Credit is borrowing money with the promise that you will pay it back in the future. In almost all cases, you have to pay interest or fees in addition to the original amount borrowed. Your credit history is one of the most important factors determining your financial future. Maintaining good credit will afford you the opportunity to purchase items that you cannot pay for with cash, such as a home or car. Learning to manage credit early can save you from a lot of problems later.
Start on a solid foundation. There are many ways to begin developing a positive credit history. Open a checking account and use a debit card on a regular basis. Although these transactions are not reflected on your credit report, they will help you to establish good habits. Having a record of how you manage money and pay your bills will give you a clear indication of when you are ready to use credit responsibly.
When to use credit. When deciding whether or not to use credit, ask yourself if the good/service:
- is a need or a want,
- if it appreciates or depreciates in value, and
- if you can afford to pay cash for it
It is best to use credit for goods/services that are needed, will grow in value over time, and generally cannot be purchased with cash; such as a home or an education. Unless you can pay off the credit card purchase that month, it is a bad idea to use credit for temporary items, such as vacations, dining out, entertainment and clothing.
Acknowledgement: This fact sheet was originally developed by youth and staff at ReachOut.com, a website that helps teens get through tough times.