How College Students Use Credit Cards

Jim Liebelt | Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University | Tuesday, August 31, 2010

How College Students Use Credit Cards

A 2009 study from Sallie Mae takes a look at how today's undergraduates are using credit cards. Given the current state of the economy, there is some cause for concern about college students' use of credit cards, their ability to repay, and the amount of debt they might be accruing.

Despite the credit freeze, college students last year used credit cards more than ever before, including charging tuition and other direct education expenses, according to a new study from Sallie Mae, the nation's leading saving- and paying-for-college company.

According to the report:

• Nearly one-third (30 percent) put tuition on their credit card, an increase from 24 percent in 2004, when the study was last conducted.

• In total, 92 percent of undergraduate credit cardholders charged textbooks, school supplies, or other direct education expenses, up from 85 percent in the previous study. Students who used credit cards to pay for direct education expenses estimated charging $2,200, more than double 2004's average of $942.

• Eighty-four percent of undergraduates had at least one credit card, up from 76 percent in 2004. On average, students have 4.6 credit cards, and half of college students had four or more cards.

• Only 17 percent said they regularly paid off all cards each month, and another 1 percent had parents, a spouse, or other family members paying the bill. The remaining 82 percent carried balances and thus incurred finance charges each month.

Source: Sallie Mae