Warning Signs that College Students are Abusing Credit Cards

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In college, I got my first credit card very early. It was a Dillards store card. If you’re not from the South or Midwest, think Macys’ little sister. I guess.

Well what did I do with a Dillards store card, no job, and a reasonable yet non-excessive stream of income from my parents earmarked for essentials; I went shopping. Of course!

I can even remember my first purchase. Black Girbaud shorts that came well below the knee (my TLC baggy phase) and fit like a glove. I’d never had name-brand shorts before.

You can still get these horrid monstrosities on eBay.

I’m sure Dillards was not my only card. Credit was easy to come by and the pay-now-worry-about-it-later mantra was one that I readily embraced.

I paid back my $2,000-ish balance soon after graduating. It wasn’t life-altering, but it was a 10-month reminder that I was paying for crap that I couldn’t put my finger on. Those Girbaud jean shorts were loooooong since out of style by the time I graduated.

These days, adding credit card debt to that mix may be more than just a nuisance for students with tens of thousands in student loan debt.

I spoke with a couple of former college students, Latoya Scott and Kayla Sloan, who are both personal finance bloggers now but have very different experiences with credit cards while in college.

Though the 2009 CARD Act has placed limits on how early credit card companies can bring on young customers (anyone under 21 must either show an income source or have a co-signer), Experian still found that 30% of college students polled graduated in 2016 with and average $2500 in credit card debt.

Latoya Scott’s story of graduating with $36,000 in credit card debt (in addition to student loans) may be extreme, but I’m glad she shared her story. If you have a child in college or know someone who does, make sure to share this episode.

Between Latoya and Kayla and a host of experts, parents will understand the signs and help their children avoid abusing credit cards before the fully understand the consequences.

Do you think students should have a credit card in college? Leave a comment on the new Midday Money Show voicemail. Call: (773) 893-0241

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Topics Covered on this Episode

  • Whether parents should monitor college student finances.
  • Financial wealth movements spreading across college campuses.
  • High-risk factors that make your child more likely to abuse credit cards.
  • Credit card abuse warning signs for parents.
  • Two cases of former college students burdened with credit card debt in college.


“I got it with good intentions, and I knew you had to pay the balance off every month. I thought I’m too smart to get into debt.” ~ Kayla Sloan ShoeaholicNoMore.com.


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