Boston—Students overwhelmingly support limits on campus credit card marketing, according to the results of a nationwide MASSPIRG survey of over 1500 students at 40 colleges in 14 states, including UMass-Boston, Mass College of Art, and Mass Bay Community College.
The survey findings come as state attorneys general and Congress are also investigating the enticements that credit card companies use get students into applying for credit cards on college campuses
“College students are the last untapped source of new credit card customers,” said MASSPIRG Consumer Advocate, Eric Bourassa. “And credit card companies are desperate to sign up students at an early age, regardless of their ability to pay off debt. The credit industry uses aggressive marketing tactics, such as offering free gifts to students who enroll. Many of these students are inexperienced with credit and end up with high interest rates and hidden fees.”
Among the key findings of the MASSPIRG student survey were the following:
- Nearly two in three students (66%) reported that they had at least one credit card. Of these, 30% reported that their parents paid the bill. Thirty-six percent (or just over half of the remainder) reported that they paid the full balance on their primary card each month and just under half (34%) reported carrying a balance from month-to-month.
- Three of four students (76%) reported stopping at on-campus tables to consider offers to apply for credit cards. Of students who reported stopping or applying for credit cards on campus, they were enticed by free gifts ranging from t-shirts to blankets to free food.
- Of freshman who are responsible for paying their own credit card bills, the average balance was $1,301. Of seniors who are responsible for paying their own credit card bills, the average balance was $2,623.
- Four in five students (80%) supported one or more fair marketing principle. Nearly three-in-four students (74%) asserted that only cards with fair terms and conditions should be marketed on campus. Students also overwhelmingly (67%) opposed the sale or sharing of student lists (which can include home and dorm addresses, email addresses and land line and cell phone numbers) with credit card companies.
To educate students and campus administrators, MASSPIRG has launched the www.truthaboutcredit.org and conducts “counter-marketing” tables on college campuses to inform students about credit cards, where students dress like credit card vendors, but instead of handing out free gifts, give out credit education fact sheets and ‘don’t be a sucker’ lollipops.
MASSPIRG is urging campus administrators to ban free gifts, ban the selling or sharing of student lists, ban campus sponsorship of credit card marketing, and increase student financial education.
“As we’ve seen with the sub-prime mortgage crisis, unless there are safeguards in place, consumers can easily become overly indebted to the high cost of credit,” said Bourassa.