Characteristics of Campus Fair Cards

In March, the U.S. PIRG Education Fund released The Campus Credit Card Trap,[i] reporting the findings of a major survey of student attitudes toward the marketing of credit cards on college campuses. It analyzed how students pay for their education, how many use and how they use their credit cards and, finally, their attitudes toward credit card marketing on campus and whether or not they support principles to rein in credit card marketing on campus. That report documented that while many young consumers manage their credit cards well, others do not. The report found that many students face difficulty paying their credit card bills, and that a significant number have paid late or over-the-limit fees or even had a delinquent card closed by the lender. The study also detailed a number of investigations by state Attorneys General[ii] and newspapers[iii] into credit card practices on campus.

Young people, including traditionally-aged college students, have certain financial characteristics that make them different from other adult targets of the credit card industry. This follow-up paper outlines the recommended characteristics (terms and conditions) that credit cards marketed to college students should have to be considered “fair” to college students and other young people. Such fair cards should also be marketed subject to all of the PIRG marketing principles and be accompanied by independent financial education and literacy programs.

[i] Edmund Mierzwinski with Christine Lindstrom, The Campus Credit Card Trap: A Survey of College Students and Credit Card Marketing, U.S. PIRG Education Fund, 27 March 2008, available at, last visited 20 April 2008.

[ii] Inquiry Into Bank Practices.” By Jonathan Glater, the New York Times, 1 March 2008, explains New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s nationwide inquiry into exclusive credit card marketing arrangements on college campuses. In March 2008, Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann settled a lawsuit with Potbelly Sandwich Works for offering “free” sandwiches, conditioned on completing Citibank credit card applications at shops near campus. Citibank remains a defendant. News release, 10 March, 2008, “Attorney General Announces Agreement with Potbelly,” Office of Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann.

[iii] The PIRG Campus Credit Card Trap analyzes the results of a Des Moines Register investigative report highlighting relationships between Iowa’s major public universities and Bank of America. See “U of I, UNI refuse Regents’ request on credit cards,” Clark Kaufmann, the Des Moines Register, 7 October 2007, available at (last visited 18 March 2008), also see sidebar).

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