Accepting a free bag of M&Ms today could mean graduating college with a mountain of unmanageable credit card debt.

VIDEO: Students warn freshmen of groups offering credit cards

Accepting a free bag of M&Ms today could mean graduating college with a mountain of unmanageable credit card debt.

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Ask any college student on the Arizona State University campus in Tempe, and he or she readily admits being bombarded with offers to sign up for credit cards. Candy, key chains, baseball caps and other freebies are being offered in hope that they'll sign on the dotted line.

"I think they try to take advantage of students because they know that they're kind of scrounging for money," said Benjamin Stewart, a senior political science major. "You have books, you have tuition and parking is outrageously expensive, so it's easy just to swipe a credit card and put it on there, kind of like magic. But you end up (hurting) yourself in the long run."

Stewart said he racked up heavy credit card debt as a freshman, and eventually paid it off. He now steers clear of credit cards and suggests other students do the same.

"If you can use it responsibly and you know you're going to be able to make your payment, it's not bad, but most college students can't," he said.

Monique O'Neal, a senior justice studies major, said it's tempting for students to get credit cards because college life is so expensive, and getting more expensive every day with high gas prices and a down economy. She has one credit card and uses it sparingly.

"I would suggest you should definitely look at financial aid for yourself, maybe even scholarships because I do know there's a lot of money out there that they do offer," she said. "That's kind of how I've kept (credit) to a minimum."

Jason Donofrio of Arizona StudentPublic Interest Research Group, said his organization is working to get credit card marketers banned from campus, and to prevent students from making bad decisions with credit.

"We basically let them know not to be fooled by the free gifts and the free incentives," he said. "Know what you're getting into. Read the terms and conditions, read the fine print. Read what you're doing and don't sign up. There's a reason why they have to hand a free gift out to entice you."

The American Bankers Association said much of the criticism of marketing credit cards to college students is unwarranted. In a recent statement, spokesman Kenneth Clayton said credit cards provide a safety net for emergencies, and help students build financial skills and a credit history that will one day allow them to buy a house, get a job and otherwise participate productively in everyday life.

He also said most students handle credit well and pay their bills in full every month.

Still, there's no denying the questionable tactics marketers can use to lure college students, Donofrio said.

Cara Hammer, a senior family and human development major, said it's tough for students because they're making decisions without any real guidance.

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