Wallet weight isn’t a figment of your imagination. Coins and smooshed wads of paper bills can add almost a kilo to what you’re carrying. Not saying that’s why you should invest in a credit card…but it’s an added bonus. In one slender, sleek, rectangular card you can have access to all your money (and then some!).

With great power comes great responsibility.

Having a credit card means it’s easier to get the things you want, from that flat-screen TV you’ve had your eye on to overseas goodies (a card is the simplest way to pay for Skybox). And a card makes splitting a bill for dinner out with friends a cinch, too. But all that monetary freedom comes with a cost: it requires you to take charge of your financial life.

As boring as the words “financial responsibility” may sound, it’s not hard so long as you adhere to a couple of ground rules:

1. Don’t spend more than you have.

Keep track how much money you have, and how much you’ve spent, using online banking (Republic Bank makes this easy) or an app like Mint.

2. Always make payments on time.

Every month, you’ll get a bill. If you don’t pay the minimum balance, you’ll be charged interest basically a pricey fine.

Being an adult doesn’t mean you stop being graded.

An expensive interest penalty isn’t the only reason to make a timely payment. Unpaid credit card bills damage your credit score. A credit score is like being graded as an adult. Just as a 60% in school reflects your effort and ability, so does a low credit score.

Low credit scores affect your ability to rent a home, buy a car, or in some cases, even get a job. And worse still, the affect your credit limit, meaning you can’t spend as much (goodbye, flat screen).

One more thing: you have to apply for a card.

Like any privilege, there’s an application process to get a credit card. For your first card, you’ll probably need to have a parent be a co-applicant with you (unless you already have a full-time job).

Double-check what information you’ll need to apply, but usually you and your parent will need to provide two forms of photo identification, a utility bill in your name, a recent job letter, and a recent pay slip.

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