Credit Cards vs. Debit Cards: What are the pros and cons of a credit card and debit card? What are the differences between them?

A credit card is a small plastic card issued by a bank, credit union, or other financial company which allows you to purchase goods or services on credit. The financial company usually establishes a credit limit that has the potential to increase or decrease depending on your spending habits and if you make payments on time. On a positive side, credit cards have a few advantages. In general, a credit card can be looked at as a 30-day, interest-free loan, as long as your monthly bills are paid off in full. Your credit card will allow you to begin to establish a credit history.

On the other hand, credit cards usually have high interest rates that will go into effect if you don’t pay a bill on time or don’t pay a bill at all. The interest amount accumulates over time, depending on how long it takes you to pay off the debt. Credit cards also are very vulnerable to fraud. It is important to monitor your purchase history, usually through a monthly paper or electronic statement. Monitoring helps you notice fraudulent activity. Lastly, if payments aren’t submitted on time, your credit history will be negatively affected, hurting your chances for future loans and other financial options to be issued to you.

A debit card is also a small plastic card that allows the holder to purchase goods and services, but it is usually issued by a bank or credit union. These cards are usually linked to a savings or checking account, where you will deposit funds for usage on the card.

Debit cards have several advantages that may be appealing to you! When you use a debit card, you are only allowed to spend the amount of cash that is available in your checking or savings account. (If have overdraft protection and you spend more, there may be immediate fees.) With this in mind, there is usually no need to carry cash as this is an equivalent. There are no interest rates ever associated with debit cards, due to the fact that you are spending your own money as opposed to taking a loan out with credit cards. Debit cards also have no effect on your credit history as there is no credit being used. Taking this into account, anyone who has a checking or savings account is able to sign up for a debit card, making it a viable option to consumers.

On the other hand, debit cards come with possible overdraft fees, which are put into effect if you spend more than what is in your checking or savings account associated with your debit card. If you choose a debit card, you are also required to remember a PIN number to make any transactions with the card. This PIN number must be kept confidential at all times!

Surely, several differences exist between credit and debit cards. If you have a credit card, monthly bills can be accessed electronically, or you can choose to have them mailed to you. On the other hand, debit cards have no monthly statements, which means you must keep track of your own expenses via your checking or savings account. For credit cards, there is a liability limit of $50. More often than not, you are not held liable for fraudulent activity. Furthermore, there is a lot less fraud protection with debit cards. There is a liability limit of up to $50 if you report in within two days of noticing the fraud. But your liability increases to more — or even everything in your account — depending on how quickly the fraudulent activity is reported.

 

Written by Joey Gangichiodo, Financial Wellness Peer Educator, December 2014. Reviewed by Kathy Sweedler, Consumer Economics Educator, University of Illinois Extension.

How can I build credit as an international student?

As an international student, it may be useful to think about building credit while attending college in the U.S. Building a credit history of on-time payments is a necessity for living in the U.S., including securing housing and utility services. Most of the transactions that happen in daily life are paid by credit or debit cards instead of cash. A good credit history can benefit you through lower interest rates on personal or mortgage loans and even lower security deposits when you rent an apartment. Here are some steps you can go through to start building your credit history.

Step 1: Find an on-campus job to get a SSN

SSN stands for Social Security Number. It’s a national identification number for taxation and other purposes issued by the Social Security Administration. As an international student, you probably would not allowed to work off-campus due to the F1 visa status. However, you can find an on-campus job and work 20 hours or less on a weekly basis.

Step 2: Apply for credit cards

It may not be easy at the beginning to get a card that fit your needs. Credit cards have different perks or advantages. For example, some feature balance transfers, low interest rates, rewards/cash back, or airline points.

You can always apply for secured credit cards even if you don’t have a SSN. These cards are backed with a deposit account as collateral. The deposit is likely to be 100% to 200% of the amount of the credit you want to get. However, keep in mind, different banks have different policies on credit card issuance and not all banks offer secured credit card. Therefore, do your research before applying for any credit cards or ask a banker in your local banks for any available offers.

Step 3: Manage your credit history

Use your credit wisely and make sure to pay off the balance on time. The University of Illinois Extension has great resources on how to manage your credit history on its website. These materials will give you a better understanding of credit history and how to manage it wisely. Peer educators with the Financial Wellness for College Students program also have office hours, and you are more than welcome to make an appointment with a peer educator to discuss credit cards.

Written by: Zige He, Financial Wellness Peer Educator, and Kathy Sweedler, Consumer Economics Educator, University of Illinois Extension

Staying on Good Terms: Credit & Debt (Recorded Webinar)

According to a 2012 Sallie Mae report, “How America Pays,” 35% of students borrowed education loans to pay for college and, although credit card ownership has decreased recently, 35% of undergraduates have a credit card. Credit is an important financial tool that students need to learn how to manage wisely. Learn how credit card debt can affect you now as well as in the future through this webinar.

University of Illinois Extension, along with the University of Illinois’ Student Money Management Center, hosted the webinar “Staying on Good Terms: Credit & Debt” on October 21, 2014. The FREE webinar focused on understanding credit, comparing costs of credit, and managing debt effectively. Watch it below!

Borrowing badgeThis is a Borrowing Badge eligible program, so make sure to take the quiz after watching to get credit!

“Staying on Good Terms: Credit & Debt” is part of the Get $avvy: Grow Your Green Stuff webinar series.

 

Written by Andrea Pellegrini, University of Illinois USFSCO Student Money Management Center

What happens if I get declined for credit?

So, you’ve gotten declined for a credit card…Now what?

Each time you apply for credit, whether it is a credit card or a loan, it is called a “hard inquiry.” This stays on your credit report for two years. While getting declined credit will not negatively impact your credit score or history, a bank or lender will look at the number of “hard inquiries” you have; the more you have, the riskier you are. However, it is important to note that if you are looking for specific types of credit, like an auto loan or a mortgage, multiple inquiries will count as only one for credit scores.

It’s also important to understand why you were declined in the first place. Reasons can include: having too low of an income, owning too many credit cards, a record of late payments, being in collections, or having limited credit history. If you are denied credit, a lender is required to tell you why within 60 days of your application being rejected according to the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA).

If you’re still interested in learning more about this topic, check out these resources: “Credit Inquiries: Hard Inquiries and Soft Inquiries” and “Choosing the right card and what happens to credit scores if you are declined.”

Written by Alex Ziskind & Andrea Pellegrini, University of Illinois USFSCO Student Money Management Center

How can I build credit without a credit card?

A great way to build credit without using a credit card is by taking out different types of loans. Now, we’re not saying you should take out a car or student loan, but if you have them already, that can work in your favor. Making those car and student loan payments on time helps build your credit history and shows that you not only are reliable, but you can use different types of loans for different situations. Also, signing up for utilities in your name helps build your credit. While it won’t establish a credit score, it can help first-time borrowers because it shows a history of responsible financial transactions.

If you’re still curious how to obtain credit without having it, here are two resources that can help guide you in the right direction: “Build Credit – Learn How to Establish a Solid Credit History” and “How to Establish Credit.”

Written by Alex Ziskind, University of Illinois USFSCO Student Money Management Center