Is it better to pay your monthly credit card balance in full, or just the minimum?

There are pros and cons to both choices, as each can affect your overall finances and credit score.

Advantages of paying the entire balance at once include not paying interest fees, not maxing out on your credit card’s limit and the decrease of your credit utilization ratio. The credit utilization ratio is how much you owe compared to your credit limit. The lower the ratio, the better your credit score.

Unfortunately, paying off your entire balance means not having money for other purchases. If you are low on cash or have any major expenses coming up, paying your entire balance might not be the best idea.

What are the advantages of paying only the minimum credit card balance? It allows you to focus on paying your current finances and bills. If you’re short on cash, you only have to pay a small amount of the balance.

When you don’t pay off your total credit card bill, interest costs as high as 25% or more (depending on your credit card’s policy) will be added to your balance. This will likely take more time to repay depending on the minimum amount and the total balance.

As noted, there are multiple advantages and disadvantages towards paying only the minimum or the entirety of a credit card balance.  In the end, it is your job to decide which option is more ideal.

Written by Solomon Lowenstein, Financial Wellness for College Students Peer Educator, University of Illinois Extension.

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

What is a good tool to help manage my debt?

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 more about how credit card debt can affect you now, as well as in the future by watching the recorded webinar, “Staying on Good Terms: Credit & Debt“.

Credit Management Tool: Use powerpay.org to help you manage your credit, pay down debt and plan your spending. This website was created by Utah State University Extension and WebAIM.org.

To learn even more about how to manage your finances while in college, including what to look for in a financial institution, you can watch another recorded webinar, Cash at College: Spending, Saving & Student Loans.

credit

My account is in collections. What should I do?

When your account goes past due and is now in collections, be proactive! These tips can help you cope with and resolve accounts in collections.

OWN IT/ DON’T IGNORE IT. Contact your creditor and tell them what happened. You do not need to divulge personal information; just be truthful and give the basic facts. Most accounts receivable specialists, or “collectors,” will welcome this approach, have worked with many people in similar situations, and probably have options available.

HAVE A PLAN. The collectors don’t know what your resources are, so be prepared to offer some alternatives. Can you pay interest only for a few months or make a partial payment on the past due balance? Ask your representative for advice and what they recommend during times of temporary financial distress.

FOLLOW THROUGH. Do what you have agreed. Do not hesitate to contact the company again if your plans or resources change. Stay in continuous contact until you are able to bring your account up to date.

Written by Mark Austin, Collection Manager, University Student Financial Services & Cashier Operations

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

Spotlight on Library Resources: Spending

CliffsNotes Graduation Debt [electronic resource]: How to Manage Student Loans and Live Your Life by Reyna Gobel

CliffsNotes Graduation Debt: How to Manage Student Loans and Live Your Life is a guidebook for managing a significant debt load after college, yet the author takes a positive approach to personal finance, emphasizing frugality and spending money wisely in order to still live well while paying off debt. It is possible to take vacations and have extra spending money even while repaying loans! The book even ends with sections on Eating Out, Moving into a Nicer Place, and “Earning” a New Car.

The focus of this ebook is not exclusively spending. However, as it does take a positive approach to personal finance and gives serious attention to spending as a part of living your life, this book can be read at least in part as a manual on budgeting and spending wisely. Chapter 5, “Budgeting for Your Lifestyle and Your Loans,” and chapter 9, “Budgeting During Inflation,” contain practical advice about spending and budgeting, including such tips as keeping a financial diary and choosing budgetary cutbacks. The book even provides, in a sense, “financial self-help” throughout by, for example, reminding the reader not to dwell on past financial mistakes but instead problem-solve when mistakes or overspending are discovered.

The ebook is divided up into many small subsections making it easy to read. In typical CliffsNotes-style, the book is effectively a “cheat sheet” for personal finance, making the topic accessible to readers least inclined to seek out resources on personal finance otherwise. The rewards it promises, too, are enough to make this resource enticing to any new grad knee-deep in debt!

Note: this ebook can only be accessed on campus or off campus with your University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign net ID. If you do not have access to this ebook, please request a print copy through your local public library.

Written by Heidi Johnson, University of Illinois Library