Parents: You’ve thought about money for college. Now, think about money at college.

August 9, 2019

This we know: college costs money. But while parents are calculating the expense of tuition, room and board, they can sometimes overlook the fact that students usually need additional funds for things like supplies, transportation and personal items (and maybe pizza).

To give students a way to make purchases, parents typically choose either a debit card or credit card. Here’s a list of the advantages of each type of card to help you decide which will work best for your student, or if getting both is the way to go.

Debit Cards Advantages

Easier to tote around than a wad of cash or a checkbook, a debit card takes money directly from a checking account when used.

Versatility- Most debit cards can be used to make purchases online or right at the store, or as an ATM card for withdrawing cash.

Maintain spending limits- When the checking account is empty, unless you’ve set up overdraft protection, your student can’t spend any more.

Tip: Overdraft protection is when the credit union or bank uses money from another of your accounts to pay for any debit card charges that the checking account can’t cover. Usually, there’s a fee for each of these transactions, so be sure to pick the overdraft protection option that’s right for you and your student.

Credit Cards Advantages

Convenience- A credit card gives your student the ability to make purchases up to the credit limit you specify. Parents sometimes choose a credit card so the student can have access to money in case of an emergency.

Perks and points- Many credit cards offer choices like low rates or points, as well as perks such as extended warranties on purchases and protection when a store won’t accept a return.

Build credit- Even when the card is co-signed, paying the credit card bill in full and on time every month (and the same for any loan payments) reflects favorably on both your student’s credit score and yours. This can mean better rates in the future on mortgages, car loans and more.

Tip: With credit cards, it can be easy for students to charge more than they should. Carrying a balance on the card will most likely incur interest charges and could negatively affect both your student’s credit score and yours. Make sure your student only charges what he or she can afford to pay off each month. And consider setting a low credit limit on the card.

Find out about The Summit’s debit and credit card options by calling our Member Services Team at (585) 453-7000 or (800) 836-7328.

Extra Help

Teach your student about “Card Cracking” and Other Scams. It’s important to be aware of fraudulent account activity and potential scams, and know how to safeguard yourself against them.

Scams are different from fraud. Fraud is account activity made without the participation of account holders, such as account charges that the account holder didn’t make. (At The Summit, we regularly monitor members’ accounts, and we have several safety features to alert members of account activity.)

In a scam, account holders are fooled into doing something. Perhaps they’ve made a purchase from a phony online business that they think is a real one, or they’ve purchased gift cards for a scammer as “payment” for a bill, or they willingly give account access to someone who then withdraws money.

One recent scam that remains prevalent on campuses is “card cracking.” In the scam, a person asks to deposit a fake check into the victim’s account, withdraw half (or another amount) of the money, and leave the remaining half for the victim to keep.

When the check is found to be fraudulent, the victim is responsible for all the money withdrawn. In some cases, the victim gives the scammer his or her ATM card and PIN, making it easy for the scammer to withdraw more money from the account.

Never let anyone make a transaction into or from your account and never loan or give out your ATM card and PIN. Be very suspicious of any promise of free money.

The Summit FCU is federally insured by the NCUA. Membership eligibility required. Subject to credit approval. Must be 18 years of age or older to apply.

Cynthia Kolko, The Summit Federal Credit Union