.99%.
Why We Picked It: The rewards are focused on gas and groceries, plus the APR can be low depending on your credit.
For College Commuters: You’ll save on gas in the long run, and buying snacks for your afternoon commute is more appetizing when you realize how much cash back you earn.
Drawbacks: If you constantly frequent gas stations, you may prefer a card with slightly better rewards on gas.

2. PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card

Rewards: 5% cash back on gas purchases, 3% cash back on groceries and 1% cash back on everything else.
Signup Bonus: $100 Statement Credit when you spend $1,500 in first 90 days.
Annual Fee: None
APR: 0% intro APR on balance transfers for a year, and then variable 9.74% to 17.99%.
Why We Picked It: This card features unlimited rewards and a solid APR, alongside 1% cash back on everything.
For College Commuters: If you have a long commute that requires a lot of gas, this is a great card for racking up gas rewards.
Drawbacks: You have to become a member of the Pentagon Federal Credit Union.

3. BankAmericard Cash Rewards

Rewards: 3% cash back on gas, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on everything else. These rewards are capped at $2,500.
Signup Bonus: $150 cash rewards bonus online after spending $500 on purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening.
Annual Fee: None
APR: 0% APR for a year on purchases, and on balance transfers made within 60 days of opening your account. After that, variable APR of 13.99% to 23.99% will apply.
Why We Picked It: Your rewards never expire and they’re capped at a decent level if you’re not a large spender.
For College Commuters: If you have a shorter commute or very fuel efficient car, this card is for you because it has decent rewards up to a certain point.
Drawbacks: If you drive very often you might use up your rewards quickly.

4. Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card

Rewards: 3% cash back on gas, 2% on groceries and 1% back on everything else.
Signup Bonus: Earn 20,000 bonus points if you use your card to make $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months.
Annual Fee: None
APR: 0% APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers. After that, variable APR will be 13.99% to 25.99%.
Why We Picked It: Your points last five years and there’s no annual fee.
For College Commuters: You can trade your points for cash, which is perfect for buying snacks, car chargers and more for your commute. Or, if your car breaks down during a drive, you can use your points for a rental car.
Drawbacks: The points eventually expire and the APR is on the higher side.

5. Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi

Rewards: 4% cash back on eligible gas purchases up to $7,000 per year. Earn 3% cash back on restaurants and travel, 2% back on Costco purchases and 1% cash back on everything else.
Signup Bonus: None
Annual Fee: $0 (you will need a paid Costco membership)
APR: 0% APR on purchases for seven months, after that, variable 16.24% APR
Why We Picked It: The rewards are excellent and heavily focus on gas. (Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.)
For College Commuters: This card is great for those who are near a Costco during their commute and often get their gas there.
Drawbacks: This card is only available to those with an active Costco membership.

6. Marathon Credit Card by Visa

Rewards: Receive $0.25 rebate per each gallon of gas you purchase when you charge at least $1,000 that month, $0.15 rebate per gallon if you spend at least $500 that month and $0.05 rebate per gallon if you spend less than $500.
Signup Bonus: Receive up to $0.50 per gallon for the first 90 days.
Annual Fee: None
APR: For purchases, 25.99%, 21.99%, or 17.99% when you open your account, based on your creditworthiness. For, balance transfers and cash advances, 26.99%.
Why We Picked It: This credit card focuses on gas and features great rewards.
For College Commuters: Living in the Midwest or Southeast has its perks if you have Marathon gas stations nearby. Whether you’re buying gas frequently for a long commute or only buying it occasionally, you’re still earning rewards.
Drawbacks: The APR for this card is really high. The rebates can only be redeemed as $25 Marathon cash cards that expire after 24 months. This card is only worth it if you frequently go to Marathon for gas.

Image: Georgijevic

At publishing time, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card, Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card and Costco Anywhere Visa® Card are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

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4 Credit Cards for At-Home Gourmet Chefs

Gourmet chefs who love cooking elevated cuisine at home should consider these money-saving credit cards that offer great food-related rewards.

[DISCLOSURE: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]

Cooking at home is a way to hone your skills and try new dishes without having to shell out big bucks at a fancy restaurant. When making gourmet cuisine from the comfort of your own home, there are plenty of ways to save money on quality ingredients. Cooking every day can end up being expensive, especially if you’re making food that’s organic or exotic.

