Credit card gifts may be banned

Joe Lord

Free T-shirts from credit card companies may become a collectors item if some state legislators get their way.

Two bills banning the exchange of gifts for completed credit card applications on Kentucky college campuses have been passed by the state House of Representatives, said Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, one of the bill’s sponsors.

The other bill is sponsored by House Speaker Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green.

“There has been a dramatic increase in the number of credit card companies that have found students to be easy prey,” Westrom said.

Western does not allow most credit card vendors to solicit on campus, said Howard Bailey, dean of Student Life. Usually, credit vendors who do set up on the Hill are told to leave.

“We’ve made it known that they’re not welcome,” Bailey said.

But one company, Bank One, is allowed to exchange gifts for credit card applications as part of a seven-year contract with the university, said Donald Smith, executive director of the Alumni Association.

Bank One sets up booths at about seven basketball games, two football games and twice per semester in Downing University Center, Smith said. The company notifies Smith before they set up on campus.

Bank One may have to end the practice if either bill is passed by the full legislature, Smith said.

He said Bank One is aware of the possibility.

“They know it’s a reality, and they’re ready to face that decision,” he said.

Bank One representatives could not be reached for comment.

Westrom said the legislation is needed to keep college students from falling into credit debt.

“It’s all too easy to begin a habit that’s very difficult to get under control,” she said.

Westrom said some students get credit cards and run up the debt, which leads to parents having to help their children pay the companies back.

“But the student hasn’t learned anything,” she said.

Westrom said her bill would also require vendors to register with the university before setting up, and it would require schools to have credit counseling in freshman seminar classes.

Richards’ bill would require students under 21 to get their parents’ signature before being issued a credit card, said Robbin Taylor, director of government relations at Western.

“He feels very strongly about it,” she said.

Taylor said she doesn’t know what will happen with the legislation.

“I don’t have any feel for how both bills are going to work in the Senate,” she said.

Reach Joseph Lord at [email protected]