3 things to tell your student about credit cards

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Most college students jump at the flood of credit card offers they receive the minute they step foot on campus.

But if your collegiate isn’t careful, he or she can fall victim to some common pitfalls -- and rack up a lot of debt in a very short time. (To be sure, the 2010 Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act is trying to curb debt among college-age consumers.)

In addition to always making payments on time and not going over the limit, here’s a look at some lessons you should provide on side-stepping debt.

Be choosy. Instead of jumping at the first offer, stress the importance of looking for a credit card with a low interest rate, and other beneficial perks like no annual fee or a reward program.

One good card is the Citi Forward for College Students. Citi’s card offers a 0% APR for the first 7 months and then a variable 12.99% to 21.99% after.

Only charge what you can afford. A shiny new card in your kid's hand brings great temptation to charge spring break, pizzas for the dorm or concert tickets.

Before his first swipe, instruct your child that a credit card is not another source of income. It is a tool that may ease cash flow (charging books today you can’t afford until next month).

But anything charged should fit into his short-term budget (i.e. the entire bill should be paid off in four months or less. Learning sooner -- rather than later -- that not always carrying a balance avoids interest charges and fees will help your child avoid digging a deep hole of debt.

Upgrade your student card when you can. Interestingly, according to Nellie Mae, a student loan company, most people keep the first card they own.

Even though many student credit cards have good programs that even offer a reward or two, after your student establishes a good credit history, he’ll probably be eligible for cards with lower interest rates and better rewards programs.

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