All of your grocery shopping and driving expenses can add up, so if you’re someone who loves to cook elevated food at home, you’ll want a credit card that rewards you for your spending. Read on for our picks for the best credit cards for at-home gourmet chefs. (If you plan to apply, be sure your credit score is high enough to qualify. You can check two of your scores for free on Credit.com.)

1. Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

Rewards: 6% cash back at the supermarket on up to $6,000 of purchases per year. Any purchases over your $6,000 limit will still earn you 1% cash back. Additionally, there are 3% cash back rewards on gas.
Signup Bonus: $150 statement credit after spending $1,000 on your new card within the first three months.
Annual Fee: $95
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for a year, and then variable 13.99% to 24.99%.
Why We Picked It: The rewards are excellent and the APR can be relatively low, depending on your creditworthiness.
For Gourmet Chefs: This card is perfect for someone who spends ample time grocery shopping and cooking to their heart’s desire. The gas rewards are great if you’re someone who loves to scour faraway, specialty markets for the most authentic tahini paste.
Drawbacks: If you prefer to shop for ingredients online instead of spending at supermarkets and gas stations, this card won’t hold as much value for you.

2. PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card

Rewards: You’ll get 3% back on all supermarket purchases, 5% back on gas purchases and 1% back on all other purchases.
Signup Bonus: $100 statement credit after spending $1,500 in the first 90 days.
Annual Fee: None
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 0% intro APR on balance transfers for a year, and then variable 9.74% to 17.99%. 9.74% to 19.99% on purchases.
Why We Picked It: The intro APR (for balance transfers) period is long and the rewards are extremely good, plus there’s no annual fee.
For Gourmet Chefs: With all the points you earn, you can redeem rewards like dining gift cards and trips to food destinations, so this card is perfect for any foodie looking to spend on food in order to receive amazing food-related rewards.
Drawbacks: You have to become a member of the Pentagon Federal Credit Union.

3. Chase Freedom

Rewards: 5% cash back on up to $1,500 of purchases per quarter for rotating spending categories, unlimited 1% cash back on everything else.
Signup Bonus: Earn a $150 bonus after you spend $500 in your first three months from account opening. Also earn a $25 bonus after adding an authorized user and making your first purchase within the same three month period.
Annual Fee: None
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 0% introductory APR for the first 15 months. Then, variable 15.99% to 24.74%.
Why We Picked It: There’s no annual fee and the rotating reward categories are beneficial for those who like to spread out their rewards.
For Gourmet Chefs: The rewards categories vary from gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants so this card is perfect for a chef who likes to explore and try new foods. You’ll get 1% back on cookware and cookbooks, too.
Drawbacks: The APR is relatively high, and you don’t get to pick your own rewards categories. They’re selected each quarter by Chase.

4. Golden 1 Platinum Rewards

Rewards: 3% cash back on gas, grocery and restaurant spending, plus 1% cash back on everything else.
Signup Bonus: None
Annual Fee: None
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 7.79% to 13.79%.
Why We Picked It: There are solid rewards and low rates, and no annual fee.
For Gourmet Chefs: Considering all the groceries you’ll be buying, you might as well save money while you expand your culinary repertoire at home. Plus, California is a large state — if you find yourself driving great lengths for food then this card is for you.
Drawbacks: You have to live in California to apply for this credit card, and there’s also no introductory APR period.

Image: Peopleimages

At publishing time, the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card and Chase Freedom card are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

The post 4 Credit Cards for At-Home Gourmet Chefs appeared first on Credit.com.

How to Choose Your First Credit Card

Picking your first credit card can seem overwhelming, but by keeping in mind a few key tips, you'll be able to make the right decision with confidence.

Whether you’re a teenager without credit history or an adult who’s familiar with loans and debit cards, choosing your first credit card can be tough. The prospect of finding a card may seem overwhelming, but with the right knowledge, you’ll be able to choose the right card and begin building your credit. Here are several things to consider when choosing your first credit card.

1. Do Your Research

Be aware of what getting a credit card entails, especially because credit mistakes can negatively affect your life and financial standings for a long time. Whether you’re scouring the Internet, speaking with a credit expert or reading our site, it’s important to learn as much as you can before taking the plunge. Being well-versed in the process of applying for and using credit cards will benefit you in the long run. Don’t skimp on research.

