What are the different types of credit cards?

Nowadays, financial institutions offer all kinds of credit cards that have different features. It is important to understand each type of credit card to determine the type of credit card that best suits your needs. There are five major categories of credit cards: balance transfer, low-interest, rewards, secured, and specialty.

A balance transfer credit card allows you to transfer a high-interest credit card debt to a new credit card with a lower interest rate. Depending on the bank or company, the interest rate can reach as low as 0% and can typically last up to a year. If you’re often carrying a large credit card balance, this might be a good option. However, if the new credit card has a balance transfer fee and annual fee, balance transfers can get expensive.

A low-interest credit card provides either a low, fixed annual percentage rate (APR) or a low introductory APR that jumps to a higher rate at a later date. The low-interest credit card is beneficial for making a large purchase that requires several months to pay off or for people who carry long-term credit card debt.

A rewards credit card incentivizes consumers to make purchases to earn rewards. Rewards can include cash back, reward points, rebates, and airline mileage. By using the rewards credit card, you can use the cash back to reduce the credit card balance, redeem reward points to earn a free stay at a hotel, or use the airline mileage to obtain a lower priced or free airline ticket.

A secured credit card is for individuals with no credit or bad credit, who want to start establishing a good credit history. Applying for a secured credit card requires collateral upfront and the value of the collateral is usually equal to or greater than the credit limit. A secured credit card enables you to build or rebuild your credit history and eventually move on to use a traditional credit card.

A specialty credit card is tailored to meet the unique demands of a specific group of consumers, such as business professionals and college students. Business and student credit cards have the same features as traditional credit cards as well as additional benefits exclusively designed for these users. For instance, the student credit card does not require a credit history for college students to apply because most college students generally don’t have a credit history.

For more detailed information, you can visit Credit.com or Bankrate.com to browse and compare various types of credit cards.

Written by: Cuihua Lin, Financial Wellness Peer Educator, University of Illinois Extension, 2018.

Reviewed by Kathy Sweedler, Consumer Economics Educator, University of Illinois Extension.

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