Credit Card Industry Targets College Students to be “Credit Pushers”

Credit card companies love to market cards to college students. That point was eloquently and tragically made in the superb recent film Maxed Out. In the film, two mothers of college students describe how their bright and high-achieving children applied for credit cards as college freshmen. But they soon found themselves in serious credit card debt. Feeling profoundly depressed and overwhelmed, each of them committed suicide. These two moms have since made it their mission to stop credit card solicitation at college campuses.

A new BusinessWeek article tells the tragedy from a student’s perspective. Ryan Rhoades, a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh, needed spending money. Citibank was offering jobs to college students to sign up new credit card users for $5 to $10 per application. Rhoades took the job. Citibank didn’t tell Rhoades that the school had barred marketers from dormitories by then. So Rhoades marched right through the dorms and signed up about 30 of his fellow students.

Many college campuses have realized how dangerous on-campus credit card solicitation can be, and have accordingly banned solicitation on campus. But according to the article, “despite colleges’ best intentions, the companies just set up shop across the street,” says Linda Sherry, the director of national priorities for Consumer Action, a San Francisco consumer-education and advocacy group. “Students are constantly under attack.”.

The tragedy Rhoades tells isn’t just that he “pushed” credit cards to unsophisticated students who had no idea how to handle credit–which Citibank said would be easily handled because students could easily pay off the balance once they graduated and got a great job. Five years later, Rhoades is still struggling with $13,000 of credit card debt–the “pusher” fell victim to the come-on himself .


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