2. Ensure You Have Steady Income

Credit card issuers typically require a verifiable income when someone is looking to apply for their first credit card. After all, being able to repay your balance is the key to getting approved for a credit card. Lenders need to know that you’ll pay them back and that they can trust you. Federal law requires that adults under age 21 have income before they can be approved for a credit card without a cosigner. So if you’re a young adult, consider getting a part-time job so you don’t have to find someone to cosign.

3. Choose Wisely

There are plenty of credit cards to choose from. It can be overwhelming to sort the possibilities. While searching, focus on your main concerns and struggles. Are you worried about paying bills on time? Consider a card with a low annual percentage rate. Aren’t sure you’ll have enough self-control for a credit card? A secured credit card could be a great option. There’s a credit card that works for everyone. Don’t choose a credit card because of a cool design or dreamy rewards without checking all of the details.

4. Read the Fine Print

Before you choose your first credit card, make sure you’ve read the terms and checked the fees, rewards and interest rates. A bad combination of card features could come back to bite you if you aren’t careful when signing up for a card. 

5. Consider a Secured Credit Card

Speaking of secured cards, they’re a great option for your first card for several reasons. (Not sure what a secured card is? This article explains it all.) As long as you pay responsibly, your score goes up, and you can switch to an unsecured, card. Some secured cards give you cash back, or offer no annual fees. Your deposit acts as your credit limit, so if you can only pay a security deposit of $200, you’ll have a $200 limit. Having a lower limit shouldn’t be an issue, though, because you’re just starting out with credit. 

Barry Paperno, a credit expert who writes for Speaking of Credit, says a secured card is the way to go for first-time credit card owners. “You can build a really good credit score with just a secured card,” Paperno said. “Plus, because of the security deposit, you won’t have an unpaid charge-off at the end.”

6. Avoid Cards That Require Excellent Credit

Being denied credit doesn’t affect your credit score, but your score is still affected by lenders looking into your credit history. If you apply for your first credit card and it’s out of reach, you’ll end up stuck in a loop of hard inquiries and rejections. “Most card lenders won’t even give you an unsecured card if you have no history,” Paperno said. If you’re not sure where your credit stands, check out your free credit report snapshot on Credit.com.

7. Use Loans to Your Advantage

Essentially, a positive loan history can show card issuers that you’re low risk and are capable of paying them back on time. Loans count as credit, so if you pay them back responsibly that positive information will remain on your credit report for 10 years after being closed. Conversely, a negative loan history will stay on your report for seven years. A loan that’s closed won’t help generate a credit score, but it still looks good to lenders on your report. (For more on loans and their connection to credit, visit our Loan Learning Center.)

8. Become an Authorized User 

A great way to get your first credit card while limiting the responsibility and pressure is by becoming an authorized user. Paperno recommends this as a simple way to build your credit score. This way, you can have a credit score without actually having your own credit card. If you eventually want your own card, being an authorized user makes your score and report look significantly better to lenders.

But remember — if the person whose card you’re becoming an authorized user on falls behind on payments your credit will be impacted as well. Choose someone you trust with a good credit history.

Ultimately, choosing your first credit card is a big decision but an important one. Remember to take the time to research and find which option is best for you when opening your first credit card and every card that follows.

Image: PeopleImages

The post How to Choose Your First Credit Card appeared first on Credit.com.

5 No-Heat Meals That Will Save You Money This Summer

It’s hard to justify using heat to cook when it only makes you lose money, and time, so read on for some great no-heat meals to make now.

This summer, try preparing no-heat meals to save money on air conditioning and expensive foods that require heat. Using your stove and oven in the summer can release extra heat into your home — the last thing you want during the warmest months. This extra heat means turning up your air conditioning, resulting in extra expenses. Even when grilling, the cost of coals or fuel can quickly add up.

If you want to avoid using heat to cook because it cuts into your comfort or your budget, read on for some great no-heat meals to make now.

