LITTLE ROCK – Finding out you cannot get a loan for your first house or car because of bad credit from a college credit card can be shocking.

Signing up for a credit card may seem like the perfect solution for those back-to-school expenses, but it is important to understand that credit cards are not free and come with a cost. New credit card users may find themselves struggling with long-term issues from easily avoidable mistakes.

“Credit cards are a convenient way to make purchases, but new users may not completely understand exactly what they are signing up for,” says Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “For example, late payments or exceeding the card’s limit could potentially hurt your credit score. This will raise interest rates and make it difficult to take out loans later in life.”

For those students who are considering applying for a credit card, Rutledge offered this advice when using a card:

Submit payments on time. Making regular payments is the best way to improve a credit score and qualify for less expensive credit.

Pay the balance owed if at all possible. Although it may seem easier to pay the minimum, doing so costs more in the long run, and it will take much longer to pay off the debt.

Do not “max out” a credit card. Charging the full credit limit is risky, and it will affect a consumer’s credit score.

Do not respond to every tempting credit card offer. Using too much credit could lead to having uncontrollable debt.

Read the fine print as some credit cards include expensive annual fees and higher interest rates in exchange for incentives like airline miles and bonus points. Some credit cards offer other services such as lower annual percentage rates, insurance and other items at no cost.

To combat the high-pressure solicitations and students burdened by credit card debt, the Arkansas General Assembly enacted legislation in 1999 that restricts the practice of marketing credit cards on college campuses.

In 2009, Congress passed the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act, which restricts on-campus credit card marketing nationwide.