Heading off to college is exciting. Really exciting. You finally have freedom! You’re out on your own for the very first time, managing your studies, managing your social life and… managing your finances.
Despite being a big part of your newfound independence, personal finance is a subject you probably won’t find on your course schedule. If you didn’t take a personal finance class in high school and never had money lessons from your parents, you may not know how to manage a checking account as a college student.
“College students have very different needs for their checking account than their parents or other adults,” says Tommy Martin, CEO of Clear Path Financial Planning and a finance blogger at TommyMartin.com. If you live in a different city during the school year than you do during winter and summer breaks, for example, you may be after a bank for which location doesn’t matter.
Ok, so how do I manage my checking account in college, you ask? First, don’t get overwhelmed. Learning how to manage money while in college and getting a handle on checking account basics is simpler than you might think (oh, and the skills will serve you for years to come). Second, you can kick off your checking account education with these tips for managing a checking account in college:
1. Compare checking accounts before signing up
While your college life may center around your school campus, you should consider venturing off-campus to pick the right checking account for your lifestyle.
“Students typically sign up with a bank that’s on campus or close to campus,” says Sahil Vakil, a financial planner and president of MYRA Wealth in New Jersey. However, the nearest bank might not be the one that best fits your needs, he adds.
Instead of picking a bank based solely on proximity, consider all of your options, including banks with off-campus locations and online-only banks.
Martin agrees, saying that learning how to manage money while in college means considering all of your banking options rather than “automatically enrolling or choosing the official school bank just because it has the school logo on it.” There are other ways to show your school pride, after all.
2. Learn about checking account fees and rewards
Vakil and Martin both say a tip for managing a checking account in college is to consider an account’s fees before signing up. Costly fees can eat into your savings and spending money, which can be a blow for students who are not working full-time. When you are choosing a checking account in college, consider fees for:
Monthly maintenance (essentially keeping your account open)
Minimum balance (not maintaining one)
Online bill pay
Replacement debit cards
Martin says a checking account with no minimum balance requirement or minimum number of transactions could be a good fit for students. “It allows them to focus on their education” instead of worrying about incurring penalties, he says. “Even a $5 fee on a checking account with $60 in it can be devastating.”
Costly fees can eat into your savings and spending money, which can be a blow for students who are not working full-time.
Martin also suggests finding an account that has a large network of no-fee ATMs located across the country to better manage your checking account as a college student. “Especially if you’re going to a school in a different state, the local bank from home might wind up costing you a lot in terms of ATM fees,” he says. If your parents plan to wire you money, find an account that doesn’t charge incoming wire fees, Martin adds.
While fees should be a focus when you are learning how to manage money while in college, don’t forget about incentives. You may be able to find a checking account that actually helps you grow your balance by paying interest or offering a cash back rewards program.
“If you have to pay for books or supplies, at least you can get some cash back and use it for a free dinner,” Martin says. Discover Cashback Debit, for example, offers 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month.1
Luckily, you don’t need to take Banking 101 to figure out your funds, and tech makes tracking your balance and account activity easier than ever. Most banks let you log in to your account online (don’t get distracted in class!), and with a bank’s mobile app you can transfer money to friends, pay bills, deposit checks and check your balanceâall while you’re on the go.
Knowing your balance at all times is a tip for managing a checking account in college because it can help you avoid overdrafts and insufficient funds fees. It can also help you forecast your income and expenses to ensure you’ll have enough money to cover future costs. Surpriseâthat’s budgeting!
There’s no one-size-fits-all budgeting program or system, though. You can go old-school and track your budget on a printed-out budget sheet, or you can go tech-savvy with a budgeting and spending app. “What’s best for you is the one you’re actually going to use,” Martin says.
If you learn how to manage money while in college and make a practice of maintaining your budget, the habit will follow you after graduation.
âCollege students have very different needs for their checking account than their parents or other adults.â
4. Secure your account
One of Vakil’s tips for managing a checking account in college is to make sure your account stays secure. Create a unique account name and password that you use only for your checking account, and never share your credentials.
Vakil says you can also enable two-factor authentication if your bank offers it and you’re looking for another way to improve the management of your checking account as a college student. “This additional layer of protection safeguards your sensitive financial data and strengthens the security of your account by requiring two methods of verifying your identity.”
For example, if you log in to your account from a new device, you may be sent a text message with a code that you’ll need to enter to access your account.
