Kathleen G. Kane - Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General - Protecting Pennsylvanians

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Credit Cards and College Students

Online Shopping Every year hundreds of thousands of students head to college in Pennsylvania, almost half of them will be carrying at least one credit card. What's more, students will be inundated with opportunities to apply for even more credit cards once they arrive at school, through on-campus promotions and applications in their mailboxes. With so much "easy credit" available, it is critical that young adults understand how important it is to live within their means and avoid getting into ballooning credit card debt. Poor credit decisions made in college can often follow a person for the rest of his or her life.

Credit has become an important part of modern life. Learning to handle credit wisely is a major step toward becoming a responsible adult. Everyone should educate themselves on credit matters before taking on the responsibility of a credit card.

Here are some important tips when considering applying for a credit card:

  • Limit the number of credit cards you have. The more credit you have, the more likely you are to spend. Even if you don't use all your available credit, credit companies treat unused credit as money you can spend, and may deny you a car loan or even a loan for graduate school because of a high credit line.
  • Shop around for the best "terms." Not all credit cards are the same. One may offer special "gifts" or rebates, but charge a higher rate. Others may require an annual fee or "deposit."
  • Be sure to understand all the language used in the agreement, and what's expected of you. Does the company begin charging interest from the day you make a purchase, or is there a "grace period" until the bill is due?
  • Pay your credit card bill in full, on time. Keeping a balance on a credit card, often at the highest interest rate allowable by law, is a very expensive way to get a loan.

If you do run into difficulty with credit, talk to your parents or another trusted adult. There are no quick fixes for bad credit. Only paying your bills regularly can get you back on the right road. When it comes to credit card use, an ounce of prevention is worth more than its weight in gold!

The Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection is here to help. If you need more information, visit the website at www.attorneygeneral.gov or call the toll-free helpline at 1-800-441-2555.