After graduation, most college students find themselves in one of three situations: They’ve scored a great job and have little debt, they’ve scored a decent job but are drowning in student loan debt, or some combination of both of these scenarios. Regardless of your financial situation and your credit history, the following is a checklist for all college grads to ensure you’re building a strong credit future for yourself.
Mind Your Report and Your Score
While midterm reports and test scores will be a thing of the past, credit reports and credit scores are a big part of your future reality. Pull your credit report at least once each year, check for any errors, and dispute anything that doesn’t match your records immediately.
On Time, Every Time
A huge part of your credit score (and subsequent ability to qualify for the best loan rates) is your ability to pay your bills on time, every time. Even one late payment can affect your credit score, so don’t take chances. Set up reminders or auto bill payment so you never find yourself in the unfortunate situation of a late payment.
Control (and Track!) Your Spending
Having more money and more freedom than you’ve ever had before can be an open door for temptation. Manage that temptation by making smart spending choices. Map out some goals for your future so you can keep yourself in check.
If you ever find yourself in the position where you can’t fully pay off your credit cards each month, it’s time to critically evaluate your spending and make cuts where necessary.
Request Lower Rates
If you’ve done the work to establish a strong credit history and are effectively managing your credit accounts, you’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to negotiating terms for your accounts. That’s right—you can negotiate if you are a savvy consumer!
Every six months, call your credit card companies and request your interest rate to be lowered or your rewards/perks to be increased. As long as you’ve proven your worthiness by paying on time and keeping your balances low or non-existent, most companies will continue to offer better terms to keep your business. Use this to your advantage!
Pay Off Your Debt
Debt is an anchor that can prevent you from reaching your future goals. No matter if it’s student loan, credit card, or mortgage debt, your best course of action is to pay it off as fast as possible. Whenever possible, throw a bit of extra money at your loans. Not only will you be lowering your credit utilization, but you’ll also be saving money on interest!