PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Many parents dropped their kids off to college just a few weeks ago.
So, you – or they – might be thinking it’s time to get a credit card.
Kids might be tempted to sign up for one of those campus sponsored accounts that often come with their college logo.
Before they do, Consumer Reports has a warning about many of those accounts.
Higher One is one of the biggest players in campus banking and says it offers cards at more than 800 institutions nationwide.
Consumers Union – the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports – looked at Higher One and eight other companies that offer campus-sponsored accounts.
Staff attorney Susanne Martindale says students should be very careful about signing up for one.
“We’ve seen high and unusual fees. The kinds of fees you wouldn’t typically see on a regular retail bank account,” Martindale said.
Fees from these various companies can include:
Overdraft charges as high as $38.
A fee of $0.50 each time you use the debit option.
Out of network ATM fees that can run as high as $3.
Even an inactivity fee if you don’t use the account.
Consumers Union found that while some of the accounts it analyzed have low cost options, students need to use the accounts carefully or risk incurring hundreds of dollars a year in usage fees.
So, why do so many kids still sign up for these accounts?
“Many students find it difficult to avoid signing up for these products – it may be the default option to manage their financial aid money. but they’re being nickled and dimed out of that aid,” Martindale said.
In fact, a class action lawsuit against Higher One alleges aggressive and even deceptive marketing and a failure to disclose unconscionable fees.
The bottom line? Students don’t need a campus-sponsored account to manage their financial aid.
By federal law, you can have it direct-deposited to an existing account, get cash, or check.
Higher One did respond to the Consumer Reports study and recommendations saying they actually agree with many of Consumer Reports’ findings and have submitted a new proposal to the U.S. Department of Education that includes almost all of them.
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