1. Barbecue Chicken Sandwich

If you can’t stay away from meat, opt for a previously cooked option like rotisserie chicken because it’s easy to pick up from your local store. You can slice, pull or shred it to add protein to any no-heat dish. Additionally, a rotisserie chicken can serve four to five people for only $5. You can make a barbecue chicken sandwich using rotisserie chicken, store-bought barbecue sauce and pickled vegetables, like cucumbers, to create a hearty meal perfect for a quick dinner or lunch in the summer. Even if barbecue isn’t your thing, food website Delish has plenty of sandwich recipes that use rotisserie chicken. Bonus: All the components can be prepared ahead of time, making them perfect for picnics or travel.

2. Tomato Gazpacho

Summer is tomato harvesting season, so take advantage of the cheaper produce offerings with a refreshing tomato gazpacho. This cold soup is perfect because it’s vegetarian, low-calorie and has 10 or fewer ingredients. RealSimple.com has a version of gazpacho that features corn and cucumbers, two more staple summer vegetables. If you like, you can serve the gazpacho with garlic-rubbed crostini to add an element with contrasting texture.

3. Vegetable Salad With Peanut Butter Dressing

Salads are a great healthy option and the slightly decadent peanut butter dressing adds just the right amount of sweetness and richness to the dish. The Kitchn has a recipe for tofu and broccoli salad that also uses peanut butter dressing. The salad is so fun and colorful it might help persuade your kids to eat their vegetables. Some recipes call for baked tofu, but for a no-heat version of this dish you can use raw tofu. Opting for vegetarian meals will also help you cut costs, as tofu is cheaper than meat and just as versatile.

4. Unicorn Summer Rolls

One of the hottest trends right now is rainbow, or unicorn, food. From bagels to sushi to cake, people are making all their favorite foods colorful. No-heat unicorn summer rolls are perfect to make to keep up with trends while maintaining a budget. Today.com has a great version of this easy recipe. Fresh, seasonal produce can be inexpensive, and it’s easy to chop and shred everything on your own. Plus, a key ingredient, rice paper wrappers, are only 10 cents each. With their color and veggies, these rolls are fun for everyone and filling enough for an affordable summer lunch.

5. Picnic in a Glass

One of the greatest summer pastimes is having a picnic. Nothing beats heading to the beach or park with friends to enjoy fresh air and a flavorful meal. A “Picnic in a Glass” is an ideal no-heat dish to bring to a real picnic, or enjoy from the comfort of your own home. Made in a mason jar, this dish is convenient and pre-portioned, which makes serving and cleanup a breeze. If you’re looking for a recipe, MyRecipes.com has an easy one. A tangy yogurt dressing adds dimension to leftover or store-bought shredded chicken. Load the jar up with vegetables to complete your no-heat meal.

While shopping for ingredients for these no-bake summer meals, consider using rewards cards for extra value. There are plenty of great grocery store rewards cards but they often require decent credit. Before applying, see where you stand. You can check two credit scores for free at Credit.com.

Image: Geber86

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Mochi, Poke, Burgers, and More! How to Take Advantage of the New Options at Whole Foods

If you haven't been inside of Whole Foods lately, you'll be amazed by the new options they're offering — from mochi to fresh juice, they've got everything.

If you haven’t been to a Whole Foods recently, you may be surprised by the changes happening in some of their larger stores. Many stores have changed their look and moved toward a business model that keeps customers in the store longer whether they’re eating, hanging out or shopping. Several of the new changes have gotten some attention online, like their mochi station and wine bar. (These updated Whole Foods features aren’t in every store, so check your local Whole Foods store to see which perks are available.) Here’s a look at some of these new features.

Do-It-Yourself Food Stations

Mochi Bar

This newest addition to Whole Foods has gone viral on Instagram and Facebook. People are obsessed with mochi, a delectable handheld Japanese ice cream. Some Whole Foods stores now have a mochi bar where you can mix and match your favorite flavors of mochi, and take them home in a to-go container.

Trail Mix Station

The bulk section of a grocery store is anything but novel, but Whole Foods takes the personalization factor to the next level. Their new “Make Your Own Trail Mix” station features every trail mix staple imaginable. It’s easy to grab a container and create the trail mix of your dreams.

Bakery

Instead of waiting in line for a busy bakery assistant to help you at a counter, you can now grab a variety of Whole Foods baked goods yourself. From brownies to cookies to doughnuts, you can pick up whatever you want.

