New Rule Makes It Easier for Stay-at-Home Spouses to Get Credit Cards

NEW YORK (MainStreet)—Thanks to a change in the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act (CARD Act), stay-at-home spouses and partners age 21 and older will now have an easier time qualifying for credit cards. Earlier this month, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the federal government's consumer financial services watchdog that first proposed the change in October 2012, sent the final rule to the Federal Register.

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The CARD Act, enacted in 2009, required credit card issuers to base their decisions on an applicant's income or assets and not on household income. Under the new rule, credit card issuers may now consider income from the stay-at-home applicant's spouse or partner, if the applicant has a reasonable expectation of access to the money, when an applicant applies for a new account or increased credit limit.

Without access to credit, these individuals have been paying higher premiums on insurance and cell phone plans, according to Jana Castanon, community outreach coordinator at Apprisen, formerly the Consumer Credit Bureau Counseling Service. If used responsibly, this new access to credit can bring down home and car insurance premiums and interest rates on loans, she says.

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Credit card issuers have 6 months to comply with the new rule.

This change may make it easier for the more than 16 million married individuals who do not have an outside income. Consumers under age 21 will still need to show an independent ability to pay or have a cosigner.

S.Z. Berg is the author of College on the Cheap.

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