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Innovations and Payment Systems

As college students’ card use grows, so do their credit missteps

A new survey shows students are more likely to miss payments and carry balances than they were six years ago


A new study shows almost half of 2018-19 college students are using credit cards, up from about a quarter six years ago. But negative behaviors like carrying a balance or missing a payment are also on the rise.

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Almost half of 2018-19 college students are using credit cards, up from about a quarter six years ago. And of those using cards, close to half say they have more than one. But negative behaviors like carrying a balance or missing a payment are also on the rise.

The findings come from a study by digital learning company EVERFI and compare data collected from full-time U.S. college students during the 2011-12 academic year and the 2018-19 year.

In 2012, just 28 percent of full-time students reported using credit cards. This school year, the number has reached 46 percent. And among those using cards, 45 percent say they have two or more credit cards, up from 25 percent in 2012.

But the share of college student cardholders who plan to pay off their balance in full has dropped, from about 8 in 10 six years ago (79 percent) to just over half (51 percent) in 2018. The proportion of cardholders who can boast that they haven’t made a late payment has also declined, from 91 percent down to 78 percent this year.

Not surprisingly, this has led to a larger percentage of U.S. college students who report they have at least $1,000 in card debt. From 24 percent in 2012, the share has risen to 36 percent this academic year.

Sponsored by AIG Retirement Services, EVERFI conducted its “2019 Money Matters on Campus” study by surveying a nationally representative sample of more than 30,000 full-time U.S. college students over the fall 2018 and early spring 2019 semesters. With 82 percent of the respondents classified as members of Generation Z (17-23 years old) and 12 percent classified as millennials (24-35 years old), EVERFI’s findings were released May 29.

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Credit Card Rate Report Updated: September 23rd, 2020
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