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What creditors may or may not ask you

The aim of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act is to make sure everyone gets a fair shake when they apply for credit.

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Under the law, creditors may not discriminate against you because of your sex, age, marital status, race, color, national origin, receipt of public assistance or because you may have exercised your rights under consumer protection laws.

Lenders cannot, by law, say or write anything, in advertising or other documents, that would discourage a responsible person from applying for credit.


Creditors may not:

  • ask for the sex, race, color, religion or national origin of an applicant.
  • ask about your plans for raising or having children.
  • ask about your marital status when you apply for a separate, unsecured account, unless you live in a community property state such as Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas and Washington.
  • ask whether you receive alimony, child support or separate maintenance payments UNLESS you will rely on that income to pay back credit. A lender must explain that the income from these sources need not be revealed unless the applicant wishes to rely on it to establish credit-worthiness.
  • discount or refuse to consider income because it comes from part-time work, pension, annuity or retirement benefits.
  • discount income because of your sex or marital status. For example, a creditor cannot count a man's salary at 100 percent and a woman's at 75 percent.
  • assume that a woman will stop working to raise children.

Creditors may ask:

  • about your permanent residency or immigration status.
  • about the number of dependents and dependent-related financial obligations.
  • about your marital status if you are applying for a joint account or one secured by property, or if you live in a community property state.
  • for information about a spouse if any of the following apply: You live in a community property state; the spouse is a co-applicant; the spouse will share use of the account; you rely on your spouse's income; you rely on child support or alimony from a former spouse.
  • whether you pay alimony, child support or separate maintenance payments.
  • the names under which you have previously received credit.
  • you to voluntarily disclose your sex, race and national origin if you're applying for a real estate loan.


-- Posted: Feb. 27, 2004




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