New bill restricts credit card handouts

With changes set to take place in the credit industry, college students may soon find it harder to obtain credit cards. Students have mixed views on what a new bill requires them to do.

The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act, which was signed by President Barack Obama on May 22, requires people under the age of 21 to prove that they can repay money or that a parent or guardian will pay their credit card debt if they default.

While the new bill eliminates surprise fees and interest rate increases, it also reduces
credit card companies’ willingness to lend money.

“A lot of young people aren’t responsible with money,” said Lorraine Dyer, a senior
majoring in business. “But so many things are based on credit now.”

Patrick Long, a senior majoring in international studies, said it’s a good thing the bill causes companies to limit loans, but it hinders opportunities for those who may not default.

“The bad part is it’s harder for students trying to build up credit,” he said.

The under-21 rules are only one part of the new bill.

Many credit card companies charge a fee for payments made over the phone. Beginning February 2010, companies must allow consumers to pay their bills online or over the phone with no fee.

Companies will also have to provide a 45-day notice accompanied by an explanation before increasing interest rates.

A 2008 report by Sallie Mae, a leading provider of student loans and financial aid, showed that college students are using credit to pay for college expenses more than ever before.

The report suggested that students who used credit cards to pay college expenses, including tuition and books, charged an average of $2,200 in spring 2008. Four years ago, the average was $942.

Ana Lopez, a senior majoring in finance and economics, said limits should be put on students who are irresponsible with their money.

“They spend more than they should,” she said.

Forty percent of the surveyed students said they had charged items to their credit cards knowing they could not pay for them and 82 percent carried balances on their credit cards.

Last year, the average number of credit cards per student was 4.6. The average balance was $3,173.

Because of the high balances, Jamie Mendez, a graduate student in biomedical sciences, said the bill’s limits are not such a bad thing.

“Most people under 21 end up with bills they can’t pay,” she said.

According to the report, 84 percent of undergraduates said they needed more education on personal finance and credit.

Aimee LeClair, a senior majoring in communications, said her first credit card had a $300 limit and a 38 percent interest rate.

“I wish there was a class that taught credit in high school because credit card companies target students,” she said.