Among all the commitments and worries a student has to juggle, one has become especially emphasized lately. On many campuses, students on their way to class are bombarded with messages convincing them to sign up for credit cards. The interest rates are exorbitant and they may not be able to afford more than minimum monthly payments, but they don’t know this yet… until they fall into the trap of credit card debt.

There are students out there who know how to properly use a credit card, but they are few and far between, as high school typically does not teach important money management and personal finance skills. Credit card companies do an excellent job of convincing many people that a credit card is absolutely necessary in today’s modern world, and minimizing the perceived threat of only making minimum payments or calling an exorbitant interest rate a great one to convince people to sign up. In this climate, it’s very much “buyer beware” – and if you’re a student or you know a student who is considering signing up for a credit card, you should be aware of the dangers of doing this.

Credit cards are useful for some things. If you pay off the full balance each month during the “grace period” when no interest is charged, it allows you to keep hold of your money a little longer or wait for the rest of your money to be deposited from your employer, as long as you make sure you don’t spend what you’ve earmarked for repaying the credit card bill, and that you will indeed have enough money to pay it off if something happens with your paycheck, for instance. Also, some hotels, etc, require a credit card for a reservation.

Yet the financial situation of most students doesn’t include spare money to visit fancy hotels or anywhere else that will likely require a credit card, and if it does, those trips aren’t frequent. Most students either don’t have a job or have a small, part-time one that isn’t sufficient to pay off large credit card bills. With the exorbitant interest charged by many credit card companies, they aren’t prepared to pay double or more of the original price of the item.

If a credit card is to be used, responsibility is the key. Keep a close watch on your balance, how much money you have to pay off said balance, and how many days you have to pay off the credit card. If your payment comes a day or two late, many companies will mark it as late and damage your credit or charge extra fees. Also, make sure your credit card is the best you can get – look for long grace periods and low interest rates, and don’t accept any that come in the mail without you even applying for one. Those are often the worst offenders as far as fees go!

By now, hopefully you agree that going without a credit card is one of the most financially sound decisions a student can make. It may cause some hardship and tight spots here and there, but it will help students avoid getting into crushing debt before they even get their first “real job” or graduate university.