Student loans are better than credit cards

You need some more money for college expenses this semester. Do you whip out a credit card to pay for your books, or do you apply for a federal or private loan? Well, consider the options -

* With a federal loan, your interest rate will be low (around 5%) and your payments will be deferred until 6-9 months after graduation.

* With a private loan, the interest rate will be slightly higher than with a federal loan but will still be lower than average. In addition, you will only need to make interest payments until after graduation.

* With a credit card, on the other hand, the interest rate can be as high as 21%. Interest begins accruing almost immediately, and you need to begin paying off the bill the next month.

This is not to say that credit cards do not have a place in your college life. It is good to have one national card (Visa, MasterCard, Discover) on hand to help you build a positive credit history and to provide security in emergencies. When you decide to apply for a card, compare annual fees, interest rates, and introductory offers. And to keep yourself out of debt, try to-

* Pay your balance each month to avoid interest charges

* Pay your bill on time to avoid late charges

* Avoid cash advances, which come with large finance charges and interest that begins accruing immediately.


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