Students in Debt

Some college students are in debt over their heads, before they can legally purchase alcohol, all thanks to credit cards.

Credit card companies have a reputation for targeting college freshmen into buying a credit card due to their vulnerability.

Some companies have a deal – if you sign on the dotted line you get a free T-shirt or some other item. However, most students don’t realize they could be signing up for bad credit scores and large amounts of debt if they aren’t responsible with their cards.

“Everyone likes to have a card in their pocket to pull out in times of need,” said Julie Linch, vice president of the Toledo Community Credit Union.

Freshmen are targeted because these credit card companies need the money and the students need the money in return, Linch said. They are leaving home for the first time and feel good with a card in their hands.

“I think [credit card companies] target college freshmen because they think we are young, dumb and want to spend money,” said freshman, Eli Fellers.

This is a big issue and it’s a situation that everyone should read about, according to Linch. It can ruin students’ chances of getting a house and future credit.

There are many reasons why college students have become major targets for credit card companies, according to the article, “The Effectiveness of Credit Card Regulation for Vulnerable Consumers,” written by Karin Braunsberger, Laurie Lucas and Dave Roach in the publication, Journal of Services Marketing.

One reason is the college market alone has been estimated at $90 billion. Another factor is 75 percent of college students are known to keep their first credit card for up to 15 years.

College freshmen are especially vulnerable because they have little to no knowledge about consumer credit, Linch said.

“We are working with other local credit unions as an approach to help high school juniors and seniors to understand credit debt to make sure they know when they go off to college and are on their own,” Linch said.

Students must learn to use their cards responsibly if they do sign with a company, said Dr. Michael Slates, instructor in the Department of Finance at BGSU. They should charge only when necessary and pay it off in its entirety each month.

“It’s also important to determine what kind of credit card user you are going to be,” Slates said. “[Students] want to look for a credit card with low fees and some sort of benefits, like airline miles.”

Linch also warned against owning more than two credit cards.

If someone gets into debt, they must change their lifestyle to pay the credit off because bad credit will stay on the record books for seven years, Slates said.

“Students must read the fine print about rates going up if they make a late payment because they might think it’s OK to skip a month and then before they know it, their rates have gone up significantly,” Linch said.