Gelato Counter

At Whole Foods, an employee can serve you smooth, rich gelato made in-house daily. This creamy treat will keep you happy as you peruse the rest of the store’s pickings. Gelato flavors include banana pudding, double dutch chocolate, pomegranate, and more. They also have vegan options such as berry sorbets.

In-Store Restaurants

Custom Poke Bowls

Poke, raw fish salad hailing from Hawaii, is a big food craze right now. The salad can be light and healthy depending on which toppings you add. Whole Foods sells custom Poke bowls, so essentially you choose your fish, sauce and toppings and an employee prepares it for you. A bowl costs $9 to $14 depending on the ingredients.

Diner

You don’t need to leave Whole Foods to find a diner with a classic, old-timey feel. With the exception of booth seating with red upholstery, this diner has much of the fare you’d expect. They have milkshakes and any type of burger you could want — including a vegan option. Some locations also offer poutine, a Canadian staple made of french fries, cheese curds and gravy.

Smokehouse

If you’re a meat lover, you’ll appreciate the new Smokehouse addition to Whole Foods stores. They have classic barbecue picks as well as rotisserie options, so there’s something for everyone. Their almost life-changing brisket burnt ends are must-tries. (While you’re at it, check out 50 things you must eat before you die!)

Taqueria

If you live in or near El Segundo, California you’re lucky enough to have the Korean-Mexican fusion spot, Kogi Taqueria, inside your Whole Foods Store store. Their specialties include short rib tacos, kimchi quesadillas, and classic burritos. They also have Korean hot wings. Outside of El Segundo, several stores have traditional taquerias with classic rice, beans, and other authentic Mexican picks.

Pizzeria

The smell of fresh pizza is always enticing, so the Whole Foods pizzeria definitely wins with their pies featuring delicious toppings. You can order your favorite pizza by the slice or a whole pizza to go. The pizza is made fresh.

Juice Bar

Whole Foods focuses on promoting a healthy lifestyle, so the addition of a juice bar aligns with their brand. You can choose a juice from their menu that’s made to order, or buy premade options for a cleansing experience or quick snack.

Wine Bar

If you want the advice of a sommelier without having to fly to France or Napa, look no further than your neighborhood Whole Foods. After scouring the wine selection, you can pick a wine and pour a few glasses to enjoy in the store before bringing the rest of the bottle home. Don’t want the whole bottle? You can also order a glass or two per recommendation of the staff. They also have charcuterie boards and cheese plates to accompany your wine choices.

And More!

Some of the larger Whole Foods stores also have Allegro Coffee Bars, cocktail bars, ramen stations, and more. If you live near one of these deluxe Whole Foods stores, be sure to explore those options even we haven’t tried yet. (And, while you’re there, remember to stick to your budget!)

Natural Skin Care

Whole Foods is primarily a grocery store, but they sell more than food. Some stores offer clothing and bags made of natural materials. Whole Foods holds its skin care products to high standards. On the Whole Foods website there’s a list of more than 75 ingredients that aren’t allowed in the skin care products they sell. Most of what they sell is plant-based and natural, which appealing to anyone trying to lead a more organic lifestyle. Whole Foods doesn’t support products tested on animals and they even feature numerous vegan product lines. The products they sell vary from makeup to hair care to facial and body soaps.

Cooking Classes

While some Whole Foods stores have had cooking classes for a while, several stores have recently started hosting classes. Their classes are aimed at beginner or intermediate home cooks, and some are even open to teenagers. If you love shopping at Whole Foods but don’t know how to cook many dishes, these classes are perfect, as they feature ingredients from the store and focus on easy-to-replicate dishes. You can also save on the ingredients by using our tips for saving money at Whole Foods. Good luck becoming a master of local, organic cuisine!

When shopping at Whole Foods and indulging in all of these fun perks, remember to stay on budget! There are a lot of great rewards credit cards that give you cash back when spending on groceries. These cards often require decent credit, so before applying check your credit score to see if you qualify. You can get two credit scores for free at Credit.com.

Image: krblokhin

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8 Common Credit Card Mistakes You Might Be Making

Credit cards are a super convenient financial tool, but they can often be confusing.

