Credit card bill positive step for Illinois

New credit card rules are taking effect Monday, and people not yet 21 years old may now find it more challenging to get a card. The Credit Card Accountability and Disclosure Act will make several changes to protect consumers, including changing the way credit card companies can apply your payments toward interest and how your rates can be changed.

The act also means that if you are under 21, you must co-sign with a parent or guardian if you cannot prove you have a way to pay for the bill. If your parents aren’t willing to sign off on the idea and you can’t prove you can pay, you may find that piece of plastic out of reach. If they are, you might find your purchases under more scrutiny.

But we’re all for it.

It would be easy to object to the government saying, once again, that “adults” of 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds cannot enjoy the freedoms of more “mature” fellow citizens. If 18-year-olds can join the military, surely they can handle paying off credit card bills without parental oversight. College students may have already taken out substantial loans to pay for school; what makes a credit card any different?

But we’ve also seen the danger that lurks when people first gain the power to “charge it.” Credit cards have a history of trying to lure college students into signing up for an account by offering free T-shirts and frisbees to unsuspecting freshman who have never dealt with the system before. Owning a credit card isn’t a decision that should be made because you wanted a T-shirt; it should be made after careful consideration about whether you can both afford and handle it. Read the fine print carefully and research good strategies for staying responsible. Inexperience can lead to mistakes that will stay on your credit record for a long time.

We don’t think that being young makes someone inherently fiscally irresponsible.

Clearly, older generations have struggled substantially with debt, even after they should have learned the hard way. But hopefully this is a step away from such chronic overspending.

Understand that how you are spending now is going to affect you in the future.

Years from now, when you’re applying for a loan, you don’t want your overdue rent from sophomore year or late credit card bills to hold you back.