Confessions Of A Campus Credit Card Pimp

Here are two of the things a former Citibank credit card pusher told college students to get them to sign up:

“Even if you apply, you can always cut up the card,” and “It’s easy to pay off your balance once you graduate and get a great job.”

The ex-app jockey even fell pray to his own patter. One signup shy of a cash bonus, he filled out one for himself. Five years later, he’s $13,000 in credit card debt. We encourage college kids who spot these hucksters, make like Jesus and overturn their tables.

Confessions of a credit card pusher [Businessweek]


Edit Your Comment

  1. ShadowFalls says:

    Signing up for a credit card doesn’t make you $13,000 in debt, irresponsible use of it does. How is it I am of the same age of some of these college students, but I can actually be responsible using them…

    Don’t blame credit card companies, they are adults not children, blame these college students who go to school to learn, but decide to not think.

  2. timmus says:

    I always laugh when people talk about “cutting up credit cards”. Yeah, that somehow magically cancels the account.

  3. wonderlic says:

    I agree with Shadowfalls. Sure there could probably be better disclosure of a lot of the onerous provisions of your average student credit card (or any credit card for that matter), but at the same time college is a GREAT time to get a card and build a credit history, because they will literally give a name brand card to anyone. Bottom line is just don’t charge more than you can pay off evey month.

  4. darkclawsofchaos says:

    credit cards are a pain, although I’m only undergrad, I just don’t see the trade off. The only good type of pushers are the ones that is a legitimate business rep, not some student. At my college, there was a fair of banks and other companies at the beginning of the year, I was able to haggle for two Razrs at $150 each for a prepaid plan from T-mobile. A smile got me through smoothly. At that time, it was $250 for a two year contract, so a smile goes a long way

  5. AD8BC says:

    I am 32 years old and have had at least one credit card since I was a freshman in college. I got it through my credit union and my parents explained to me that it isn’t a free pass. I have never once carried a balance. I use it as a spending tool and that’s all (and for airline miles).

    Now, my parents taught the same message to my sister, and she has always carried a balance.

    Point is, half of the blame goes to the credit card pimps… the other half goes to those who dig their own holes.

  6. UpsetPanda says:

    I’ve had a card since high school – there is no problem with it unless you’re an irresponsible spender, that’s it. There’s no one to blame but yourself if you end up in debt.

  7. scoopy says:

    @darkclawsofchaos: Any decent salesperson can trick a mark into thinking they got a deal for their smile. Oldest trick in the book. Oh, and how does this relate to credit cards?

  8. wring says:

    u mean ‘prey’.

  9. mookiemookie says:

    I remember me and my friends being enticed by the offers of free shotglasses or t-shirts. Of course we never actually bought into the credit card scam, though. We just filled out the applications with fake names, addresses and SSNs, got our free swag and went on our merry way.

  10. FLConsumer says:

    2 questions:
    1) How the hell does a college student get $13k in credit cards? I didn’t think the credit card cos were dumb enough to loan out THAT much money to a college student without a stable income.

    2) How the hell does a college student rack up $13k in credit card debt?

  11. jesirose says:

    1. You get applications for 20 different cards a week and you’re pre-approved for 1k on each.
    2. books, food, car and gas, electronics, dates, etc? College is EXPENSIVE, and when you don’t understand credit it’s easy to add up that much. I’m surprised it’s not MORE.

  12. urban_ninjya says:

    1) Even without the co-signer, credit card companies will assume parents will try to bail them out.

    2) Probably bought some Mary Jane /w the book money, then ended up buying the books on Credit Card money. Few late payments and the penalty fees and interest racks up.

  13. donTHEd says:

    We usually lie on the apps to get the prize. Totally fabricate everything.
    Funny thing is, last May I got a free t-shirt, saw the guy again the next day, told him I already applied, he said do it again.

  14. hoo_foot says:

    @FLConsumer: When I was a student, I used to receive “free” $5000 cash loan offers in the mail all the time. All I had to do was take it to the bank and cash the check they provided in each mailing. I never took up these offers, but I can see how they would be a temptation for poor college students.

    I still get 2-3 credit card offers every week, too.

  15. EtherealStrife says:

    @jesirose: Don’t forget tuition. My uni allowed us to pay by credit card
    for summer classes. That’s a single $1200 lump. You can also charge part of your car purchase at many dealerships. Another $4000 (or whatever their max is).