Do you have a credit card in your wallet? Chances are, you do. And if you’re one of these plastic carriers, you probably want to be using that card the best possible way, right? Well, you may be making some mistakes without even realizing it. To help, we’ve rounded up eight common mistakes to help you discover if you have one of these habits and ultimately correct it.

1. Paying Your Bills Late

“What can do you the most harm is paying late, or not paying at all,” credit score expert Barry Paperno said.

Late payments affect your credit score, plus the late fees and interest quickly add up. Besides all of the effects that hit you right away, Paperno said it can take years to recover from numerous late payments. And if you let it go too long, you could be hit with a charge-off (the point, usually after six months without payment, at which the lender writes your account off as a loss), which stays on your credit report for seven years.

2. Closing a Card You Don’t Really Use

Despite the fact that you never use a particular credit card, closing that card isn’t necessarily the answer. When you close cards, you affect your credit history, usually negatively.

“Don’t make the mistake of closing cards,” Paperno said. “Especially if you think it will help your score, because that will never raise your score.”

When you decrease the amount of credit available to you, you end up increasing your credit utilization ratio, which can hurt your credit. Instead of closing a card, consider simply using it every so often and keep the account active. There are times when closing the card may make sense, like if it carries an annual fee that is hurting your budget, but you’ll want to think about it carefully before making a decision.

3. Not Requesting Changes to Your Terms

While card issuers might seem intimidating, you could be making a mistake by not attempting to change your terms. You could potentially negotiate a lower interest rate or annual fee, helping out your budget in the process. If you’re trying to rid yourself of a balance quickly, call your credit card company. They may help you get a lower interest rate if you just ask.

4. Spending Money Just to Get Rewards

If you find yourself using your credit card unnecessarily to earn rewards, it could be costing you. Rewards are fantastic, but altering your spending habits just to get free stuff isn’t going to be as beneficial as it may sound. If you overspend and carry a balance, you’ll likely lose all those rewards to interest charges.

5. Not Knowing Your Credit Score

If you don’t check your credit score regularly, you’re not educating yourself as much as you could be. Your credit is considered in a lot of situations, from when you apply for a mortgage or car loan to a version of your credit reports being reviewed by a potential employer as part of the application process. Haven’t checked yours in a while? You can see your free credit report snapshot on Credit.com.

6. Only Paying the Minimum Balance

If you only pay your minimum balance each month, you’ll likely end up having to pay more interest down the line. While it might seem like a quick fix to save your money and pay the minimum, in reality you’re dragging out how long it’ll take to pay your entire balance. Keep avoiding those late fees, but if you can, you’ll want to pay more than the minimum.

7. Applying for Out-of-Reach Credit Cards

“Another common credit card mistake is probably applying for too many cards, the wrong cards, or both,” Paperno said.

By applying for a card you aren’t qualified for, you end up without a card and with a “hard inquiry on your report for the next two years,” he added.

While your credit score isn’t directly affected by being denied credit, the more hard inquiries on your credit report, the more dings you’ll see to your scores. Make sure you are a good candidate before applying for any type of credit card.

8. Spending More Money Than You Actually Have

Having a credit card often allows people to make the mistake of overspending. It’s a mistake to charge your credit cards close to their limit, Paperno said. Just as closing a card will raise your credit utilization, so will coming close to your credit limit. Either move can hurt your credit score.

Making Positive Credit Choices

To avoid these eight mistakes from the start, make sure you educate yourself. You don’t have to know everything, but you should be aware of how to be responsible with your credit cards. When a car, house or student loan is on the line, you should be knowledgeable and ready, not hurting from your previous credit card mistakes.

“If you pay on time, keep your balances low and apply for new credit only when you need it,” you’ll be in good shape, Paperno said.

Image: Peopleimages

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10 Money Mistakes College Students Should Avoid

Most students don't have a ton of margin for financial error, so be sure to avoid these mistakes.

College is the first time many teenagers are in charge of their own finances, which can be a recipe for mistakes. I know I was definitely nervous to keep of track of my finances on top of being overwhelmed by school and making new friends.

Most students aren’t swimming in money when they head to college, so they don’t actually have a lot of room for financial errors if they don’t want to be stressed about money for the rest of the year, or even their entire academic career. If you’re going to college soon, are in college or have kids in college, read on to learn more about the solutions to the 10 common money mistakes college students make.

