Student PIRGs Aims To Eliminate Irresponsible Credit Card Marketing on College Campuses

If you haven’t seen Maxed Out yet, put it on your to-do list. And after you’ve watched it and are all fired up about the credit industry, here’s something you can do about it. Student PIRGs has set up a website to collect stories about irresponsible credit card marketing practices on college campuses. Stop in and drop off your own experiences.

Student PIRGs also has six tips to help students avoid getting stuck in debt. They’ve been mentioned on Consumerist before, but they bear repeating:

    1. Shop around before getting a card
    2. Use your card sparingly
    3. Pay off your balance every month
    4. Make payments as early as possible to avoid late charges
    5. Call your credit card company and ask for a lower rate
    6. Seek help if you have trouble paying



Edit Your Comment

  1. urban_ninjya says:

    1 warning about early payments. Make sure you have a bit of money left when the statement comes in. I’ve gotten into situations where I paid off the vast majority of my bill before the statement is sent to me, then I receive a statement with a small minimum payment. But because my bank account is drained till the next payday at the beginning of the next month, I wasn’t able to meet the minimum payment and got my interest rate jacked up because of a late payment.

  2. thrillhouse says:

    Why do the “six tips to help students avoid getting stuck in debt” all assume that you are going to have credit cards?


    0. Get a debit card and/or pay cash.

  3. nweaver says:

    thrillhouse: DEBIT cards are worse than credit cards because of the security concerns.

    Also, a student credit card, ONE, used well, is a VERY GOOD THING, as it is a way to go from 0 to building up a strong credit rating, which is useful.

  4. wikkit says:


    You’re talking about a group of people with no credit history. Age of longest credit line is one of the metrics FICA scores are based on. You have to start building a credit history somehow.

  5. Nicholai says:

    This is a list of things all credit card users want to or try to do. I mean, all credit card users want to pay off their balance every month, make payments early, and ask for a lower rate. But do all of them? no.

    Oh, and I love the picture.

  6. whysteriastar says:

    To build up your credit score, the best thing to do is actually pay all but a dollar. They like to give better credit to people that do not pay their cards off 100% every month, but always make timely payments.

  7. JustRob says:

    Perhaps consumerist should do an expose’ on PIRG — a private non-profit group that has convinced many colleges/universities to mandate student contributions to them. Yes, that’s right. Mandated student fees to support a private organization — whether you agree with their goals or not. The PIRGs have consistently fought against an opt out provision on student bills.

  8. mac-phisto says:

    i went to penn state – not too long ago, MBNA became the first corporation in 3 decades to get a building named after them (ironically, the MBNA career center). they gave the university loads of money to let them solicit students (along w/ many other card providers). i walked out of that place with a degree, $40,000 in student loan debt & $5,000 in credit card debt. i didn’t have a job for 8 months. 2 of those cards ended up as charge offs (which i later paid off – a $1,000 discover card cost me $2,800 to get rid of).

    do you know i got that card b/c it was a nice day & they were giving out free frisbees? i don’t blame anyone but myself for maxing it out, but my point for relating the story is that credit cards do not belong on college campuses. sure, college is “grow up time”, but students are still kids thinking more about playing frisbee on a nice day & less about the $3,000 that frisbee will cost them.

    i shouldn’t have been bombarded by 20 offers every time i tried to enter a class building. they shouldn’t have placed offers in my “welcome kit”, nor solicitations in my dorm p.o. box. let them peddle their debt off-campus.

  9. FLConsumer says:

    I think college is the PERFECT place for students to learn about credit cards. Like sex and drugs, credit cards are a new freedom which college students should explore and learn about, but in a responsible way. The problem is that these students have never had to exhibit self-control before in their lives. They come toting their iPods, laptops, X-box 360, PS3 (gotta have at least 2 game systems), newish car, stereo, DVD player, CD player, cell phone, PDA, and probably a whole slew of other things I’ve not thought of. Much of this stuff they’ve not spent one cent on.

    The fortunate college students would be the ones who had jobs before going to college. While by no means a guarantee of financial responsibility, they’ll at least appreciate how many hours of work that $6 coffee was.

    THAT SAID, I can’t believe the gimmicks college students fall for. Frisbees, a suction-cup basketball hoop, t-shirts, etc. Is that really all it takes to buy the loyalty of a 18-25 year old? Sadly, yes. I’ve seen it done to get political referendums/ammendments on the ballots around here, in addition to the usual credit card crap.

    It’s a big bad world out there. College students die because of their naivety. College students drink themselves to oblivion, college girls get drunk and have sex with people they wouldn’t if they were sober, guys pick up STDs (oh wait, they’d do that regardless of alcohol ingestion), get mugged, flunk out, etc.

    Credit cards are just another part of the world which some students abuse, mainly due to their own lack of self-control. Just like the bars in the party areas, the credit card cos are just filling demand.

