Credit act to regulate lending practices

The Credit CARD Act of 2009 was signed into law over the summer and went into effect Monday.

Katherine Lymn

Credit card companies this week have much less access to their most vulnerable prey: young college students. Signed into law over the summer and in effect since Monday, the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 aims to reform the credit card industry and includes specific protections for college students. The most striking restriction on young people is prohibiting anyone under 21 from obtaining a credit card without either an adult co-signer or proof of ample annual income. Statistics show âÄúrecklessâÄù credit practices peak at about age 20, said Jared Bernstein, senior economic adviser to the vice president. The act regulates penalty fees and encourages transparency on the part of credit card companies. For college students, the act regulates marketing on and around campuses, as well as eliminating incentives for taking out credit. Bernstein said the act aims to regulate credit after the recession was partly caused by consumers taking on âÄúmore debt than they could viably service.âÄù When the act was announced over the summer, Kris Wright, director of the University of Minnesota Office of Student Finance, voiced her support. The restrictions will prevent students from taking on âÄúmore debt than they can handle,âÄù she said in June. The new rules will hopefully defer students to âÄúcheaperâÄù financial options like federal aid, said Haley Chitty, spokeswoman for the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. âÄúCredit cards should really be used as a last resort for college students,âÄù Chitty said. âÄúYears later, they regret it.âÄù NASFAA is a support organization for institutions that offer financial aid, including the University. NASFAA members are generally supportive as they say they see a lot of students taking out unnecessary credit and ending up with debt, Chitty said. Transparency of relationships between banks and universities is another subject of the act. According to the act, universities âÄúshall publicly disclose any contract or other agreement made with a card issuer or creditor.âÄù Bernstein said this new requirement will âÄúamp up transparency.âÄù Overall, he said, the act aims to cut through the maze of creditors and save consumers from âÄúunreasonable costsâÄù caused by âÄúmisleading and unfair practices.âÄù âÄúWeâÄôre getting away from the 17 pages of tiny font that nobody âĦ could possibly wade through,âÄù he said.