1. Overusing a Credit Card

While swiping a credit card all the time might feel painless, this method of spending money can become harmful. Failing to pay off your credit card balance can lead to high interest payments if you’re not careful. (See how your spending affects your credit with a free credit report snapshot on Credit.com)

2. Going Out Just Because Your Friends Go Out

In college you can make friends with people who come from different backgrounds. Some of your friends might be super wealthy, or they may just spend their money irresponsibly. Either way, “going with the flow” could end up costing you a lot. Find ways to say no to your friends’ constant requests to order pizza delivery, or try to get a job so you have some extra cash to use when you hang out with your friends who are a little more careless with money.

3. Not Looking for Scholarships

College counselors will tell you that scholarships are like free money. If you don’t take the time to apply for scholarships, you’ll never realize how much money (that you’ll never have to give back) you could be receiving. Even small scholarships can add up if you receive several of them. You can win scholarships even if you’re not a freshman.

4. Skipping Classes

Sleeping in every once a while or skipping class because you just don’t feel like going is actually costing you a lot of money. At some of the country’s most expensive colleges each hour of class can cost upwards of $150. Going to all of your classes helps diminish your chances of failing a class, which is ideal because if you fail you’ll only have to pay more to take the same class again.

5. Missing Out on Free Stuff

Going to college gives you a ton of perks — think of the libraries, gyms and cultural experiences all around you. Instead of leaving campus to go to a gym, the movies or a restaurant, you should use the gym at school, go to movie nights that clubs host and scout out free food to save money. (Here are 50 things you can get for free.)

6. Buying All Your Supplies at the Campus Bookstore

New textbooks already cost a ton, and after they’re marked up at the campus bookstore they cost even more. You should buy used versions of your school books if you can, but always check Amazon and other online marketplaces, as they might be even cheaper than anything at the bookstore. Renting books is another solution, too.

7. Not Doing Your Research When Shopping

Students need to learn the art of comparison shopping so they don’t just buy the first thing on the shelf at Target. If you take a few minutes to check the price of your favorite body wash on a couple of sellers’ websites, you’ll find it easy to always buy the cheapest products.

8. Spending All Your Money

Budgeting is something many college students neglect to do, and that comes back to bite them. If you finally have a supply of money and no parents telling you to what to do with it, the first thing to cross your mind probably isn’t “I should save half of my money!” You’ll probably be tempted spend it all. Think of all the things you want to do in the future: have a job, own a house and maybe have kids. If you don’t save your money, it’ll be harder to make those dreams a reality.

9. Confusing What You Want With What You Need

Many students struggle to tell the difference between what they need and what they want. I sometimes feel like I need Starbucks, but in reality I’m just overspending by buying a shaken iced tea every day.

Instead of spending on things they only want, students should think before they buy, or find cheaper ways to get what they want—like making their own coffee or buying tea bags in bulk.

10. Staying in School Longer

Education is amazing, but the cost of staying in college for an extended period of time? Not so much. If you have student loans, your debt will only increase. On top of that, students with more debt are already putting themselves behind for life after college. Make sure you plan for the future, and try your best to graduate on time so you don’t have to lose extra money by staying in school longer.

Image: andresr

The post 10 Money Mistakes College Students Should Avoid appeared first on Credit.com.

16 Ways for Broke College Students to Cut Costs

Budgeting can be a struggle for many college students.

Every college student is familiar with the struggle of budgeting. Between tuition, housing and dining hall meal plans, college doesn’t come cheap. Unfortunately, many of these mandatory expenses make college students pressed for money the moment they step on campus. According to the National Center for Education Statistics about 85% of four-year college students receive some type of financial aid, which suggests most students on campus don’t have the financial resources to splurge whenever they feel like it.

To help you during your time at college, here are 16 tips that can help you save money, and in some cases, time or the environment.

1. Show Your Student ID While Making Purchases

College students spend a lot of money, so small business owners are very appreciative of the presence of a university. Many local businesses in college towns, and surrounding cities, give college students discounts so long as they show their university IDs.

2. Buy Things in Bulk

Toiletries, food, water, cleaning supplies, socks — you name it, college students should buy it in bulk if their living situation has enough storage space. Making bulk purchases at stores like Costco, Target or Walmart can help you save in the long run. Plus, if you end up with extra food or supplies, you can sell that inventory to friends or hall mates.