    Citibank is especially dangerous. I regularly received high max high apr card offers during my freshman and sophomore years, at a time when my credit was virtually null and income was in the negative. I ended up settling with a card from my CU, since they factored in my account history to offer a ridiculously low %. I think I paid a total of $7 in finance charges the entire time I was in college. Ramen power!

    Before going into debt, make sure there’s nothing left that you can cut. A college student does not need much to get by after tuition is paid.
    Used books can be purchased for pennies on the dollar if you’re able to go with an older edition. Always ask your professors if the latest edition is necessary. You’d be surprised how often it isn’t.
    Don’t underestimate rice and ramen.
    Alcohol is a ripoff at bars and restaurants — if you absolutely must drink, buy in bulk. Same if you’re a soda junkie.
    And the list goes on. So many people I know are up to their necks in debt because of college. It doesn’t have to be that way, if you just make some sacrifices during those 4 (or more) years.

  16. Anonymous says:

    “make like Jesus and overturn their tables.”

    Interesting message. My brother is one of those goons, not because he hates the public (which he does), but because it’s easy employment with no requirements. He’s behind on bills so it’s a quick $100-200 to pad his income.

    You’re an idiot if you see the people holding the applications at the evil organization. Yes, they’re part of the machine.

    I used to do AT&T Tech support, I got calls from assholes with the same mentality. “AT&T sucks, you work for AT&T, you suck, you’re the face of the evil company.”

    You’re forgetting about the person behind the pamphlets. And I promise you, if you flip over his table, he’ll shove it up your ass.

  17. jmschn says:

    Theory of Survival of the Fittest at its best…gotta have those who can’t manage their money to make those that can look even better.

  18. pine22 says:

    its sad that so many college kids dont learn fiscal responsibility from their parents. how can you expect kids to know this stuff if their parents dont tell them anything about it. here on my campus, they give t-shirts, shot glasses, coupon books, and even 20 bucks cash for people to open credit card accts up. its pathetic to think that people are easily enticed by cheap crap.

    its ridiculous, people need to learn to not buy things they cant afford! i agree with wonderlic, in college you should be building your credit, not destroying it before you start earning real money.

  19. aviationwiz says:

    I’m a freshman in college, and I’ve been using credit cards for 2 years. I’ve never carried a balance. I’ve come close to carrying a balance a few times, but not to the extent that I’d be in debt for years, just that I might need to carry it for a month or two, while always of course maintaining above minimum payments.

  20. Anonymous says:

    I agree with many of the previous comments that College age people should be responsible enough to wield the responsibility of [gasp] a Credit Card.
    If they’re not responsible enough while in college they’re most likely not going to be any more responsible after college…. as far as I recall, most of my “Consumer Ed” training was obtained through my parents and the mandatory “Consumer Ed” class in High School, NONE of my college courses “educated” me about “Credit Card Pitfalls”.

  21. scootinger says:

    When it comes down to it, it’s the fault of the people who get themselves into debt, but the credit card companies are being irresponsible too. I’m a freshman in college, and recently I signed up for a student credit card with Citi. (there are a lot of advantages to getting a CC from the way I see it, so don’t lecture me on why I shouldn’t)

    With practically no credit, they gave me a card with a $2000 credit limit and a 18% APR. (APR doesn’t matter to me since I pay off my bill every time) IMHO that is outrageous for someone who is 18 and has no credit. (try a $500 CL?)

    I am responsible with money and credit myself, but there are a lot of college students that aren’t. Many college kids would probably just go out and buy all the crap they could if they saw that they had $2000 to spend. And it makes sense for CC companies to do this too…a lot of these kids end up getting into trouble with credit and have mommy and daddy bail them out, all while the CC company makes a shitload of money off interest/fees.

  22. el_dusto says:

    Two years ago, I delivered pizza for a local pizzeria. I carried small (<1/2 available limit) balances on three credit cards, charging everything from fuel to food to new toys for myself. It was never a big deal, because I was always able to pay the bill at the end of the month.

    One night, on my way back to the store, my car was totaled by an 18-year-old woman who ran a red light at 40mph while talking on her cellphone. My car was 10 years old, and I carried liability insurance only as any accident was likely to total the vehicle.

    It took me almost 100 days to resolve the resulting insurance situation with the woman’s insurer. During that time, of course, I had no car, and was essentially unable to work. I went from 40 hours/wk at $12 an hour to 10 hours a week at minimum wage.

