Be a proud credit card virgin this holiday season

With the national debt zooming toward a nearly inconceivable $7 trillion, the few thousand dollars many college students accumulate in credit card debt might seem a bit trifle. However, credit card debt can have serious consequences. Like our government, students must learn financial responsibility. With the Christmas season beginning, students need to think twice before getting out their plastic to make holiday purchases.

The national average credit card debt per student is $2,327. Eighty-three percent of undergraduates, ages 18 to 24, have a credit card. Nearly half of those have four or more.

Excessive credit card debt restricts leverage for bigger purchases and ruins credit ratings. It forces some students to drop out of school, default on school loans or face bankruptcy. Poor credit ratings often leave students unable to pursue competitive loan rates. Missed payments can tarnish a credit record for seven years, with multiple missed payments leading to creditors writing off accounts and pursuing legal action. This is not to mention the stress caused by creditors on the prowl. Under overwhelming pressure from their debt, some students have even committed suicide.

Some blame the credit card companies and universities for the student debt problems. True, credit card companies bombard students with credit card solicitations, lure them into signing up for a credit card with free junk, make credit cards too easy to abuse and embed costly fees within murky depths of contracts. And universities do often sell student information to credit card companies.

At the core of the matter, however, students just need to be financially responsible and educate themselves. Credit card debt is unnecessary and often the result of poor spending decisions. The best advice for the unsavvy credit card holder is to practice credit card chastity. When in debt, don’t use credit.