Pushing Credit on the College Crowd

Companies use free food and Facebook to lure students

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A free 6-inch sub enticed student Sydney Maier to apply for a Discover card.

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Bill Hardekopf, chief executive of the credit card comparison website LowCards.com, says some of the most valuable lessons begin even before students get to campus. "There is an aura or a freedom that a credit card gives a student, and that can very quickly turn into something financially dangerous. It's better to have that happen when the student is under the same roof than when they are in the dorms with their friends," he says.

In fact, market research suggests that students listen to their parents more than they do to advertising, which also holds a lesson for companies. According to research by Susan Menke, senior financial services analyst at Mintel, 84 percent of teens opened an account at their parents' bank. Says Menke: "So [they should] target the parents. Don't target the kids."

Updated: Originally published on 12/24/07. Updated on 1/18/08.