Survey: Credit Cards Pushed on Students

Undergraduates report offers of free gifts and say they want more regulation.

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A new survey of undergraduates by U.S. PIRG, a public-interest group, highlights just how widespread credit card use in college has become, a topic U.S. News has recently written about. The findings include:

• Four out of five students support stronger regulation of credit card marketing on campuses.

• Three in four students said only cards with "fair terms and conditions" should be allowed to be marketed on campuses.

• Three in four students say they have stopped at tables hosted by credit card companies to consider offers or apply for cards. Almost 1 in 3 reports accepting a gift from a card provider. The most common gifts were T-shirts, Frisbees or other sports toys, and a mug or water bottle.

• Eight in 10 respondents said they received direct-mail advertisements from card companies. On average, they received almost five mailings per month.

• Two in three students say they own at least one credit card.

• Among those students who own cards, more than half said they use them for daily expenses. Nearly 1 in 4 reports having used cards to pay for tuition.

• Among students who are responsible for their own cards (as opposed to their parents paying the bills), just under half say they carry a balance each month on their primary card.

• Among college seniors responsible for their own cards who carry debt each month, the average debt was $2,623. For freshmen, the figure was $1,301.