Students Report Higher Credit Card Debt and Usage as They Progress through College

Students Report Higher Credit Card Debt and Usage as They Progress through College

June 4, 2019         Written By John H. Oldshue

According to the 2019 Money Matters on Campus Report from EVERFI and AIG Retirement Services, students have an increasing amount of credit card debt and usage as they progress through college. The study showed 34% of students have a credit card in their first year of college, but that jumps to 65% by their senior year. Moreover, 82% of graduate students have at least one credit card.

Comparing the results of the 2012 report and the 2019 report, EVERFI found more students actively use credit cards today. Only 28% of respondents said they actively used their credit cards in 2012, compared to 46% in 2019. Students are also more likely to have more than one credit card: 25% had multiple cards in 2012, while 45% do now.

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Less than 25% of respondents in 2012 said they had a credit card balance over $1,000. That number has increased to 36% in 2019. High balances are more likely as students go through school: 28% of first-year students have balances over $1,000, compared to 38% of seniors and 56% of grad students.

There are several factors that could contribute to this trend. For starters, first-year college students are often only eligible for entry-level credit cards. These have lower credit limits than other cards. As students get older, they may qualify for higher limits and subsequently collect higher debt.

According to the CARD Act, young adults must be 21 before obtaining a credit card, unless they have a cosigner or can prove they have the income to pay off any credit card debt.

Another factor to keep in mind is that students from 2012 were still in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Credit card companies had strict guidelines about credit approvals at that time to combat the losses from previous years. Some of those guidelines have been lifted as the American economy improved.

The information contained within this article was accurate as of June 4, 2019. For up-to-date
information on any of the terms, cards or offers mentioned above, visit the issuer's website.


About John H. Oldshue

John Oldshue is the creator of He worked for over 15 years in television and won an Emmy award for his reporting. He covers credit card rate issues for
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