I need to pay this account off, now!
November 26, 2007 1:05 PM   Subscribe

How do I get a credit card, and which one should I get?

I'm a sophomore in college. I have, very stupidly, not been paying attention to my Bursar's account and it turns out that my meal plan was charged after they sent me a check for what I thought was "leftover" scholarship money (which I spent). Now I try and register and it turns out that I owe $1000 (meal plan and late fees combined) and I can't register for next semester until I've paid it.

I called the Bursar's office and they won't/can't lift the registration hold until the balance is $0. I know getting a credit card is stupid, and will probably end up costing me more, but I need to quickly get my account paid off. Between X-mas money, working over break and leftover scholarship money next semester I should be able to get the money within two months, but I need to register now.

How can I get a credit card (quickly) and which would be the best one for this situation?
posted by brittanyq to Work & Money (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
A ton of your answers would be that this is not a good reason to get a credit card.

That being said, I would go to your bank. I know mine (Bank of America CA) has a special student credit card that has a low credit limit and no real credit requirements - it assumes that it is your first credit card. They are privy to your financial situation and can approve or reject you on the spot so you won't have to wait for the mail; however, your credit card will not be instantaneously available for you to use, it still has to come in the mail. If you have any other avenues from which you can get this money (parents? rich aunt? pawnshop? eBay?) they will almost all be more efficient than getting a credit card.
posted by crinklebat at 1:11 PM on November 26, 2007

Don't get a credit card for this.

Go to a local credit union and ask to speak to a loan officer. Ask for a $1k 120-day loan, see fi they'll structure payments as...

$100 @ 30 days
$100 @ 60 days
$100 @ 90 days
Lump @ 120.

You should be able to get a good rate of about 6-7%, which will amount to very little.

After you've paid that off go back and see if they offer a CC - they'll often have very good rates and good perks.
posted by unixrat at 1:12 PM on November 26, 2007

I'm assuming you're in the US, so I may not be a lot of help with specific cards, but as a banker, maybe I can help a bit.

Look for a low-interest student credit card from your local bank, if you feel that a credit card is necessary.

However, I would strongly advise you visit your local bank and inquire about an unsecured personal line of credit and a lower interest cost solution. As a student at a post-secondary institution, many banks will also offer special lines of credit for students (may need to be applied for with a guarantor).
posted by smitt at 1:12 PM on November 26, 2007

If I understand you, you are hoping to use your credit card to pay off your bursar's balance. Are you quite certain that they permit that means of payment? Many institutions would not, particularly on larger items on which the fees would matter.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 1:15 PM on November 26, 2007

Have you looked into securing a short-term loan from your school? Many schools offer no or low interest "emergency" loans to students. I've been affiliated with small/large/private/public inst. of higher ed., and all had these loans available to students in one form or another. If your school doesn't have one, the the local credit union would be the next best bet.
posted by jujube at 1:15 PM on November 26, 2007

Yeah, this is the kind of situation credit cards are good for, as education shouldn't wait. If you go the credit card route, I would recommend looking at creditboards as there is exhaustive information on which credit card offers are worthwhile. However if you have halfway decent credit and some sort of collateral it would be a good idea to see a local bank or credit union. Definitely stay away from the payday lending places.
posted by chips ahoy at 1:18 PM on November 26, 2007

Checked the B of M&D, if available? Parent(s) may be willing to offer a rate below 6%, particularly if you name a figure below it and offer to put everything in writing. (Meaning, approach with a solution as well as the problem, in a responsible sounding way.) I mean, better to pay M&D 4% than a bank at 6%.
posted by Arch1 at 1:18 PM on November 26, 2007

Also Clyde Mnestra probably has a good point, thus the bank loan might be more appropriate.
posted by chips ahoy at 1:19 PM on November 26, 2007

thirding Clyde in some ways. Ask for a short-term or assisted loan. You'd have to fill out a form, provide employer information etc. to show that you can pay this back. They will then directly pay the school, clear your hold and give you a zero interest loan with a monthly payment (to be paid within a short term). Seems like you can repay in two months so this is the best way to go. All this can be done in less than a 30 minute visit to the financial aid office.

I have done this before for this exact situation and it worked out nicely.
posted by special-k at 1:25 PM on November 26, 2007

not thirding clyde but seconding jujube. Sorry.
posted by special-k at 1:28 PM on November 26, 2007

Did you actually go to the financial aid officer at your school and ask for a loan in that particular office? I was registered for college and 30 days before classes started, my parents kicked me out of the house. I went in and asked for a loan for housing (again, 30 days before school began) and they found funding and a room for me.

The school wants to keep you, not stop you from continuing your education because of some fees.

I'm dead positive that the school will help if you ask. A credit card is not a good option, because you will start spending money you don't have. You don't need to acquire more debt in school, other THAN school; see if they will work with you. Sallie Mae's rates are reasonable, and you may not have to pay it off until after graduation.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 1:30 PM on November 26, 2007

Push, push, and push some more with the school — like everyone upthread I agree that the firm has a continued financial interest in keeping you there. It's financially idiotic for them, in other words, to cut off, say, $22k in tuition, boarding etc. because you don't have $1k now. Remind them of that if necessary, although a more diplomatic adjective than "idiotic" might be called for.

First line of fallback would be the credit union.

Second line of fallback might be Modest Needs (although I don't know if that applies to this kind of situation), or, more relevantly, Prosper.com.

I agree with other people here that the credit card's a bad way to go. My life would be a great deal better right now had I not gotten an offer for a credit card in my student mailbox 15 or so years ago.
posted by WCityMike at 2:04 PM on November 26, 2007

Does your bank not offer student overdrafts? I don't know about in the US but in the UK pretty much all student accounts have interest free overdrafts - when I was a student mine was £2,000
posted by missmagenta at 3:46 PM on November 26, 2007

It's also worth pointing out that $1000 might well be more than the credit line on a student credit card; when I first got a credit card in college (circa 2000), my credit line was initially $500. Things have changed in the credit industry since then, of course, but I'm not sure if this has.
posted by Johnny Assay at 3:55 PM on November 26, 2007

Follow the advice upstream, but fwiw, I asked my bank for a credit card maybe ten years ago. They wanted a balance in their bank larger than the credit line, a non-interest bearing security deposit five times the credit line, a monthly service charge, and a tiny monthly credit line. YMMV, but it is sometimes hard to get a card. (I put more money in the account and then they offered a card to me six months later.)
posted by philfromhavelock at 5:39 PM on November 26, 2007

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