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5 Best Practices To Set Yourself Up For Financial Success While You’re In College

This is a sponsored feature. All opinions are 100% from Her Campus.


When you think about post-grad life, what comes to mind? Maybe you see yourself moving to a new city and starting your career. Or, maybe you want to take some time to volunteer or travel abroad. No matter how you picture your life after college, you know that it’s important to have a plan. From taking the right classes to gaining internship experience, there are lots of things you can do now to ensure you reach your goals down the road.

While you’re busy working towards your life and career goals, don’t forget to think about your financial future, too! Post-grad life (and all of the expenses that come with it) might seem far away, especially if you’re just beginning your college journey. But the earlier you start learning about your finances and making smart money decisions, the better.

Here are five quick tips to help set yourself up for financial success while you’re still in college!

1. Set the Foundation

Before you do anything else, you should set up a strong foundation for your finances. Start by determining what bank accounts you currently have open. If you don’t have any, this is a great time to open a checking account so you can get a debit card, make deposits, and set up direct deposit with your job or financial aid office.

Look for accounts like Capital One 360 Checking, a fee-free online checking account you can use anytime, anywhere with no minimum balance. It’s also never too early to establish smart savings habits with a high-yield savings account, such as 360 Performance Savings from Capital One — with no fees or minimums, more of your money stays with you. 

Once you’ve set up your accounts, take some time to figure out what your expenses and income look like. When you have a good picture of your current finances, it makes it so much easier to plan for the future!

2. Start Building Credit

Having a good credit score is key for leasing a car, applying for an apartment, and getting a cell phone plan. But first, you’ll need to establish a credit history, which is basically a record of how you’ve handled money and debt (including credit cards, utility payments, and loans). 

“College is a great time to start building credit and begin to understand the rewards and benefits your card can unlock,” says Ralph Haro, Managing Vice President of New to Credit at Capital One. “One of the easiest ways to do this is by applying for a credit card and practicing financial responsibility by making on-time payments every month, establishing healthy spending habits, and monitoring your credit.” When you’re on the hunt for your first credit card, be sure to research and compare your options. Keep an eye out for $0 annual fees, rewards, security alerts, and an easy-to-use mobile app—all of these things can make having a credit card *so* much easier!

If you’re ready to get a card, consider seeing if you’re pre-approved before you apply (without hurting your credit score). When you’re pre-approved for a credit card, that means you’ve met the initial criteria required to become a cardholder. 

To get pre-approved, all you’ll have to do is answer a few questions on Capital One’s student pre-approval tool, such as sharing your birth date and income. Then, Capital One will let you know which cards you’re pre-approved for, and you can choose the option that works best for you if you decide to apply!

3. Use Your Credit Card Responsibly

While having a credit card can be a great addition to your financial plan, the only way to build good credit is by using it responsibly. Missing payments, racking up too much debt, and not taking steps to protect yourself from credit card fraud can hurt your credit score and your financial future. 

Here are a few key steps to take to make sure you’re using your card responsibly:

  • Make payments on time each month.
  • Pay off your credit card bill in full (if possible) each month to avoid paying interest.
  • Don’t use more than 30% of your credit limit, as recommended by experts.
  • Regularly check your monthly statements to make sure they’re accurate.

Don’t forget about your credit card’s security, either. One of the best ways to protect yourself from credit card fraud is to keep a close eye on your credit statement and account. According to Haro, “We’ve made it easy on the Capital One Mobile App to keep an eye on account activity, with real-time notifications when your card is charged. And if your card is lost or stolen, you will not be responsible for unauthorized charges. CreditWise from Capital One is also a great tool that lets cardholders access their credit report without impacting their credit score.”

4. Make the Most of Credit Card Benefits

Credit cards aren’t just a way to build credit — some also come with valuable rewards like cash back or access to exclusive platforms and services. So, be sure to figure out what benefits your card offers and take advantage of them!

Rewards might also be something you want to consider when you’re looking for your first credit card. Look for one with rewards that are relevant to your life as a college student, like the SavorOne Student card. It can unlock a variety of benefits for college students, including:

  • Unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services, and at grocery stores (excluding superstores).
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • A $50 cash bonus once you spend $100 on purchases within 3 months from account opening. Terms apply. 
  • The ability to redeem rewards for cash or to use them to purchase gift cards, get reimbursed for purchases, and more.
  • 10% cash back on purchases on Uber and Uber Eats, plus a complimentary Uber One membership (ends 11/14/24)
  • Access to Capital One Travel, a smart travel booking tool that helps you book flights, hotels, and rental cars while earning 5% cash back.

5. Set Up Savings Goals

When you’re working on saving money, it’s helpful to have goals in place that keep you motivated. So, take some time to think about what you want to save for. It could be anything from going on a spring break trip with your besties to moving across the country after graduation. 

Once you know what you’re saving for, you can figure out how to do it. Create a solid savings plan, such as putting a specific amount of money into your savings account each month. Don’t worry about saving hundreds of dollars all at once. The amount you set aside should depend on your expenses and income. Even putting $20 into your savings each month can make a difference!

Ready to get out there and crush your financial goals? Capital One is here to help you every step of the way with credit cards and rewards designed specifically for college students. Check out capitalone.com!

Katy Gioeli

U Conn '18

Katy is a Branded Content Editor at Her Campus Media. She graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2018, where she studied communication and was a College Fashionista Community Member. When she’s not dreaming up new branded content ideas, you can find her trying new restaurants, taking hundreds of pictures of her cat, Willow, or enjoying her latest romantasy book obsession and an iced matcha latte.