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Credit card reform law’s impact on campus: ‘What law?’

This guest blog is by Christie Roshau, a senior at Arizona State University.

You see them all around. I was warned at a very young age to avoid them at all costs. I was cautioned never to get too close to the promoters behind … the credit card booths (insert old horror movie scream here).

You know which ones I’m talking about:

“Free Phoenix Suns T-shirt! Just sign here!”

“Trip to Bora Bora? Just sign on the X …”

“Cool hat! But first, I need your address.”

So here is the question: Since the bulk of the Credit CARD Act of 2009 (Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act) took effect in February, have we seen changes in the volume of credit card promotions on our campuses? According to the new law, as of Feb. 22, 2010, credit card marketers must stay at least 1,000 feet from college campus if they are offering freebies in exchange for signing up for credit cards. The new law also restricts people under 21 from getting new credit card accounts on their own unless they get co-signers or show they have a way to pay the bill.

On a very broad note, I tend to disregard those promotions, before or after the CARD Act. Anything that says “free,” and then asks for my address, I tend to ignore. I put my own personal blinders up to that sort of thing.

On top of that, my main campus switched in the past couple of years from Tempe, Arizona (the main campus) to the Phoenix branch. In general, there is way less advertisement on the Phoenix campus than there is on the Tempe campus. Even if there were advertisements, I feel like I do what the average college student does when they go to school: Pass by all the protests, booths, club rallies and advertisements without stopping until I safely get into my Chemistry 201 class. I don’t give a second glance to the woman yelling, “Free T-shirts, bags, cookies and ice cream IF… ”

However, that approach may not be what the average student does. So, I asked friends and acquaintances who are on the Tempe campus a lot more than I am if they noticed any changes prior to and after the CARD Act. The answers I got?

“I know what you’re talking about, but no I don’t notice it.”

“I’m hardly on campus … I don’t see it.”

“I don’t pay attention to that.”

“Wait … There was a credit card bill passed?”

I then came across one friend who did notice a bank doing promotions a couple months ago that was on campus: Arizona Federal. She says they were advertising their bank and giving out goodies (bags, T-shirts, etc.) to students, but recently has not noticed them. Is this the new approach? Simple bank promotions, without the focus on credit cards?

I spoke with Peter Garuccio, a spokesman for the American Bankers Association trade group, and asked him how credit card marketing on college campuses might change. He says we simply must wait and see what happens. “The rule has only been in effect for a couple of months. It’s a little too early to draw any broad conclusions,” Garuccio said. He also says that majority of students do not even get their credit cards from promotional booths in the first place. They usually sign up at their bank. I also got in touch with Chase Bank and was told via e-mail that it is complying with the CARD Act, and does not run student-focused marketing around or on campuses, including sporting events. Instead they say they focus on promoting students to build, “good financial habits and a credit history for … a successful credit use.”

Whether or not banks are changing their approach on school campuses, one thing seems evident for the students in Arizona: It obviously must not be a noticeable change if students who are on campus don’t see or pay attention to it. Give it some time, and as Garuccio mentioned, we will have to see how this CARD Act will reconstruct the bankers’ business model over the course of the next months ahead.

Christie Roshau, a senior journalism major at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, writes for a college student personal finance column with a grant awarded to Society of American Business Editors and Writers by the National Endowment for Financial Education. She is also a reporter for Cronkite NewsWatch, an award-winning 30-minute newscast produced by advanced broadcast students in the Cronkite School.

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  • Stephan

    this is definitely one of the best parts of the new bill. i recently graduated from college and looking back on it, they were basically preying on poor college kids. almost no one in college can afford a card with a 5000$ credit limit.