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the secret history of credit cards


Discussion Questions

Featured Lesson Plan
  • Who Controls the Real Cost of Credit Cards?
  • Student Handout: Viewer's Guide
  • Student Handout: How Much Does Debt Cost?

  • Additional Lesson Ideas
  • Making a Persuasive Statement
  • Personal Bankruptcy: What Does It Mean?

  • Resources

    Printable .pdf of Entire Guide
    (Adobe Acrobat required)

    » Resources

    In addition to the Web resources included in the guide, students and their teachers might want to take a more detailed look at sites devoted to credit cards and the economy in general.

    Media literacy note: As with all issues, especially ones that are politically charged, students must learn to be savvy and discriminating readers. No Web site can provide all the information a student needs to know, and teachers should encourage students to "interrogate" Web sites even as they are reading. Guiding questions as they work through these activities should be: What did you learn from this source? What didn't you learn from this source? Who sponsors this source? What bias might the sponsor have?

    Web Sites

    The Secret History of Credit Cards
    The companion Web site to the FRONTLINE film offers tips for consumers, special reports, extended interviews with experts on the industry and further background on credit card companies, bankruptcy and consumer debt.

    National Council on Economics Education
    This site is dedicated to improving economic literacy for students, teachers and parents. The site offers, among others, the following lessons:

    The Credit Card Mystery:
    The lesson explores why interest rates on credit cards are so high when other interest rates are so much lower.

    Learning About Credit Card Use:
    Students examine the joys and dangers of using credit.

    The Federal Reserve Bank
    "Choosing a Credit Card" provides a comprehensive overview of all aspects of credit cards including information about fees, grace periods, cash advances and features of different cards. In addition, the different regional Federal Reserve Banks offer educational materials on their Web sites. For example, if you type "credit cards" into the search box of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank Web site, [URL: http://www.frbsf.org/education/index.html] you will discover a wealth of articles. To access the Web sites of other Federal Reserve Bank districts, go to [URL:http://www.federalreserve.gov/otherfrb.htm] and click on the region whose resources you want to investigate.

    The Federal Trade Commission
    The Federal Trade Commission Web site offers informative articles about, among other topics, how to avoid the pitfalls of credit card use. The site also offers a link to "The JumpStart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy," which seeks to improve the financial literacy of young adults. Lessons and ideas for teachers are available. [URL: http://www.jumpstartcoalition.org/]

    Wall Street Journal Classroom Edition
    This site provides timely articles and lesson plans covering economic concepts such as decision-making, cost/benefit analysis, supply and demand and incentives.

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