Debit or credit: What card type is better for college students?

college girl with a cell phone and a credit card
college girl with a cell phone and a credit card

There's a big change on college campuses this year. In the past, you would have seen tables outside the student union, featuring logos of banks and credit card companies, luring gullible freshmen with offers of free coupons and T-shirts in exchange for filling out a credit card application. No longer.

This year, President Obama signed the Credit Card Act into law, and a part of it has rules concerning credit card use by anyone under age 21 (go to Title III on page 14 for the details). In short, they can't get a credit card unless they have an independent source of funds to pay the bills. If they don't have that, they'll need a parent to co-sign the card application, and submit written permission from the parent before they can get a hike on their credit limit).