3. Use Groupon or Other Online Coupon Services

Groupon currently has an offer where college students get 25% off local deals. Taking advantage of these discounts can help college students save on services like haircuts, yoga classes, manicures, fitness gyms and more.

4. Take Public Transportation

It’s true we’re living in the age of Uber and Lyft, and sure, it might be faster to drive most places, but you’ll save so much cash in college if you take public transportation. Plus, utilizing buses and trains is better for the environment.

5. Use Cash Instead of Credit

Research from NYU professor Priya Raghubir and University of Maryland professor Joydeep Srivastava shows that using physical cash makes people less likely to overspend because they “feel the outflow of money” more directly. Spending too much on a credit card can also lead to high interest charges if you don’t pay the balance in time. Cost-conscious college students may want to trade plastic for paper. (See how your credit card spending affects your finances with a free credit report snapshot on Credit.com.)

6. Find Free Food on Campus

College campuses are overflowing with student organizations and sports teams, so there’s usually something happening on campus all the time. One of the main ways clubs get people to come to their events: free food. Scoping out events with complimentary food will save you a few bucks, and you might meet new friends by checking out a performance or club meeting.

7. Buy Online or Used Textbooks

New hardback textbooks are some of the expensive required materials a professor can expect you to buy. Instead of buying an actual textbook, go for an online version, which can be much cheaper. If an online version of a textbook doesn’t exist, try to buy a used version from a friend or an online site.

8. Sell Your Textbooks at the End of the School Year

When all your books pile up after finals, don’t just take them home and let them collect dust on the shelf. Instead, sell them to underclassmen you know, or use services like bookscouter.com or half.com to sell them. Some university bookstores buy back textbooks as well.

9. Track Your Spending

College students often go wrong when they make numerous purchases but eventually lose track of them due to having so much on their minds. Utilizing an app like Mint or even a trusty pen and notebook, students can track their spending and see if they’re adhering to their budgets. If you are constantly aware of how much you’re spending, you’ll be less likely to spend money on unnecessary items.

10. Don’t Sign Up for Subscriptions You Can’t Afford

While Netflix and Hulu might seem reasonably inexpensive, those seven to ten bucks a month quickly add up! If you really need a binge-watching fix, you can always borrow DVDs from the library on campus. Other subscription services like Amazon Prime, Spotify and Pandora can also cause you to lose money over time. Canceling those services can help students avoid monthly payments that rack up.

11. Borrow Books From the Library

Along similar lines, some English or humanities classes require five or more books per semester. To save money, borrow the books from the library instead of buying new paperbacks every time.

12. Get Free Refills on Coffee & Tea

It can be super difficult to stay away from caffeine, especially when you’re a college student spending long hours in the library. To save money, head to a chain that gives out free refills on your favorite caffeinated drinks. Starbucks offers free refills of hot, or iced, brewed coffee and tea. Most McDonald’s and Panera Bread locations also provide free refills on hot drinks, and soft drinks, too.

13. Keep Snacks on You During the Day

Food at campus cafes or markets, or even in vending machines, can be overpriced. So when it’s time for an afternoon snack, make sure you’re prepared with snacks of your own. This way, you’ll save a few cents or dollars each time you get hungry, and eventually that money accumulates.

14. Go Thrift Shopping

Besides being a fun activity to do with friends, thrift shopping is a great way to save money. It’s a smart move to save money on trendy clothes you might not wear for very long, especially in college towns or cities with ever changing weather.

15. Skip the School Supplies

Instead of wasting money on pencils, notebooks and highlighters, take notes on your laptop or tablet. Not only does this trick save the environment, but also it allows you to avoid unnecessary spending on school supplies you’ll just have to repurchase for the next school year.

16. Cut Back on Buying Music

Sure, iTunes is great, but constantly buying the newest songs from your favorite artists can be a big hit to your wallet. To save, consider using a service like Spotify or Pandora to get free music whenever you want. If you really can’t stand advertisements, Spotify offers a student discount for its premium subscription that comes without ads!

Want a few more ways to save money? Here are 50 free things you can get this year

Image: gradyreese 

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