5. Keep an eye out for debit card holds
No matter where you bank, a merchant may place a hold on funds in your checking account when you use your debit card. Generally, a hold is placed for travel-related purchasesâsuch as at rental car companies, hotels and gas stationsâand used by merchants to protect against fraud and errors.
“Holds on a debit card can make it tricky for you to manage your finances,” Vakil says. For example, “when you rent a car, the car rental company might put a $500 hold on your account. If the balance in your account was $550, now you can only use another $50.”
Being aware of holds can be particularly important if you are managing a checking account as a college student and tend to have a low account balance.
If a merchant will be placing a hold, it will generally post a sign to notify customers. The hold will typically be removed after the funds are transferred to the merchant from your financial institution, typically within three to four days.
Knowing when a hold will be placed, the amount of the hold and how much money you have in your checking account can help you manage your checking account as a college student by avoiding overdrafts and missed bill payments due to insufficient funds.
6. Don’t let one mistake throw you off track
If you can learn how to manage a checking account as a college student, and more generally, how to manage money while in college, you can lay the groundwork for a solid financial future. Checking account mistakes may occasionally happen (oops, I didn’t budget enough for that spring break trip), but don’t let them discourage you to the point of apathy. Instead, try to continually expand your knowledge and practice healthy financial habits.
1Â ATM transactions, the purchase of money orders or other cash equivalents, cash over portions of point-of-sale transactions, Peer-to-Peer (P2P) payments (such as Apple Pay Cash), and loan payments or account funding made with your debit card are not eligible for cash back rewards. In addition, purchases made using third-party payment accounts (services such as VenmoÂ® and PayPal, who also provide P2P payments) may not be eligible for cash back rewards. Apple, the Apple logo and Apple Pay are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. Venmo and PayPal are registered trademarks of PayPal, Inc.
The post 6 Tips for Successfully Managing a Checking Account in College appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.
Have you ever wondered about the uses of a credit card vs. a debit card? It’s likely you have both types of cards in your wallet at this very moment, and you’re given the option to choose one of themâsometimes in a matter of secondsâevery time you make a purchase. Still, you have lingering uncertainty about whether you’re making the best choice… and that same question pops into the back of your mind every time you buy something: “Should I use a credit card or debit card?”
Being uncertain about the difference between a credit card and debit card or the best time to use either is a common dilemma. The better you understand the benefits of eachâbeyond the fact they offer a way to access money without having to carry cash or a checkbook aroundâthe savvier a spender you’ll become.
Managing revolving credit vs. a bank account balance
Credit cards and debit cards both offer a convenient way to pay for things, but they work quite differently behind the scenes. As a result, they each appeal to different types of consumers, says Lou Haverty, financial analyst and founder of Financial Analyst Insider.
A credit card is a form of revolving credit. When you spend with your credit card you are borrowing, and you pay interest if you carry a balance, Haverty says. A debit card, by contrast, is linked to a bank accountâusually a checking accountâand the money is withdrawn as soon as you make the transaction, typically using a PIN.
A difference between credit cards and debit cards is that with a credit card, the exact amount you can spend depends on your credit limit and the balance you are currently carrying on the card, Haverty explains. If you have a $1,000 credit limit and a $600 balance from previous purchases, you can continue to charge an additional $400. If you’ve reached your credit limit, you won’t be able to use the card for more purchases until you pay off at least part of the balance. You owe a minimum payment each month.
When considering credit card vs. debit card, know that most credit cards carry an interest rate, expressed as an annual percentage rate (APR), which is essentially what you pay to borrow. You’ll have to pay interest on that $600 balance mentioned above if you carry the balance from month to month. âCredit cards require a responsible approach to your personal finances because you have the ability to spend beyond what you might have as cash in your bank account,” Haverty says.
A difference between credit cards and debit cards is that with a debit card, funds are pulled directly from the balance you have in the checking account to which the card is linked. In a traditional account setup, you can’t spend more than what you have in the account, which helps reduce the chance of racking up debt. If your account offers overdraft protection, you may be able to spend more than your account balance by leveraging funds from a different, linked bank account.
âCredit cards require a responsible approach to your personal finances because you have the ability to spend beyond what you might have as cash in your bank account.”
