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College and Credit Cards: The Debate between Students and Parents


There are millions of college students spread from one side of the country to the next. The majority of them are strapped for cash. Some of them learn to live with less. Others make the mistake of opening a credit card.  If you are a college student, or recently graduated, you may recall asking your parents for a credit card at some point during your time in school. At the time, you surely had a good reason (at least in your mind) for doing so.  Some college students have a hard time understanding why it is a bad idea to carry a credit card. They think this is a way to better their life, both financially and socially. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.

Student credit cards are a bad idea for the following reasons:

1. They are not always used how they are intended. Suppose a parent says, “Only use this credit card to purchase books and school supplies.” Sounds simple enough, right? While this may work for a few weeks, soon enough the student will stretch the limits and hope their parents don’t find out. Even if you trust your child, you never know when they will breakdown and use their credit card on an item that is not a necessity. This is the mind of many college-aged kids!

2. They are entirely too easy to use. You can pull-out a credit card at anytime. If you want to shop online, at a local mall, or at a restaurant, plastic works the same way. It only takes one lapse in judgment to run up a huge credit card bill.

3. Most students do not fully understand the consequences of abusing a credit card. They probably know they will owe the money at some point in the future, but do they know just how much interest can add up in a short period of time? Do they know that paying late can drag down their credit score before they enter the real world?

Reminder: There is legislation (part of the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009) that prevents anybody under the age of 21 from receiving a credit card. The only exceptions are those who can prove adequate income, or find somebody to co-sign.

I think you get the point.  I don’t believe it is a good idea for students to carry a credit card. Simply put, there are too many potential drawbacks without any possible benefits. Judging by recent legislation, it is easy to see that I am not the only one who feels this way.

What do you think about students and credit cards? Did you have access to plastic while you were in college?

Chris Bibey is a freelance writer who over the years has honed his personal finance experience by writing more than 100 feature articles on the subject. In his spare time, Chris enjoys sports - West Virginia football in particular!