Signing up for a credit card may seem like a solution for back-to-school expenses, but credit cards aren’t free and come with a cost, according to Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.


“Credit cards are a convenient way to make purchases, but new users may not completely understand exactly what they are signing up for,” Rutledge said in a news release. “For example, late payments or exceeding the card’s limit could potentially hurt your credit score. This will raise interest rates and make it difficult to take out loans later in life.”


For those students who are considering applying for a credit card, Rutledge offered this advice when using a card:


• Submit payments on time. Making regular payments is the best way to improve a credit score and qualify for less expensive credit.


• Pay the balance owed if at all possible. Although it may seem easier to pay the minimum, doing so costs more in the long run, and it will take much longer to pay off the debt.


• Do not “max out” a credit card. Charging the full credit limit is risky, and it will affect a consumer’s credit score.


• Do not respond to every tempting credit card offer. Using too much credit could lead to having uncontrollable debt.


• Read the fine print as some credit cards include expensive annual fees and higher interest rates in exchange for incentives like airline miles and bonus points. Some credit cards offer other services such as lower annual percentage rates, insurance and other items at no cost.


The Arkansas General Assembly enacted legislation in 1999 that restricts the practice of marketing credit cards on college campuses, according to the release.


“In 2009, Congress passed the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act, which restricts on-campus credit card marketing nationwide. Under this law, the marketing of credit cards within 1,000 feet of a college campus or related event is prohibited. Consumers under age 21 must have a written application that includes the signature of a parent, legal guardian or spouse that has means to repay debts incurred by the account. Credit card marketers are also forbidden from using gifts such as T-shirts and magazine subscriptions to entice a young consumer into applying for a card,” according to the release.


For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at 800-482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.