They are shiny, plastic and they bring a smile to many faces. Credit cards have brought joy to the lives of college students and young adults. Unfortunately, the excessive use and abuse of credit cards plays a significant role in the economic downturn.
According to a study conducted by Sallie Mae in 2009, only two percent of undergraduates had no credit history. Of the remaining group of undergraduates who did have credit, 21 percent had balances of between $3,000 and $7,000. Half of the undergraduates had four or more credits cards in their wallet, compared to the 33 percent in 2000.
Indeed credit cards are an easy and efficient way to take care of wants and needs when, but young adults should learn to use their cards wisely. The Sallie Mae study revealed that only 17 percent said they regularly paid off all credit cards monthly, and one percent had a parent, spouse or other family member pay the bill. The remaining 82 percent incurred finance charges each month.
With the cost of college continuing to soar, the use of credit cards for students seems inevitable. Basic school requirements such as books are hard to buy on the average student’s budget. Results from a poll taken by Sallie Mae showed that 92 percent of undergraduate credit cardholders charged textbooks and other direct educational expenses in 2009.
In order to lighten the load of this growing problem among college students, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, the card should not be treated simply as a means to obtain unaffordable items. If credit cards are viewed as a stepping stone to build good credit while in school, perhaps students will be more likely to refrain from accumulating such large debt. This way, when it comes time to purchase something like a car or a house in the future, they will have their credit history to back them up.
Another helpful tip is to limit oneself to purchasing certain things on credit. For example, only buying school related items that are over a certain amount of money. This will allow students to successfully plan out how much they can pay monthly without running into late fees or incurring too much interest.
Although those shoes in the Aldo window, or the new Halo Reach game may seem worth charging on a credit card it is best to wait until they can be purchased without credit. Simply taking an extra second to think before whipping out the “shiny smile maker” can make all the difference in the fight against the spread of credit card misuse.