Stay At Home Parents Can Kiss Their Credit Goodbye with No Paycheck

After an article I wrote appeared in Kalamazoo Parents magazine, a stay-at-home dad contacted me because he was mad mad mad about the recent changes curtailing financial rights of non-employed parents.  Did the fed regulations on the CARD ACT of 2009 really update in October 2011 to say that stay-at-home parents without income really have no access to credit?  Here’s what I found.

The information is buried pretty well, but the original reference is here: . One of the major provisions of the CARD Act of 2009 was to limit the marketing and credit that could be targeted to college students, who are largely without income.  However, the clarified language expanded the
provision to be of concern to anyone without their own independent income or assets.  See the third bullet in the Fed’s press release:

When evaluating a consumer’s ability to make the required payments
before opening a new credit card account or increasing the credit limit on an
existing account, card issuers must consider information regarding the
consumer’s independent income, rather than his or her household income.

 If you really want to read into it, check out the HRML or PDF link at the bottom of this press release, right about in the middle, where it states:

“The Board generally intended Sec.  226.51 to establish consistent standards for evaluating a consumer’s ability to pay. Specifically, Sec.  226.51 requires that card issuers establish and maintain reasonable written policies and procedures to consider the income or assets and the current obligations of all consumers, regardless of age.

See Sec.  226.51(a)(1)(ii), (b)(1)(i), and (b)(2)(ii)(B). For all consumers, a card issuer must consider either the ratio of debt obligations to income, the ratio of debt obligations to assets, or the income the consumer will have after paying debt obligations. See id. Furthermore, regardless of a consumer’s age, (emphasis added) it would be unreasonable for
a card issuer not to review any information about a consumer’s income, assets, or current obligations, or to issue a credit card to a consumer who does not have any income or assets. See id. Some card issuers request on application forms that applicants simply provide their “income,” while other issuers request that applicants provide their “household income.” The Board understands that there has been some confusion as to whether information provided by a consumer in response to a request for household income can be used by a card issuer to satisfy the requirements of Sec.  226.51. In particular, the Board understands that there has been some uncertainty as to whether Sec.  226.51 established different standards for underage consumers and other consumers with respect to the consideration of household income or assets. There appear to be three sources of this confusion.

First, the Board understands that some of the uncertainty regarding household income results from the fact that, in the February 2010 Final Rule, the Board expressly concluded that the income of an underage consumer’s spouse could not be used to satisfy the requirements of Sec.  226.51(b) but did not state a similar conclusion with respect to the general rule in Sec.  226.51(a). See 75 FR 7723. However, the issue of spousal or other household income was not addressed in the context of Sec.  226.51(a) because it was not raised during the comment period.  Accordingly, the Board is addressing the issue in this rulemaking.” 

This rule was tacked onto the previously passed CARD Act after a comment period that expired January 3, 2011, and then the rule passed.  So this was a done deal.  You can
read for yourself the current language in the CARD Act.  You can clearly see that the language was expanded to say any consumer, not just those under 21.

By the way, there are a ton of books on the market, and mine is just one of them, encouraging moms to start and run a professional business from wherever they live.  Although it might feel a bit odd for dads to read these books, they’ve got many of the same issues.  If you are very fired up about this issue (and I hope you are!), let me encourage you to protect your turf with a business if you choose.  If not, that’s cool, too.  We have so many option these days to protect our families and our professional selves, that we really are blessed. 

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