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Credit Cards

Tougher Rules to Qualify for a Credit Card

It’s tougher to use your spouse’s income to get a credit card.

Stay-at-home spouses will face a new challenge in qualifying for their own credit cards come October. A new rule by the Federal Reserve Board, clarifying a provision of the Credit CARD Act of 2009, forbids card issuers from considering “household” income, a term the Fed considers too vague for issuers to evaluate a consumer’s ability to pay. Instead, approval will depend on individual income.

But don’t panic. Homemakers will not be shut out of the credit market. “This is not as huge an issue as it is being made out to be,” says Chi Chi Wu, a lawyer with the National Consumer Law Center in Boston.

Applicants can list funds in joint savings or checking accounts as assets, or even a household allowance as income, she says. A married couple in a community-property state can list the spouse’s income because each party has a legal right to it.

Or you and your spouse can apply for a joint credit card. You can also become an authorized user on your spouse’s card, which means that although you will not be legally responsible for the debt, you will still build a credit history to help you qualify for your own card.