College

Campus Crackdown

Card issuers won't bombard college students with offers.

Drew Avery, a 20-year-old student at the university of Arkansas, likes the convenience of paying with a credit card. But soon he and his classmates may have to cough up cash instead. New legislation is cracking down on issuers that market cards on campus. And the new rules restrict access to credit for everyone under 21.

When the law takes effect in February, students and others who are underage will qualify for a card only if they can prove they have the means to repay any debt or if they can convince a parent or someone else over 21 to cosign the application and bear ultimate responsibility for whatever they charge. Kids won't be able to bump up their credit line without the approval of their cosigner, either.

Right now, the average card-holding college student carries a balance of $3,173. Lawmakers hope the new rules will prevent students from racking up that kind of debt, while still allowing them the benefits of having a credit card. "Students' accounts will be more supervised, but kids will still be able to build a positive record and have access to credit in an emergency," says credit expert Ben Woolsey, of CreditCards.com, a card-tracking site (for editor Janet Bodnar's take on students and credit, see www.kiplinger.com/links/youngcredit).

College students may miss a few perks they associate with applying for credit. The law prohibits credit-card companies from offering tangible items on campus to tempt students -- no more free T-shirts, pizza or Frisbees. And say goodbye to those pesky prescreened offers in the mail -- the law prohibits those, too.

--Tina Korbe

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