College Students and Credit Cards – Some Statistics


This article attempts to give an overview of student credit card use by presenting some statistics taken from Sallie Mae’s National Study of Usage Rates and Trends of Undergraduate Student Credit Card Use released in April 2009. 

 Most college students use credit cards. Credit has become a part of the fabric of college life.  Many college students use credit cards out of necessity, and many college students use credit cards wisely, but college student debt is mounting.  Many parents of college students who are over 18 may not know whether their student has a credit card, or multiple credit cards, or whether their student is carrying a balance.

 The following are some statistics which may give college parents pause to do some thinking about their student’s use of credit. These statistics were released in a recent study by Sallie Mae conducted in the spring of 2008, regarding college students and credit cards.  You may find some of these facts surprising.

Who has credit cards?

84% of undergraduates had at least one credit card.

4.6 is the average number of cards held by college students.

50% of students have 4 or more credit cards.

2% of students carry no credit history.

39% of students already have a credit card before arriving at college.

How much do students owe?

$3,173             Average balance carried by college students.

21%                 Students carrying a balance between $3000 and $7000.

$4,100             Average credit card debt of graduating seniors.

19%                 Seniors who graduate with a balance greater than $7000.

What do students charge?

90%                 Students who report paying for direct education expenses with credit cards.

30%                 Students who put tuition charges on credit cards.

76%                 Students who charge textbooks on credit cards.

75%                 Students who charge school supplies on credit cards.

84%                 Students who use credit cards for food.

70%                 Students who use credit cards for clothing.

69%                 Students who use credit cards for cosmetics.

How do students use credit cards?

40%                 Students who say they have charged items knowing they didn’t have the money to pay the bill.

17%                 Students who regularly pay off all cards each month.

1%                   Students who have someone else paying the bill.

82%                 Students who carry balances and incur finance charges each month.

7%                   Students who admit to paying less than minimum required payment each month.

How do students feel about their credit?

60%                 Students who experienced surprise at how high their balance had reached.

45%                 Students who experience high levels of anxiety about paying credit card bills.

30%                 Students who say they rarely or never discussed credit card use with parents.

84%                 Students who say they need more education on financial management.

64%                 Students who would like to receive financial information in high school.

46%                 Students who would like information about budgeting.

45%                 Students who would like information about savings strategies.

49%                 Students who chose “from parents” as their first or second choice of where they would like to receive financial information.

Related Article:

College Students and Credit Cards - Helping Your College Students Make Wise Decisions

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