Money can be tight at university. From managing rent and bills for the first time to covering course costs and your social life, you might feel stretched financially.
Luckily, there are a number of ways you can manage your finances, including dedicated student bank accounts, interest-free overdrafts, and a strong student budget.
Another potential tool to help with unexpected expenses is a student credit card.
Like overdrafts, when used responsibly, student credit cards can cover the gaps when you know you have money incoming but need to make a payment now. At the same time, they can help build your credit history for when you graduate. It’s worth remembering that if you can’t keep up with your monthly repayments, credit card debt can quickly grow.
Normally, to successfully apply for a credit card, you will need to have built up a good credit history. However, that’s unlikely, considering the age of most students. Student credit cards therefore allow young adults with little to no financial history to access credit.
Below we take a careful look at student credit cards, how you can apply for one, and what to consider before applying.
How to apply for a student credit card
Although there is not an abundance of providers offering specific student credit cards in the UK, they do exist.
To be eligible, you will first need to open a student bank account with one of the banks in question. To do so, you will need to be over 18 and a resident in the UK. This means if you are an international student, you’re unlikely to be eligible for a student credit card.
Some providers may also require you to have a regular income and have had your student account opened for at least three months.
If you meet the various criteria, you can apply online using your banking login, or in branch.
Be aware, however, that even if you meet these requirements, your application is not guaranteed to be successful.
What to look out for
When weighing up your student credit card options, there are a number of factors to consider. These include:
- Credit limits: Depending on the provider, and your individual circumstances, you will be given a specific credit limit. This limit could go up to a maximum of £1,000. You should not exceed this limit, as it can affect your credit score and may cause you to incur charges and potentially get into debt.
- Fees: Though there is no annual fee for having a student credit card, there will be charges related to cash withdrawals, balance transfers, foreign exchange transactions and exceeding your credit limit. You should carefully compare each provider’s fees before applying.
- Interest rates: Your credit card’s interest rate will dictate the amount you pay for using your card, if you do not repay the borrowed balance within your specified interest-free period. Representative APR (annual percentage rate) can be used to compare the interest rates of various providers.
Should I get a student credit card?
Having and using a credit card is a big responsibility. Before applying for a student credit card, you should make sure you are confident you will be able to repay your balance within the interest-free period. If you have doubts about your ability to do so, then you should reconsider.
You should also ideally only use your credit card when you know you have the money to cover your balance in full.
This could be for emergencies, for example if a rent payment needs to be taken before your student loan arrives in your account. Or for big purchases where you want added consumer protection, but still have the funds available immediately – for example, when you’re buying a laptop.
» MORE: Do I need a credit card?
Benefits and disadvantages of a student credit card
There are a number of benefits to consider when deciding whether or not to apply for a student credit card. These include:
- The chance to build up your credit history and improve your credit score, which could help you get a loan or mortgage in the future.
- Greater consumer protection via Section 75. This may be especially useful when buying expensive items online, for example, as it covers purchases over £100 and up to £30,000.
- Access to credit to cover unforeseen expenses.
- If used responsibly, once you graduate you may be able to get a better credit card offer.
However, it is even more important to be aware of the following:
- You should only borrow what you can affordif you do not want to incur credit card debt.
- You will have to pay interest on top of your borrowed balance if you do not repay within your interest-free period.
- Irresponsible use of your credit card, such as regularly exceeding your credit limit or missing payments, can negatively affect your credit scoreand debt can quickly mount up.
Can you get a normal credit card as a student?
While more difficult, it is also possible to get a normal credit card as a student, providing you meet the provider’s stricter criteria.
This would typically include meeting the bank’s minimum income requirement and having a good credit history. Both of these factors would also dictate the credit limit you are offered.
If you are eligible for a standard credit card, you may also be able to apply for different types of credit cards, including reward cards, 0% purchase cards, and balance transfer cards.
» MORE: How do I choose a credit card?
Image source: Getty Images
It’s important to know the potential advantages and disadvantages of credit cards before applying for one. Even though credit cards can be useful, there are some risks to be aware of too.