In many cases, young people have their first experience with credit cards when they go off to college. Some handle the experience better than others.
Lendedu, a student loan marketplace, recently quizzed college students at three different four-year institutions about their credit card knowledge. The results suggest that colleges would do well to add a few personal finance courses to the curriculum.
Off the bat, the survey found that only 38.46% of the students it polled have a credit card in their own name. That means the rest either do not have a credit card or, more likely, use a card that is in their parents' name. As a result, these students never see a credit card bill and have less accountability.
The survey found only 9.44% of students knew the interest rate on their credit card. If you paid off your account in full each month, you would have no real need to know the rate. But the survey shows that, unfortunately, this is not the case.
Two-thirds carry a balance
A full two-third of students – 67.78% – carry a balance on their credit card, exposing them to mounting debt, in addition to any student loans they might have. Perhaps because so many students carry a balance, a fairly large percentage – 58.89% – knew precisely the credit limit on their card.
Not all students have credit cards, and the survey takers wondered why not. Forty-three percent said they had considered applying for a credit card, but had not done so.
Almost the same number admitted the reason they had not applied was the fear they would run up too much debt.
In years past, college freshmen were bombarded with credit card offers as soon as they moved into their dorms. In 2009, Congress passed the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act.
The Card Act enacted a number of reforms, including curbs on credit card marketing efforts targeting college students. Students still get credit cards but are under much less pressure to do so.
A credit card can be a useful financial tool if used properly. A rule of thumb is to never charge anything you can't pay for at the end of the month. If you pay the bill in full, you start each billing cycle with a clean slate and won't accumulate debt.
Several credit cards are specifically designed for people who are new to credit, with forgiving features to keep consumers out of trouble. We recently profiled three cards that could be good choices for students who are considering a credit card.