Many people take out student loans for college because they can't afford an education without them.

words related to student loans next to jar of coins

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If you've graduated with debt, you may be wondering whether those loans will hurt your ability to get approved for a credit card. The answer, however, boils down to how well you keep up with your payments.

Getting approved for a credit card

To get a credit card, you need a solid credit score. If you have excellent credit, it means you're a trustworthy borrower, which means a credit card issuer will be more inclined to say yes. On the other hand, if your credit is poor, your chances of getting approved for a credit card are slimmer.

Here's how your student debt plays into the equation: Whenever you do a good job of paying your bills on time, that positive financial behavior is reported to Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, the three credit bureaus that determine your score. And when you're delinquent on your bills, that data is noted as well. 

Therefore, if you make your student loan payments on time and in full every month, that can actually help you get a credit card, because a strong payment history indicates that you're a solid borrower, and that's what credit card companies want. In fact, the higher your credit score, the more likely you are to not only be approved for a credit card, but also get a reasonable interest rate on it. 

Of course, you don't really want that interest rate to come into play; ideally, you should pay your credit card bill in full every month to avoid interest. But sometimes, people get into a jam, and if that happens, having a lower interest rate attached to your card will help keep the damage to a minimum.

On the other hand, if you have late or missed student loan payments on your record, it'll hurt your chances of getting a credit card, because issuers aren't so keen on extending credit to borrowers who can't be trusted. That's why it's important to stay current on those payments, and if you're struggling, you shouldn’t hesitate to seek help.

Managing your student loans

If you're having a hard time making your student loan payments, you can't afford to fall behind. Thankfully, there are several avenues of relief you can pursue. If you took out federal loans for college, you can see about getting on an income-driven repayment plan, which will recalculate your monthly obligation as a reasonable percentage of your income. There's also the option to defer your loans for a period of time if money is truly tight. During that deferment period, you won't be obligated to make payments at all, so being late or delinquent won't be a concern.

If you took out private loans for college, you can contact your lender, discuss your hardship, and ask for leniency. Your lender may agree to lower your monthly payments, or even let you defer them for a limited period of time. 

Either way, if you're struggling with your student debt, don't let the problem escalate to the point that you’re falling behind on your payments. Doing so can quickly bring down your credit score, and once that happens, getting approved for a credit card could prove downright impossible. 

The fact that you have student loans won’t in itself hurt your chances of getting a credit card. So if you’re among the millions of Americans carrying that type of debt, worry not. Just be sure to manage your loans wisely and stay current on your payments to avoid credit score issues across the board.