How New Credit Card Laws Affect Students

For the most part, the new credit card laws going into effect in February are a great thing. If you’re under 21 and don’t yet have a credit card, you will soon have to jump through a few more hoops before you can get one.

The law states that those under the age of 21 must either get a co-signer, typically their parents, or have verifiable income before they can be approved for a credit card. While it’s unclear what will count as “verifiable income” or how much income is required, the bill does state that the available credit should not be more than 30% of his or her gross income the previous year.

If you are a student without a credit card and feel that you need one, now would be a good time to apply for one, especially if you had no verifiable income last year or would find difficulty locating a willing co-signer.

If you are a parent, it’s better if you aren’t a co-signer on your child’s credit card. While it would be great for you to educate them on how to use credit cards properly, you can do so without being financially responsible for their debts. In fact, having that safety net could lead to unintended irresponsible behavior.

Or, skip credit cards entirely and use a debit card. While slightly less secure, you don’t have to deal with the additional requirements now placed on students.

Jim writes about personal finance at Bargaineering.com.