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First credit card? Five key tips for college students.

- Justine RiveroContributor

Every credit card comes with up to three key terms: APR, fees, and rewards. Know exactly what terms your card has in these three areas. (Photo illustration/Ingram Publishing/Newscom/File)

2. Know your card's three key terms

Credit card issuers are required to provide a simple, straightforward summary of the card’s terms and conditions in plain language, and it’s crucial you read them before you apply. Focus on these three key terms:

1. APR: Your annual percentage rate tells you how much you’ll be charged in interest for carrying your balance month-to-month. Right now, 14 to 16 percent is the average interest rate. Look for a low interest rate to minimize the cost of your debt.

2. Fees: The big one to dodge is annual fees. Some student cards and most secured cards have an annual fee, so hunt for a card with a low fee or none at all. Watch out for secured cards’ additional application or processing fees. Also check the balance transfer fees, cash advance fees, and late fees. While you may not incur any of these fees, it’s good to know the cost of these actions.

3. Rewards: This is the fun part about having a credit card! If your card comes with a cash back or rewards program, find out how it works. For example, if your card offers $100 bonus cash back for new cardholders, understand the eligibility requirements. Also, some cards offer 1 to 3 percent cash back on certain categories, but have earning limits, expiration dates, or quarterly enrollment requirements. Familiarize yourself with the card’s rewards benefits so you can make the most of your spending.


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