While some people live by the saying that the art of life is not in making money but in keeping it, others prefer to follow the axiom that you should live beyond your means, even if you have to borrow to do so. In a nation where the national debt is $12.4 trillion and 40 percent of households spend more money than they make, being in debt may be considered the American way.

Unfortunately for students, some debt is inevitable, such as student loans. Consequently, many students wind up drowning in credit card debt. According to data from student loan provider Sallie Mae, in 2008, half of the college student population had four or more credit cards and seniors graduated with an average card debt of $4,100 a $1,200 increase from 2004.

The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, which went into effect this past February, was implemented as an attempt to protect students from ruining their credit at an early age by preventing credit card issuance to people under the age of 21.

Exceptions are made for young adults who have a co-signer who is over 21, or can provide proof of means to repay their debt. Proof may be presented through job documents, documentation of their income and their tax returns. The legislation also established a college bank curtailment which prohibits banks from advertising credit cards on campus and offering promotional items like free pizza or T-shirts to encourage students to sign up for credit cards.

For those unable to secure a credit card, a prepaid debit card may be a smart alternative. A prepaid debit card has the convenience and security of a credit card without going into debt and added interest fees.

With prepaid debit cards, no existing bank account is needed users simply spend what they deposit into their cards. The most popular prepaid debit cards are the Rushcard (endorsed by hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons) and UPside.

For those who already own a credit card there are steps you can take to ensure a solid credit future. Consistently making payments on time, paying above the minimum amount due and keeping your debt-to-credit ratio the amount you owe in comparison to the amount you are able to borrow below 30 percent shows creditors that you are fiscally responsible. Additionally, every time you apply for a credit card it lowers your credit score, so limiting the number of credit card applications also helps.

Like your GPA, your credit score is an impersonal summary of your life that is used to predict your future financial capacities.

Smith is a member of the class of 2012.



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