Download audio (MP3)
Credit Cards and Band Aids
A new federal law to curb the credit card industry's abusive targeting of young people takes effect this week, but Youth Radio's Asha Richardson wonders whether the act is a band aid answer to a superglue problem.
By Asha Richardson
I'll never forget when I was nine years old. My parents had recently separated and my mom just moved into a new apartment. One of the first nights, before the boxes were unpacked, I distinctly remember my mom talking in her sleep. "You have to have good credit, you need good credit." At the time I didn't know what credit was -- but it sounded scary. That's why years later, I was terrified to get a credit card.
When I moved out to go to college, my mother told me not to sign up for any credit cards offers unless I talked to her first. I was shocked when in my first semester I went to my bank for a direct deposit sheet and the teller told me I was pre-approved. For a credit card. I quickly refused. But who wouldn't want a seemingly endless supply of money their parents have no control over? Well that's not an option anymore.
The Credit CARD Act effective this week changes everything for the under 21 set. You don't have an income? You don't have a credit card. Your parent refuses to co-sign? You still don't have a credit card. No more credit card companies at college fairs, pre-approved cards, freebies and more. As scared as I am of credit cards, I see how they are really necessary for other people. I have friends who depend on credit cards for groceries, textbooks or plane tickets to go back home for breaks. Budget cuts are just making college more expensive and private loans are hard to come by. Speaking of -- what ever happened to legislation making more student loans available directly from the government. Last I heard, the lobbyists for major private student lenders were stalling that one.
The Credit CARD act will help a lot of my peers because it saves them from themselves. Still, it doesn't answer the challenges of responsible, broke students trying to make it through the recession. So I'm worried. This could be a band aid fix to a superglue problem.
With a Perspective, I'm Asha Richardson.