Knowing the requirements for each card
Another key difference between a credit card and a debit card is the criteria you’ll need to meet for each. âGetting approved for a credit card is usually dependent on your personal credit score. The higher your credit score, the more likely you are to be approved,” Haverty says. âIf you have a lower credit score, you may still get approved, but you might have a lower credit limit.”
Patricia Stallworth, certified financial planner and money coach, says that in addition to your credit history, factors such as your employment status could play a role in credit card approval.
When analyzing credit cards vs. debit cards, consider that a debit card is typically issued automatically when you open a checking account. This process usually requires some personal information, such as a Social Security number, driver’s license, employment information and valid email address. A deposit may also be needed to fund the account and complete the application. Then stay tuned for your debit card in the mail!
When should I use credit vs. debit?
While it’s easy to have credit card vs. debit card on the mind, there are some scenarios in which using either a debit card or a credit card could fit the bill, depending on your financial needs and goals. Use the outline below as a guide for when the question of “When should I use credit vs. debit?” comes up:
You’re new to using a card to make purchases. Until you know you have the discipline to control your spending with a card, a debit card could be the way to go, as it’s a great tool for ensuring you don’t charge more than you can afford. âDebit cards are great for everyday purchases that you have budgeted for because the money comes directly out of your account,” Stallworth says.
You want cash back without the fees. If your debit card is linked to a checking account that offers rewards, Stallworth says you may have rewards-earning potential without the hassle of fees. âWhile there is generally no cost to participate in debit card rewards programs, the costs and fees may be higher with some credit card programs,” she adds. For instance, Discover Cashback Debit charges no fees1 and allows you to earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month.2
Why should credit cards have all the fun?
Now you can earn cash back with your debit card.
Discover Bank, Member FDIC
You have debt you can’t pay off. When should I use credit vs. debit? âIf you’re struggling to manage or get out of debt, a debit card should be your ‘go-to card,’” Stallworth says. “You can’t get out of debt if you keep charging.”
You want cash at the register. If you still like to have cash in your wallet, consider this difference between credit cards and debit cards: Most retail stores will allow you to get cash at the register when you pay with your debit card. âA credit card will most likely charge you a cash advance fee if that feature is available,” Haverty says.
“Debit cards are great for everyday purchases that you have budgeted for because the money comes directly out of your account.”
Use your credit card if…
You want product coverage.Â Some credit cards come with purchase protection, which makes them a great option for online and large purchases, Stallworth says. “If I have a dispute with a merchant, I have more leverage with a large credit card company behind me.”
You’re trying to build (or rebuild) your credit. âYou will need a single credit card with a small limit that you pay off in full each month to build a credit history,” Haverty says. A key difference between credit cards and debit cards is that debit card usage can’t help you build a credit history. A debit card can help you build strong budgeting skills so you’re better prepared to transition to a credit card.
You want to earn travel rewards. If you’re debating credit card vs. debit card and are focused on travel, consider that credit card rewards programs may offer robust rewards in a specific category, like travel, Stallworth says. While it’s always important to read the fine print (so you’re not paying more than you intend in fees or interest rate charges just to get rewards), you could find a credit card that offers opportunities to earn free flights and pay less for checked baggageâjust for using the card regularly.
How to use both cards to maximize your finances
Now that you understand which circumstances might be best to use a credit card vs. debit card, you can make the point-of-purchase decision of “When should I use credit vs. debit?” a little easier. It really depends on the goals you have laid out for your personal finances.
Get comfortable using both financial tools for their respective features. But be sure to stick to your budget, and don’t accidentally overspend from your bank account or charge more than you can afford to pay in full by your credit card’s monthly due date. When you learn to confidently use both of these cards to your advantage, you can enjoy all the various perks and protectionsâtimes two!
1 Outgoing wire transfers are subject to a service charge. You may be charged a fee by a non-Discover ATM if it is not part of the 60,000+ ATMs in our no-fee network.
2 ATM transactions, the purchase of money orders or other cash equivalents, cash over portions of point-of-sale transactions, Peer-to-Peer (P2P) payments (such as Apple Pay Cash), and loan payments or account funding made with your debit card are not eligible for cash back rewards. In addition, purchases made using third-party payment accounts (services such as VenmoÂ® and PayPal, who also provide P2P payments) may not be eligible for cash back rewards. Apple, the Apple logo and Apple Pay are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.
The post The Difference Between Credit Cards and Debit Cards: Explainedâââ appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.