No cash? No problem. With the swipe of a card and a signature you’re off. Off that is until the monthly bills start rolling in and piling up.

Take a stroll by the mailroom and chances are you’ll see a student or two with their eyes popping out of their pale green faces as they stare at the long list of purchases they’ve made.

“The problem is I have too many and I go over my limit on every single one. Sometimes I look at my bill and not even remember what’s on it. But, I pay my monthly bills in full, I don’t just pay the minimum,” said Laura Orozco, ’04.

Today, many credit card companies offer amazing introductory rates that are exceptionally low. But like all good things that come to an end, those great rates soon jump extraordinarily high. In June 2000, a survey of lenders that offer student credit cards found the average rate was 17.51 percent.

“Credit cards are such a scam. They try to lure us innocent college students and then they charge astronomically high rates,” said Marisa Muzic, ’03.

Under regular credit criteria, many students would not be able to get a card because they have no credit history and little or no income. But the market for young people is valuable because as industry research shows young consumers remain loyal to their first cards as they get older, according to

“Credit cards are so easy for college students to get,” said Dora DeNardo, ’04. “The other day a telemarketer called my room and tried to make it sound like she had this great opportunity for me. It was just another credit card.”

Credit companies have moved on campus to lure students into obtaining cards. Their aggressive marketing combined with students’ lack of financial experience leads many into serious debt.

Two state lawmakers have proposed bill SB424, which strives to reduce credit card marketing to college students. Among the restrictions are requiring parental approval in students’ applications and mandatory debt education. Arkansas and Louisiana have similar laws.

“In high school I was never allowed a credit card, but once I found out I didn’t need a parental signature, I applied for three cards and got them all,” said a freshman that wished not to be identified. “I would just keep charging things and forgetting about it, but at the end of the month I couldn’t pay the bills. I just paid the minimums and my balance kept escalating. I got into serious debt and serious trouble when my parents found out.”

But this student is not alone. Half of all college students with credit cards don’t pay their balances in full each month, according to Student debt has grown dramatically through the late 1990s.

In 2000, 78 percent of college students with loans from Nellie Mae, the federally backed student loan agency, had a credit card, up from 67 percent in 1998. The average debt load is $2,748 versus $1,879 in 1998, according to Nellie Mae.

Other students learn from the mistakes of their classmates and choose not to get stuck in the credit card trap.

“I don’t bother with credit cards, I think it’s too much of a hassle. You’re going to have to pay for your purchases eventually, why not do it up front, then you don’t have to worry about it later,” said Michele Fields, ’04.

“I just have one credit card that I use for online purchases, usually when I go out I just use cash, it’s easier,” said Chris Karch, ’04.

Tips to handle credit wisely:

1. Credit is a loan—real money you must repay. It’s not like a stag card. 2. Decide what you are going to use the card for and set spending limits. 3. Find cards with the best rates and limit the number you have. 4. Read the fine print-that low A.P.R. isn’t forever. 5. Pay your total balance each month and dpay on time. Paying off a $1,000 debt on an 18 percent card by just sending in the minimum each month would take more than 12 years to repay.

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