  10. mac-phisto says:

    @FLConsumer: yeah, but should a school be making money from promotions such as this? solicitors were banned at penn state. unless of course they shelled up some cash – then it really didn’t matter who they represented.

    i completely agree with personal responsibility – but i also believe in ethical responsibility. colleges & universities are responsible for the well-being of their students – at the very least on an ethical level.

  11. Mildly off topic story:

    A few years ago while I was attending the University of Miami, credit card companies would frequently set up a little table and give out prizes whenever you signed up for a credit card. Usually one card netted you a small prize (of which there were few) and two cards netted you a big inflatable hammer or something of equal stupidity.

    I was going through the student union during one of these melees and decided to check out the table. In the “small prize” pile, they had several boxes of very old car air fresheners that had been dug out of a warehouse in the middle of god knows where. Among them was an entire box of Mr. T air fresheners that were so old all the scent had dusted off inside the plastic bag.

    So many students were signing up for cards that nobody batted an eyelash when I turned over the application with obviously false and unintelligible information on it. Through two cars since that time, Mr. T has faithfully swung from my rearview mirror.

    This story had a happy ending for me, but the fact that there was a feeding frenzy of kids signing up for cards that weren’t doing as I did makes me think a little more self control and information is in order.

  12. FLConsumer says:

    @mac-phisto: I *DO* have a problem with the Unis accepting money to let the predatory card co’s on campus. Even more so considering that many Unis have credit unions affiliated with them, which usually have some form of Visa/Mastercard at more reasonable rates. I believe many CUs even offer basic financial management courses at little to no cost.

    I’ll admit that even I’m a bit niaeve when it comes to credit cards co’s operations. Until I started reading articles on Consumerist, I had no idea that the rates can get into the double digits, let alone 20-30%. I’ve always looked at my statements, seeing the 7.9% and thought that was a bit stiff, despite being lower than most short-term loans with banks/credit unions.

  13. tedyc03 says:

    NOW they tell me that credit cards for students are bad…

    Wish that they had said something BEFORE I was $8K in debt…

    ~ Poor student

  14. Carrnage says:


    You stole the post right out of my mouth. I thought the way Penn State let MBNA peddle their cards for building funds was pretty despicable.

  15. thrillhouse says:

    Go read Visa’s own Zero-liability policy, which was extended to debit cards in 2000. Debt =/= security.

    “You have to start building a credit history somehow.”
    No, you don’t. The need for a credit score or FICO score is a myth. It has nothing to do with winning, and everything to do with going into debt and staying in debt.

    It is absolutely ridiculous that when attempting to avoid debt, that job 1 is to run out and get a credit card. That is an absolutely irresponsible plan.

  16. Parting says:

    As a student, besides usual advertisement on campus for credit cards, I get at least 2 credit card offers in the mail per WEEK. And I’m not exaggerating. Just yesterday, I’ve got 2 new offers in my mail.
    That’s a lot of solicitation, and I understand why so many of my fellow students fall for it.
    Hell, I fell for it.
    Up to recently I had 3 credit cards, 2 of which I do not use any more.
    Yes there is a part of personal responsibility, but the marketing is very predatory. Especially that the marketing started as soon as I turned 18.
    If you’re a working student and lose your job, it’s very easy to try to compensate by credit cards and then spend years paying off your debt.

  17. gnappulicious says:

    Getting rid of credit cards on campuses is like reducing the price of gasoline instead of making cars that use less fuel and making these cars more appealing: it doesn’t get rid of the problem of educating consumers. To me, it’s logical that if you don’t have the money, you don’t spend it. Obviously, many people failed to learn this at some point before they were thousands of dollars in debt (how the &#@! does that happen anyway?!?!? what the *@^! do you people buy???)

    Better education is necessary, and getting rid of the cards’ presence on campus doesn’t eliminate the problem of overspending on credit cards. Some people just need to be hit over the head with a bat of obvious before they understand how credit cards work.

  18. FLConsumer says:

    @thrillhouse: Zero liability, maybe, BUT unlike a credit card, you’re without access to that money until the issue is resolved, however long that may take. Most people who use debit cards tend to not have large bank accounts, thus a mistake here, even temporary, can set them up to miss payments on major items.

    @tedyc03: They’re only bad for people who lack self-discipline/self-control. I’ve been carrying a corporate credit card since I was 16 and picked up my first personal card when I turned 18. Used properly, they’re a great way to keep track of your finances. 12 years later, I’ve paid every bill in full every month, no matter what it took on my end to make it happen.

    The attitude which many 20& 30-somethings have towards credit card debt surprises me. Even one of my friends was telling me that she has a substantial amount of credit card debt racked up and was just waiting “for them to write it off” so she could move on with her life. WTF?

  19. thrillhouse says:

    Zero Liability, Definitely. I didn’t see a ‘maybe’ in their entire statement. And speaking from experience, getting it resolved took a matter of minutes, and at worst it was not available till the next day.

    If only people knew as much about debit cards as they think they know about credit cards. Small bank accounts my ass, get rid of your debt and you’ll have CASH.