We provide credit tips all the time—after all, helping people pay off debt is what we do best. But one group that often gets overlooked is recent college graduates. Sure, student loans are usually the big concern for this demographic, but recent grads need to be aware of important credit management strategies too. In some cases, students have a carefree lifestyle in college, as their parents pay most of the bills. In other cases, students struggle to make ends meet while in school and find themselves graduating with significant credit card debt. We will covers tips and strategies that will help both of these groups make positive strides with their credit after college.
Credit Tips for after College
Here are three guidelines you should follow to build a solid credit history after college:
Evaluate and Monitor
The first step for recent graduates is to know where you stand, so access your credit report by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com. You should do this even if you have never owned a credit card. That’s because this report will include your student loan information, and it is susceptible to error. According to federal law, you can access your credit report for free once a year at each of the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Read the report to determine if all of the information there is accurate. If you find an error, go the credit bureau’s website and report the error so it can be removed. Be sure to follow up with the bureau consistently until the error is fixed.
If you already have a credit card, make certain to stay current on all accounts, even if it means paying only the minimum. If you have fallen behind, get current as quickly as possible. While an isolated 30-day late payment is not catastrophic, it typically makes a greater impact if the credit file is small (as it will be for recent graduates), because payment history makes up 35% of the credit score. A record of frequent late payments will damage your credit score quickly.
If you are having trouble making payments, don’t open up new credit cards to pay off old cards. Also, don’t ignore bills. Instead, talk to your creditors and explain the hardship you are facing, in detail. People who contact creditors before missing a payment have a better chance of negotiating a payment plan and they suffer less long-term damage to their credit scores.
Why Credit Matters, Especially Now
Students should also know how credit affects other aspects of life after college. Here are a few of those issues to keep in mind as you build your credit history:
- Credit checks are now used by many potential employers. Recent graduates need to be savvy about credit since it could affect potential employment, especially for those who want a job with a bank or other company in financial services. As we’ve discussed, check your credit report and dispute any inaccurate information since it may help during a job search.
- Your credit score will determine the terms you get on loans moving forward. If you need to buy a car, take out a mortgage, or get access to similar forms of essential credit, you will want to have the best credit score possible. By having a good score, you can get the best terms, which means you can save money over the course of a loan.
- After graduation, many students look forward to having real independence for the first time. This means having your own apartment and controlling your own lifestyle. Bad credit can be a big obstacle here. Landlords often run credit reports when potential tenants apply to move in, and utility companies do this too. In fact, they may require a larger deposit from consumers with lower credit ratings.
Opportunities to Build Credit
If you graduate with credit card debt, you will want to make repayment a priority for after college. Doing so will help you regain solid financial footing and set yourself up for a successful future. If you graduate without credit card debt, chances are that you will still have debt—in the form of student loans. While student loans have been widely discussed and are seen as being a “crisis” nationwide, there is some good news here–you can use student loans to build your credit score.
It’s simple: by making timely payments toward your student loans, you will be making positive contributions to your credit report.
For further Reading
We hope that this post has been helpful. Put these tips to work for you today and you can become debt-free and stay that way while fostering a healthy credit rating. If you need help with your credit card debt, be sure to read about our debt management program, and if your student loans are burdensome, try out our student loan counseling.
Check out these articles too, for some alternative tips on boosting your credit:
Thanks for reading!