    Barely able to pay my rent for three months, I was late on payments for everything from insurance to my phone to student loans… to the credit cards. Not surprisingly, the credit card companies were sympathetic in words alone.

    Two years later I am still paying off those same cards, all at 30%+ “default” interest rates, and mainly because I was socked with almost $1000 in late fees and overlimit fees.

    Obviously I am responsible for paying my own debts, but the usury perpetrated on me by the credit card industry ought to be a crime. Credit card debt, even used responsibly, can rapidly spiral out of control when life’s misfortunes come calling, and the young and newly independent are the least able to deal with the fallout.

  23. aikoto says:

    I believe in personal responsibility, but I also believe that no one has time to be an expert in everything. The credit industry has been carefully sculpted after more than 30 years to take customers for every penny the law allows. It’s as easy to trip and fall as possible.

    Tell me that a normal person is in a fair position against that.

    Note to *Ben Popken*, the link goes to the third page of the article.

  24. RandomHookup says:

    I so love a story where a dealer gets strung out on his own merchandise.

  25. olegna says:

    Um, I remember having like a $15,000 credit limit as a janitor in a bar when I was in college. I went into $27,000 in debt and dug myself out over like 10 year. I was irresponsible, then I was responsible. But I still beleive a system that ISSUES DEBT LIMITS THAT ARE FAR BEYOND THE ABILITY OF THE PERSON’S INCOME TO PAY, WHICH IS SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED THAT WAY is a system that is out of control.

    The average American household has $7,000 in unsecured debt. The government spending is even more “irresponsible”. (Dick Cheney: “Deficits don’t matter.”)

    So to all the ninnies whining and defending anti-consumer predatory lending, take heed: AMERICANS ARE IRRESPONSIBLE WITH UNSECURED LENDING, PERIOD.

    The question isn’t whether Americans should be more responsible, the question is how do you control the system in light of the fact that American’s aren’t responsible.

    And don’t give me this libertarian shell game about personal responsibility and big government: if you really believed that “drown the government crap” you would be calling for an end to meat inspections.

  26. olegna says:

    PS: And don’t even get me started on why it’s easier for “corporate entities” (ie companies granted similar rights as human beings in the eyes of the law) to act irresponsibly and shaft their “unsecured lenders” (I was screwed out of $9,000 this way, which would have helped me pay off my debts faster), file bankruptcy and reconstitute to do the same crap over again. While at the same time “liberal” Democrats vote for “Bankruptcy Reform” that makes it harder for human beings to do what corporate entities get away with all the time.

    The entire system works in favor of the corporate entities and it wasn’t always like this in the US. If you look at GDP growth over the past 100 years, there’s actually nothing supporting the argument that governments should give preferences to corporations over human beings (ostensibly because this crates more jobs, and trickles down, blah blah blah).

    For example, some of the most robust economic growth in America in the 20th Century came at a time when corporate taxation was over 50% (it’s like 34% today and people still think it’s terribly high).

    This is related in “Big Picture” sort of way with the entire culture of consumer debt today: why defend it? It’s bad for the economy to apply libertarian principles to Citibank.

  27. dunkin75 says:

    I’m not sure why people don’t take responsibility for their own actions. It’s hard to get buy without a credit card these days but just because a bank is willing to give you a large credit limit does not mean you have to use it all. I’m sure some people fall into debt because of necessity or an unforeseen circumstance, but I would argue that most of the issues come from irresponsible spending. Before you hate on the credit card companies take a look at your spending habits and think about how you got there in the first place…..

  28. mangopants says:

    I’ve finally passed through the light at the end of the tunnel and am now debt free after paying off / shredding my credit cards.

    Whenever I pass by these sharks (always at the airport!) I politely say “no thanks, I’m allergic to credit” and walk on my merry way.

    I love the look on their faces after I say that. :)

  29. sugarpox says:

    I used to do the same thing at sports stadiums. It’s not just college students who need an education on credit. Out of every 50 people that I would sign up, maybe one would ask about the card itself. Everyone else would be like “So, what’s the free gift?” or else they would think they were signing up for Sports Illustrated, as if SI would ask for their social…

  30. magus_melchior says:

    “We encourage college kids who spot these hucksters, make like Jesus and overturn their tables.”


    But don’t make a whip and chase them off campus. That’s assault.