Protect your finances

Transitioning from high school to college can be stressful. In addition to new surroundings and routines, you may be responsible for your finances and insurance. Here are tips to help you.​ For more information, click on a topic below.

  • Credit cards are easy to get but hard to pay off. Read credit card offers closely. Companies will entice you with a low introductory annual percentage rate (APR) but can soon raise the rate.

  • Understand how much it costs if you don’t pay off your balance every month, get a cash advance, or transfer the balance from one card to another.

  • Pay off your credit card balance every month, if possible. Paying just the minimum could mean you pay more in interest than the value of your purchase.

  • Good credit card habits can equal a good credit score, which helps in renting an apartment, buying a car, or getting a home loan. Most auto and homeowner insurers look at insurance scores, which use credit histories, to set premiums.

  • If you get into a bind, call 866-814-9710 (toll-free) for a list of registered companies that can help with debt management and budgeting.​

  • You are covered on your parents’ health insurance policies until age 26, regardless of whether you are a student or married. However, if you go out of town, your health insurer may not cover nonemergency care or may charge more for out-of-network doctors and hospitals. Check with your insurance company.

  • If staying on a parent’s plan isn’t an option, many colleges and universities offer major medical policies or you can buy an individual plan from an insurance company.

  • Financial help is available to many to make health insurance costs affordable. Visit www.healthcare.gov. Open enrollment runs from Nov. 1 through Jan. 31.

  • Even if you have access to a student health plan, you can apply for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

When you apply, you will find out if you qualify for an insurance plan with savings based on your income, or for free or low-cost care through Medicaid (Oregon Health Plan) or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). 

One catch: If someone claims you as a tax dependent, you can buy an insurance plan through the Marketplace, but won’t qualify for savings based on your income.

  • College students are typically covered under their parents’ policy, especially if their primary address is the parents’ residence. However, if you drive the car at school, rates may change due to the new location and vehicle use. 

  • If you attend school in another state, check with your insurance company or agent to make sure you have enough coverage to meet minimum insurance requirements in that state.

  • Avoid surprises by updating your agent or insurer on your college plans.

  • Ask your insurance agent if your family’s homeowner policy covers computers, bicycles, and other personal items that might be damaged or stolen. Determine if renter insurance is a better option.

  • Make sure you understand the deductible amount you must pay before your policy pays for any loss.

  • Know the policy’s coverage limits. You may need more insurance for expensive items such as jewelry, computers, or other electronics.

  • If you will live off campus, see if your homeowner coverage extends to the rental property. If not, renter insurance averages less than $14 a month. It covers personal belongings and personal liability for damage to the property or injury to someone for reasons covered under your policy. If you live with a nonrelative roommate, each of you needs your own renter policy.

  • Items stolen out of a vehicle are covered under a homeowner or renter insurance, not under an auto policy. 

  • Make a list of your possessions, including the purchase price and model/serial numbers of major items. This will help if you file a claim. Take photos or video of the possessions.

  • The National Association of Insurance Commissioners has a free mobile app to photograph and capture descriptions of your possessions room by room, then store electronically for safekeeping. The app is available for iPhone and Android devices. Search “myHOME Scr.APP.book”​

  • rotect your Social Security number. Memorize your number and leave your Social Security card and your birth certificate with your parents or locked up in your dorm room or apartment.

  • If finding a job, provide your Social Security number only once hired. If you are applying online, ensure the site is secure. Look for https in front of the URL in your browser’s address bar. This shows the site is using secure protocol.

  • Do not share personal details (address, birthdate, family member and pet names) on social media. Thieves impersonate companies or your bank to steal personal information or to figure out your login or security questions. Don’t announce when you are out of your house or apartment.

  • Share your credit card or bank account number over the phone only with vendors you trust.

  • Use different user names and passwords for each account you set up; frequently change your passwords. Strong passwords have nine to 12 characters that include numbers and symbols to make them stronger.

  • Do not share your computer or cellphone user name and password.

  • Update your virus protection and firewall security on your computer or tablet to protect from outside cyber attacks.

  • Be wary of popups that offer protection and security or ones that remind you to update.​​​

  • File a police report and get the report number or a copy.

  • Contact your bank, credit union, credit card companies, cellphone provider, and other utilities. (Store their toll-free customer service phone numbers in your cellphone). 

  • Carefully read your financial statements for charges you did not make.

  • Get your credit reports, which contain information about you, your accounts, and your bill-paying history.

You can get a free copy from each credit-reporting agency (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) once a year.

Go to www.annualcreditreport.com​ or call 877-322-8228 (toll-free).​​​

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