Knowing how to handle your money doesn’t come easy. You need to know some basics, so you can make good money decisions.

What is credit?

Your credit score is a number from 300-850. When you are applying for a loan for a major purchase, and sometimes when you are applying for an apartment lease, your credit score may come into play. The higher your credit score, the better. It shows that you are responsible with money. If you have a bad credit score, lenders and credit card companies may increase your interest rates and limit the amount of money you can borrow. A bad credit score may also worry many landlords about your ability to pay rent on time, which means they may not rent to you at all.

How do I improve my credit score?

The first thing you want to do is get a credit card and pay your bill on time every month. Keep the balance on your credit card low. Building and improving credit takes time, so be patient! There is no quick fix for bad credit scores, so be careful with credit cards and loans.

Check your credit here: free credit report.


An ATM (automatic teller machine) or debit card lets you take the money you have in your bank account electronically. Try to avoid using ATMs that are not affiliated with your bank. Banks will charge you convenience fees that can really add up.

Why do I need a bank account and how old do I have to be to open one?

Bank accounts are generally safer and easier than carrying cash or using a check cashing service. Your money is in a secure place, but available to you by check, credit/debit card or you can make withdrawals to get cash from your bank.  In California you must be 18 years old to open a bank account on your own. If you are under 18, then you need someone you trust to co-sign for you.

What do I need to open a bank account?

When you apply, you will need to provide your Social Security Number, current home address and your co-applicant’s personal information (if applicable).

Will a bank charge me for my bank account?

Some banks will charge a monthly fee for an account, usually from $7 to $12 depending on the bank. If you promise to keep a minimum amount in your account every month, then you may be able to get a lower monthly fee.

What if I withdraw more than I have in my account?

If you withdraw more money than you have in your account, the bank may not pay it. Or, they may pay it but charge you a hefty fine. Check to find out whether your bank gives you “overdraft protection.” Overdraft fees can start at $35 for each bad check/debit and go up from there. Monitor your bank account so you always know how much money you have and can avoid overdrafts.