Holiday Warning!

Dec 012003
Authors: Melissa Snow

Okay, I’ll admit it. I have one credit card maxed out already,

and I just applied for another one because Christmas is right

around the corner. I work two jobs, over forty hours a week, and

every other Friday when I get my paycheck, I take it straight to

the bank and never see it again. I keep a running tally of all the

things I owe on a white board in my kitchen (and yes, CSU Parking

Services is one of the larger ones) and slowly but surely the

numbers are getting smaller. Sound familiar?

Chances are, when you headed off to college you knew that there

were many new experiences ahead of you: sharing a bathroom with 20

other people, cramming all night for a test that you failed anyway,

eating something that could be either tuna or kitten in the

dorms…all the staples of college life. You knew what was your

mother told you were important (making friends, getting good grades

and graduating in less than 4 years) and what your father warned

you to stay away from (men in fraternities, alcohol and not enough

sleep). But if you are anything like me, the first person to ever

talk to you about credit cards was the guy at the table with all

the cool free shirts.

Today’s college students can be overwhelmed with credit card

offers when they walk onto campuses. On many campuses there are

booths offering free food, school supplies and T-shirts to persuade

students to apply for a credit card. According to,

visiting college campuses is a sound investment for credit card

companies because most college students with credit cards will

remain loyal to their first credit card company for several years.

They say that “when you consider that credit card companies tend to

make their profits from long-term customers that carry a revolving

balance, college campuses are the ideal location for credit card


What they don’t tell you however, is that credit card companies

are also banking on the fact that most college students are like

me: not well educated in the art of financial management and not

yet responsible enough to manage a credit card. Credit card

companies also know that even for people who consider themselves

financially responsible, once you have that piece of plastic in

your hand it no longer feels like you are actually spending any


According to a study called “Credit Cards on Campus,” conducted

by Robert D. Manning, who has studied student credit card debt,

three out of five students with credit cards maxed them out during

their freshman year. Three out of five freshmen with multiple

credit cards used bankcards to pay for other revolving credit

accounts. And nearly three-fourths of students use their student

loans to pay credit card bills. For everyone, but especially young

adults trying to build good credit, credit is a serious matter. If

you have a credit card, try not to carry a balance. And if you

don’t have one, make sure that your income is enough that you can

pay for everything that you charge. I have one friend who is only

22 years old and whose parents just bailed him out of over $10,000

in credit card debt. I have another friend who is only 21 and just

filed for bankruptcy that will remain on his credit for over 10

years, because he accumulated over $17,000 in credit card debt. So

do as I say, not as I do: if you don’t have any money for presents,

go steal some computer paper from a lab and make your friends and

family some origami. I assure you they will love it just as much as

they would have loved that DVD player.

Melissa is a senior majoring in English. Her column runs every


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