Many college students have their own credit cards or cards on which their parents have co-signed. However, you and your son/daughter should be aware of the fact that credit card companies routinely solicit college students. It is startling to witness how easily a student can acquire one, two, and sometimes three credit cards in his/her own name, with higher credit limits than the student can handle and without the parent's knowledge. In fact, the issue of college students obtaining credit cards has become such a widespread, national concern that a number of articles on this subject have appeared in the media. It is very frightening and distressing to see students who incur large amounts of credit card debt. Some students get in over their heads with credit cards and then find that their grades and education are in jeopardy because they're working two jobs trying to pay off the debt (which is sometimes coupled with car payments as well).
Because there are both advantages and disadvantages to having a credit card, there is no simple answer to the credit card question. For students living away from home, the advantage is the ability to make unplanned, essential purchases and to pay for more expensive items, such as plane, train, or bus tickets home for University recess periods. The main disadvantage is that some students think a credit card is free money that doesn't have to be paid. Students need to fully understand exactly what it means to have a credit card. Furthermore, all credit cards are not the same. Many have very high-interest rates. If a student falls behind in his/her payments, along with having to pay the interest, he/she also gets hit with late fees.
The decision as to whether your son/daughter should have a credit card is entirely up to you and your student. The important thing for your son/daughter to comprehend is that a credit card is not free of charge and should never be used to make purchases that he/she could not otherwise afford. Prior to the start of your student's first semester, and periodically thereafter, we strongly suggest that you initiate a discussion about credit cards with your student. While college is a time to learn how to manage independence, you and your son/daughter need to be in agreement about finances. If you both determine that your student should have a credit card, make sure that you concur on the following: where your son/daughter will obtain the card, the credit limit, the types of purchases your student will make, and where he/she will get the money to pay the bills.