My first credit card was an AT&T Universal card that I received after filling out an application outside of Doherty Hall on the campus of the esteemed Carnegie Mellon University. I applied because the guy was giving away t-shirts with funny slogans and I thought it was a great way to get a funny t-shirt right? Luckily for me the whole setup was 100% legitimate, since it’s now been eight years and my identity wasn’t stolen; but how many of those similarly setup operations aren’t legitimate? It’s a fantastic way to capture a ton of information in a short period of time from unsuspecting victims who likely aren’t even aware that identity theft happens.
Let’s say that the person accepting applications is entirely legitimate and he personally won’t run off with your information. What’s to say someone doesn’t mug him on his way home or break into his car and steals all that information from him? If you think of all the recent data breaches involving credit card numbers being stolen, they didn’t break into the store or the credit card company databases, they broke into the processor’s databases. Thieves aren’t dumb, they go for the weak link and a guy walking around with a backpack full of identities is a much better target (in terms of return on investment) than a credit card company or you personally.
Now, abstracting away the fact that your identity could be stolen, the fact of the matter is that you aren’t being compensated enough to use the card. There are a ton of credit cards that will give you $100 statement credits upon first purchase, there are a ton of cards that have much better fee structures and interest rates, and there are a ton of cards that give you more cashback rewards than the ones offered on campus. So, even if you aren’t going to have your identity lifted from you, the cards that you can find on your own, especially with the internet, are better than any on campus – plus $100 beats a t-shirt no matter how funny it is.