A Third of Millennials May Be Skipping Credit Cards

PHOTO: In this stock image, a woman is pictured swiping her debit card for a purchase. Getty Images
In this stock image, a woman is pictured swiping her debit card for a purchase.

Millennials may be so spooked by their chances in the job market and by student debt that they're forgoing credit cards.

A survey found that approximately 36 percent of a group ages 18 to 29 years old never has had one.

Robyn Welling, 39, a mom of five in southwest Michigan, has two stepsons, ages 20 and 23, who don't have credit cards. But she doesn't think that's a bad thing.

"Even when I was in that age range myself, I thought it was a terrible idea to start sending credit card offers to kids as soon as they turned 18. I consider myself extremely financially responsible, but at 18? Not so much," she said.

Welling, New York Times bestselling humorist and writer behind Hollow Tree Ventures, applauds young adults who are waiting to sign up for the responsibility of a credit card.

"Of course, when they try to buy a house or a car and they have no credit to speak of, they might wish they'd started a bit sooner," she said.

PHOTO: Robyn Welling is a New York Times bestselling humorist and writer behind the Hollow Tree Ventures website. Robyn Welling
Robyn Welling is a New York Times bestselling humorist and writer behind the Hollow Tree Ventures website.

The findings about millennial credit card ownership are based on a survey of 1,000 adults, with a group of 142 millennial respondents, that was commissioned by CreditCards.com and conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. The wider survey of 1,000 adults listed a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percent, though the margin of error for the millennial subset was not immediately clear.

"One of the biggest takeaways is just how quickly things have changed in a big way," said Matt Schulz, CreditCards.com senior analyst. "When I was in college in the 1990s, every kid in my dorm had a mailbox filled with credit card offers and you couldn't walk around campus without being offered a Frisbee or a t-shirt in exchange for signing up for a card. That was the case for many, many years. It’s not the case anymore, though, and that's a good thing. Those tactics led to a lot of college kids making uninformed decisions that led to a whole lot of credit card debt."

Schultz said many millennials are forgoing credit cards simply because they’re skittish about the possibility of spending more than they have, surrounded as many are by student debt and a tough environment to find a job.

"That’s pushed them more toward debit cards -- and even prepaid cards," he said. "Combine that with the fact that the Credit CARD Act requires someone under 21 to either have proof of income or a co-signer in order to get a credit card and it’s not hard to see why card ownership would be down among millennials."

The trouble is that by relying on debit cards, people are taking a bit of risk when it comes to identity theft and fraud, Schultz said. If your credit card is used fraudulently, the bank typically waives the charge.

"If your debit card is used fraudulently, real money goes missing from your checking account. You’ll likely get all that money back, but it can take a couple of days or even a week or more," Schultz said.

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