If you follow the exciting world of credit cards, you probably know that card issuers such as MBNA (NYSE:KRB), JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), Bank One (NYSE:ONE), American Express (NYSE:AXP), Capital One Financial (NYSE:COF), and Citigroup (NYSE:C) have been making a bundle off of college students, issuing them cards despite the fact that they have little or no income.

Here are some sobering statistics:

  • Eighty percent of college students carry a credit card. Fifty-four percent of freshmen have a credit card, and 92% of sophomores have one.

  • Among students with credit cards, 47% carry four or more cards.

  • Graduating seniors owe an average of $3,000 on their cards. More than 20% of undergraduates carry balances between $3,000 and $7,000.

All this might be enough to convince you that no one with little or no income should be issued a credit card, or that no firms should be permitted to market credit cards to college students. Those are both very reasonable positions. But there's a contrary take to the issue: Credit cards can be good for college students -- for some of them, at least.

For those with the discipline to not charge more than they can afford and to regularly pay off their balances, credit cards can be a big plus. They offer:

  • Convenience. Students can pay for items when they need to, and won't have to carry around much cash.

  • A head start on building a positive credit history. This can help collegians on the ball enter the workforce with a solid credit score, giving them access not only to good interest rates, but also possibly lower insurance rates and preference for some jobs. (Learn more about your all-important credit score.)

So if you're looking for a credit card for Junior, here are some tips, from creditcardmagazine.com:

  • "Student credit cards... usually start out with a $300 to $500 credit limit. Look for interest rates no higher than the mid-teens."

  • "Secured credit cards provide a layer of protection for the card issuer and the user. The user deposits anywhere from $300 to $5,000 into an account. That money acts as a security deposit for the charges on the card, which limits the card user's liability. Users can spend no more than what's available."

It's recommended that if students start with secured cards, they eventually switch to unsecured ones, as secured ones might not be reporting activity to credit bureaus, which would mean that no credit history is being established. Also, secured cards tend to have sizable annual fees and higher interest rates.

Learn more in these articles:

Learn about the credit card industry in our Credit Center. And read about all things credit related on our Consumer Credit/Credit Cards discussion board.

Meanwhile, for guidance on how to pay for college, check out our College Savings Center or Robert Brokamp's The Motley Fool's Guide to Paying for School.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.