Financial News: Credit Cards for Stay-at-Home Spouses

Signing of the CARD Act of 2009

President Barack Obama signs the CARD Act of 2009. (image c/o Wikipedia Commons)

If you are a stay-at-home spouse or partner, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has revised a regulation that should soon make it easier for you to acquire a credit card. If you do not work and are at least 21 years old, you are now permitted to apply for a line of credit based on your partner’s income since it qualifies as shared income.

This regulation on certain applicants took effect in 2009 as part of the CARD Act (Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act). Before the recent revision, card issuers were required to determine an applicant’s ability to pay a credit card bill based only on individual income.

A lot of college students and young adults are struggling with immense credit card debt because they did not have reasonable income or the earning potential to pay off the amount of debt they accrued over time. Of course, credit cards can be used as a fallback if a checking account is short on funds. This seems like a temporary fix but it has created long-term problems for millions of Americans.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau determined that although this regulation was helping the financially vulnerable from accruing debt they would not be able to pay off for many years, it was also preventing spouses and partners from having credit access despite the ability for them to pay with their shared household income.

The revised code states that anyone applying for a card replying on shared household income is required to show they have “access” to this shared money. In the revision, a “reasonable expectation of access” could mean that the income is deposited into a joint bank account or regular transfers are made between partners’ accounts. It is estimated that the revision will affect more than 16 million people who stay at home and have a working partner who provides the sole income for their family.

The Bureau submitted the revised regulation for publication in the Federal Register and it will become effective when printed. Credit card companies must comply within six months of publication. Last spring, Holly McCall, a stay-at-home mother in Virginia made headlines when she posted an online petition in protest to the CARD Act. Thirty thousand signatures later, McCall and other stay-at-home spouses and partners delivered the binder of signatures to the Bureau.

The complaints stemmed from stay-at-home spouses and partners feeling as though their jobs as homemakers and/or parents were not as valued because they do not receive a paycheck (previous article on the subject). The argument posed by those who signed the petition pointed out that many stay-at-home partners are responsible for their family’s financial and property management.

“Stay at home spouses or partners who have access to resources that allow them to make payments on a credit card can now get their own cards,” said Bureau director Richard Cordray.

is a staff writer for NerdWallet. Her mission is to help consumers stay financially savvy, and save some money with the best savings account rates.

About Angie Picardo

Angie Picardo hails from the University of California, Berkeley and she is a staff writer for NerdWallet. Her mission is to help consumers stay financially savvy, and save some money with the best savings account rates.

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