Parents who have a child going away to college have more to worry about than partying and failing grades.
Two things are a given: 1) New students on campuses will be approached to sign up for credit cards, and 2) students need to know in advance how to handle financial responsibilities. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has issued a special edition of its Consumer News to help young adults and teens manage their money and avoid financial scams.
Here are a few places to start to get your student up to speed:
• Credit cards: Teach your child everything you know about credit-card use, even your own mistakes. Show them how to read the fine print on the disclosure, to be aware of the card’s limit (and how that limit can affect credit scores) and to pay off the full balance each month. Don’t apply for multiple cards (especially if the applications are being handed around on campus by zealous recruiters) and to take advantage of alerts from credit-card companies about payment reminders. If there’s any doubt about your child’s ability to handle payments, aim him or her toward a pre-paid card or one with a very low credit availability.
• Credit reports: Students need to know that potential employers will check their credit history during the job-application process. Insurance companies will do the same, with monthly premiums partially determined by credit scores. At some point, a graduate will need a loan, perhaps for a first car. An initial credit history, although short, will help secure a lower interest rate.
• Picking a bank: As a student, your child will likely only need the most basic of services. If he or she is going away to school, start shopping on the Internet. You’ll need one close to campus that has the lowest possible fees. Check whether there are fees for falling below a minimum required balance, or for an excess number of ATM withdrawals or debit-card transactions. Plan to open an account at the same time you’re moving your student into the dorms.
• Guarding against fraud and scams: Your child needs to know to review bank and credit-card statements the minute they arrive, to keep personal information private, especially online, and to be suspicious of emails that appear to come from the bank.
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