QUESTION: I'll be going to college in the fall, and I've already heard about the credit card marketing that takes place on some campuses. I'd like to have my own credit card, but I don't want to repeat the mistakes made by my friends who are already in college. Do you have any advice?

ANSWER: In his book, The Complete Financial Guide for Young Couples, Larry Burkett says he believes every credit card should come with this warning: "Danger! Use of this card can be injurious to your marriage."

In your case, the warning might tell you that misuse of credit cards could severely hinder your efforts to fulfill your educational and career goals.

A credit card gives you a lot of buying power. As a result, it also gives you the potential for a lot of consumer debt, which is the last thing you need at this point in your life.

After you begin college, you may be approached on campus by marketers from credit card companies. A number of colleges have banned these marketers, who may use high-pressure tactics to sign you up or try to entice you with free gifts.

Some students who sign up are unable to control their use of credit cards and wind up with thousands of dollars of debt. To counter this problem, some credit card issuers are offering secured cards to students. These cards have $300 limits, and before using them students must have a certain amount of money in the bank.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are marketers who deceive students into signing up for more than one credit card. How? These students simply sign every piece of paper they're asked to sign without reading the fine print.

Remember that you always have the option of obtaining a credit card this summer at a local bank. But if you decide to obtain a card on campus, make sure you sign up for only one card.

In addition, set some rules for using your credit card and stick to them. here are some suggestions.

  1. Obtain a card with restrictions and a low spending limit.

  2. Get on a budget and use your card only for budgeted items. In other words, if it's not in your budget for the month, don't buy it on credit.

  3. Pay your credit card bill off every month.

  4. The first month that you find you cannot pay off your credit card bill, destroy your card. You can always get another one later.