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Students continuing to love that plastic

BY SHANE ERSLAND | APRIL 15, 2009 7:38 AM

Recent studies show college students are using credit cards at record rates while the economy muddles along — and access to plastic for those at the UI remains steady.

Bart Floyd, the president of US Bank, 204 E. Washington St., said that while credit-card companies may be holding off on advertising cards to students, financial institutions have not limited their accessibility.

“Those of us who offer credit cards to clients [that] we have relationships with are using the same parameters as we have in the past,” Floyd said.

American Express no longer lists its Blue for Students card on its website, according to the Chicago Tribune. Now it’s necessary to search the site to find the ad.

Floyd said the reason for this might be because credit-card companies that don’t have relationships with borrowers could be pulling back because of a higher default rate.

“In general on credit, as the economy worsens there is a higher default rate,” he said. “That will affect you more as a lender.”

Pagelyn Howren, vice president of UI Community Credit Union, agreed it is easier for financial officials to lend to people if they’re familiar with them.

“If you don’t have a relationship with them, there’s no way to judge what type of borrower the person will be,” she said.

Having a personal relationship with a lender, to possibly help avoid a bad credit score, may be a good idea considering the rate at which college students are currently borrowing.

Sallie Mae released a study Monday that found the average undergraduate carried $3,173 in credit card debt in 2008, a higher number than any previous studies. The study also found that on average, students carry 4.6 credit cards.

UI senior Mark Keehn said he uses his MasterCard on a minimal basis to avoid falling into debt.
“I only use it when I absolutely need to,” the 23-year-old said.

Howren said the Credit Union, which is looking to develop a new card for students in the near future, tries to educate young adults on how to establish good credit.

“We walk them through the steps,” Howren said. “Don’t max out your card right away, or mess up your payments.”

First-time users need to look out for startup fees and read the fine print, she said.

Floyd said new borrowers need to try and keep their card limits small.

“If you have a $4,000 or $5,000 limit, there’s a temptation to use it, and figure ‘I’ll pay it back later.’ ”


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