Trinkets Entice College Students To Sign Up For Crappy Credit Cards

What does it take to get hungry, naive, and cash-strapped college students to sign up for crappy credit cards at on-campus booths? Not much. Based on a survey of over 1500 college students, here is the list of the most common and their percentage as documented by the Public Interest Research Group in a new campaign available on their microsite, Nothing like a tshirt with a 23% APR.


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  1. CaptRavis says:

    To be fair, a long time ago I was a cash strapped college kid working the ‘bank day’ booth at the college I was attending while employed by the megabank, so let me say caps and totebags for you and buck an app for me. It seemed fair at the time.

  2. humphrmi says:

    I know people who sign up for credit cards just for the swag. But they don’t use them, in fact they usually cancel them later. I can’t imagine that it’s good for their credit score.

  3. Hawk07 says:


    It’s definitely not good for the score, but not nearly as bad as running up thousands of dollars of debt.

  4. WasabiJoe says:

    The graph uh, confuses me a bit since that is clearly over 100%.

    I haven’t seen any credit card tables on my campus but then again I usually tune that stuff out and walk by.

  5. karlrove says:

    Make up the sign-up information! I did it lots in college. Free swag, no life-time of debt.

  6. Chols says:

    If you want better free stuff, go to a career fair on campus. I got some great loot!!

  7. Smooooth says:

    It’s amazing what lengths these kids will go to to get other naive kids to sign up for the cards. I passed by one of these booths a month or so after I got to college where they were handing out t-shirts. I asked the guy what I had to do to get a t-shirt and he said just fill out the form. I told him I didn’t want a credit card and he said, no, you just fill this out to let the credit card company know you’re interested, and then later you can apply for a card if you want.

    I didn’t fall for it, but my roommate did. I enjoyed a good laugh 2 weeks later when his credit card arrived. But it is pretty bad when these kids are flat out lying to people just to get an application filled out.

  8. Angryrider says:

    @Chols: Agreed! I love fairs in general, free swag. Oh how I wish Digital Life was two times a year!
    Getting a T-shirt for a credit card is pretty stupid anyway.

  9. NotATool says:

    @humphrmi: To avoid the hit on your credit score, you sign up with fake info to get the swag. You just have to know what fake info you used, because sometimes the people taking the app will quiz you to see if it’s legit!

  10. bonzombiekitty says:

    @WasabiJoe: Because individuals are probably often offered more than one free gift.

  11. Mr. Gunn says:

    Ben, you forgot the OBVIOUS tag.

  12. unklegwar says:

    Who said college students were smart? And everyone is trying to figure out why we’re in this credit crisis. The next generation isn’t any freaking smarter. People are like fish, dangle something shiny, and they’ll bite.

  13. fatmama says:

    This isn’t unique to “stupid” college students. These sort of tactics work on everyone. Simple social psychology.

    It’s called the norm of reciprocity. Happens to everyone; just have to be aware of it.



    I’m quite sure a lot of people did this. In fact, I have a conspiracy theory that some people put other people’s names and known info on those forms.

    When I got my first credit report after college, I had over 15 open lines of credit. Only half of which I knew about.


  15. Coelacanth says:

    I think it was Citibank who set up a booth right across from campus offering free medium pizzas to those who filled out a credit application.

    It was almost tempting enough. (Un)fortuantely, I already had a Citi card, and it was much better than their crappy Student Rates.

  16. anatak says:

    @RGISMYFAVORITECANADIANMORMON: Oh! crap. Yeah, sorry about that, dude.

  17. mcjake says:

    The sad part is, the most popular credit card table t-shirt at my college was just a gray shit that said “COLLEGE” on it. “Hey man, that t-shirt would have cost me like $3! Now its free!”

  18. Blueskylaw says:

    Of course T-shirts would make up 50%, nothing like a free walking billboard for their company while paying outrageous rates and hidden fees.

  19. iamlost26 says:

    @WasabiJoe: I think it’s because each college student has more than one card, so they would apply in more than one category.

  20. pnkseashel says:

    We would always sign up for these in college – they were all over campus. The trick is to use an incorrect SSN#. Make sure you remember the fake # you used though, because they would ask you to recite your ssn# after they took the clipboard away.

  21. pyro789x says:

    When I signed up for my bank account with credit card at my college less than half a year ago, I did not care what my interest rate was — I do not plan on maintaining a balance — and I threw away the crap they gave me when I got back to my dorm room. Remember to take surveys and polls like this with a grain of salt.

  22. Jimmy M says:

    176% of college students agree that most surveys don’t make any sense.

  23. jonvarsky says:

    i found myself, sometime in 2004 while working on my bachelor’s degree, applying for two citibank credit cards. i made sure to emphasize on the applications how my annual income was $ZERO ($0) and how i had no job. in return i got 2 piping hot pizzas and 6-8 weeks later 2 $1200 credit limit cards. if i hadn’t been so financially irresponsible, then this is no big deal. however, i lived off those cards for a year without worrying about making payments and subsequently am just now (finally!) getting them paid off. i guess i just like to learn the hard way.