First and foremost, for any credit card, is the interest rate. Nothing else really matters, as this is the bottom line as to what using it will cost you. Many companies offer several options. College students normally do not need rewards, so choosing the lowest interest rate is a must. You should pay the credit card off in a timely manner. Since many college students cannot pay a large bill off at once, not being charged a substantial amount for interest is a plus if the need arises to maintain a balance.
In conjunction with the interest rate are the fees you may be charged. Many will entice you with an easy way of getting a credit card, but then slapping you with a huge upfront yearly fee. Do not get a credit card with an annual fee. Thee are plenty that are free. No reason to pay for the privilege of using a credit card.
Last but not least, is the credit limit. This is where college students need to be careful. Having a smaller credit limit will limit your ability (and temptation) to get deep in debt. If you can't pay off a balance in 3 to 4 months, try and not get it up that high. Graduating with student loan debt is bad enough. If you do have a high limit, relative to your income, try and keep the balance at between 25 and 30 percent of the card's limit.
There's nothing wrong with college students having and using credit cards. The danger is in what it will cost you now and in the future. Building your credit now is very important.
Establishing credit and keeping it stellar is the goal of every college graduate. No matter where you are in life, your credit score will affect lots of what you do. From buying a house, to maybe getting a job. Recently they are getting businesses to remove the credit check from new hires. But this may effect a background check if you are trying to get a job where your credit and personal finances matter. There are a lot of myths as far as credit cards and raising your credit score. Beware, especially college students. Don't make mistakes on your credit rating.
You do not need to carry a balance to keep a good credit rating. Agencies look at how much you have used in regard to how much overall credit you have. The higher the ratio, the more it will lower your credit score. Payoff anything you can.
The next myth is an add-on to the above. People seem to think that by just making payments on time, it will raise your score. It's true that NOT paying will lower it, but just making the minimum payment each month does not do much. In fact, it keeps your balance ratio high. (See above.)
When applying for some sort of credit, you might inquire as to what credit score will be used. There are many different rating agencies and scores, and depending on the credit, a different one may be used. Be sure to know what your credit score is on the one that will be used.
If you have old balances that are late, even in arrears, it will not help to pay them off in a lump sump sum. The negative mark is already there and won't be removed until the set amount of time has passed. It is true, however, that you cna make a note on your record that says you paid it off. This may help in a manual review of your credit.
Your income does not have anything to do with your credit rating. This may seem strange, but it is absolutely true. A high income can have just a low of credit score as low income, and the opposite is true as well. Lower income people may have a higher rating. It all depends on YOUR credit record. It is true, that loan and credit officers will look at your income to see if you will be able to pay the credit balance off.
Don't think that a department store credit card will do anything major either. In fact, it may have the opposite effect. Department stores and companies generally give a lower credit limit. People have a tendency to max this out. This will actually lower your score, as the balance is high to the total. Department stores are an easier way of getting credit and establishing it, but to make it work you need to have a low balance in relation to the limit.
>>More info on college students and credit cards.