Credit score conceptCollege is a time when students are working to ensure they will have a bright future. One important step students can take is to build their credit. Many students will someday need a loan to purchase a car or house, and, without a strong credit history, it might be difficult or impossible to obtain a loan.

It is important to start focusing on your credit early; your credit score takes into account the amount of time you have used credit, so starting in college is a key to building up a high score. One easy, if not the easiest way to start building credit is getting a credit card. When used carefully, a credit card can be a vital tool in obtaining and maintaining a strong credit score.

Generally, it is a good idea to only start off with one card; applying for multiple credit cards in a short amount of time will negatively affect your credit score.

While it is a great idea to get a credit card, using it too often will actually hurt you. Forbes suggests trying to use only around 10 percent of your available credit each month, and at a maximum use 30 percent of available credit. So if you have a $1,000 credit limit per month, you should charge about $100 in expenses each month, and at most, $300.

Forbes also advises requesting an increase in your credit limit over time, thus, hopefully, enabling you to spend closer to the 10 percent benchmark of your credit limit.

Perhaps the most vital rule to follow for credit card holders is to pay off the entire credit card bill each month. Interest rates on credit cards are very high, with many approaching or exceeding 20 percent. Paying only the minimum payment or missing a payment will negatively affect your credit score, and you will be stuck paying off even small amounts of debt for a long period of time.

Taking these simple steps in college will set you on a path to achieving a strong credit score and a bright financial future.

For more tips, check out this article on Forbes.

Editor’s Note: Austin Tuttle will be a sophomore at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville this fall. He’s spending the summer helping INB as a Float Teller. He is working towards a degree in economics and finance.