Financial tips for the college bound
Parents, here's what you need to know about debit and credit cards for your kids.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- With college costs on the rise, financing college expenses will become even more challenging. If your college-bound kid is heading off to campus this Fall, we'll show you how you can keep your future Einstein out of debt.
1: Get them a new card
Get your college-bound kid their own pre-paid credit or debit card. A reloadable debit or credit card will let your child spend up to the amount you have pre-deposited into the account but not go over budget.
This is a great way to control their spending, while showing them how credit and debit cards work. Don't just open a card for them on your own credit account. You don't want their financial troubles to hurt your own credit score.
When parents co-sign an account, it's a recipe for disaster, says Nathan Dungan, president of the financial education firm Share, Spend, Save.
"It may be set up as an emergency fund, but a 20 year-old has a different idea of what constitutes an emergency," says Dungan. To compare prepaid debit or credit card offers, go to cardratings.com or creditcards.com.
2: Stay off the Internet
You don't have the same consumer protections with a debit card as you do with a credit card. So if you want to buy something over the Internet, make sure you use a credit card. Using a debit card takes money from your bank account almost immediately. So by the time you realize something is wrong, the money is likely already gone from your account.
If you wait more than two business days after you discovered the loss, you're liable for up to $500. If you wait longer than 60 days after you've received your bank statement, you could lose everything in your bank account.
Other places you don't want to use your card: nights on the town, TV infomercials, or services where charges may be disputed, like auto mechanics or towing services.
3: Let their credit grow
Debit cards don't let kids establish their creditworthiness. This is where credit cards can be handy. Kids need to start building credit in their own name. Especially since 70 percent of employers are running credit checks on potential employees, according to Dungan.
Make sure your kid isn't persuaded by gimmicks like free t-shirts. Generally students without a credit history should try to find a credit card with an annual percentage rate in the mid-teens - around 16 percent or 17 percent or lower, according to Curtis Arnold of cardratings.com.
Avoid cards that carry an interest rate over 20 percent.
4: Get statements sent home
The last thing you want lying around a dorm room is sensitive financial information. When your child does open an account, make sure you get the paper statements sent home and not forwarded to the dorm address. You can arrange to have the statements available online so your student can keep track of their spending.