Credit card companies targeting immature, innocent and vulnerable college students is like a liquor company setting up a bar with nickel drinks across the street from an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. It is cruel. It is underhanded and it should be illegal. Kids who have never lived away from their parents and were just dropped at the dorms by Mom & Dad two hours earlier are accosted by credit card pimps handing out t-shirts, hats, and goodie bags and promising these kids low interest rates and a way they can buy what they want while they’re away at school.
The reality is that every one of these kids will be dealing with a plethora of temptations from booze to sex to drugs to stuffing their faces with pizza all hours of the day and night and waving a magical card that gets them “free stuff” is the lowest of the lowest form of salesmanship. An eighteen year old who has not handled a credit card before, will go out and promptly run it to it’s limit purchasing all those burning necessities that their parents left out of the monthly budget. Things like tanning and hoodie sweatshirts with the college logo and the totally adorable flip flops and lava lamp and super fuzzy floor rug and, of course, the spiffy tattoo of the sassy kitten that was only $100.
And when the credit card has hit its limit, does the issuer block its further use? Oh no! They RAISE the credit limit doubling the disaster. For too many families, by the time a freshman college student comes home for their winter holiday break, they have run up almost $4000 in credit card debt buying pizza, going to movies, picking up a little something in the quick mart on the ground floor level of the dorm building or ordering whatever moved them off the Internet.
One college student on a summer internship in Chicago was asked not what his yearly income was, but what his household yearly income was; meaning his parents income. Unbeknownst to his folks back home, this young man was given a credit card with a $6,000 limit and he managed to max out the card, even before the first bill arrived back home. Because he was over 18, the credit card company didn’t have to notify the parents for authorization to give him a card. Even though the back up payment for this card was a joint checking account he had with his mother and she was ultimately responsible for the debt if he were to default on paying off the $6000 debt.
There is a magical quality about credit cards that puts the user into a hypnotic state when they enter a place that sells things. The power of a small square of plastic that with a wave and a brush of a pen, can get you anything you ever wanted, is positively enchanting, exhilarating and irresistible.
Given the state of our economy right now coupled with the loan shark behavior of credit card companies who hike your introductory 4% interest rate to 27% if your payment is one day late, this is no time for newly hatched consumers to be out there with a dangerous weapon that can kill their future credit score before they even have a job.
Credit card companies should be regulated and it should be illegal for them to hawk their retail heroin fixes to kids trying to get an education. It’s despicable and it should be a punishable crime.