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If you’re worried you won’t be able to get a credit card because you’re not earning an income, you’ll be happy to know you can use a spouse or partner’s income when you apply. This news comes thanks to the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act (CARD Act) of 2009 and a 2013 update from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), both of which made it legal to use your household income when applying for a credit card or asking for a credit line increase. For this rule to apply, you simply need to be 21 years old and have “reasonable access” to your partner’s income.
Imagine you’re a stay-at-home dad who takes care of your children while your partner goes to work. Before the 2013 amendment, there’s a possibility you wouldn’t have been approved for a credit card due to having an income of $0.
Having the ability to list household income on a credit card application can be a real game-changer for families—particularly those with one parent who stays at home. Couples with disparate incomes can also benefit. If one spouse earns $20,000 per year and another earns $150,000, both have the same access to credit thanks to the ability to use household income during the application process.
Which credit card issuers allow you to list income from another person?
Generally speaking, all credit cards may consider household income during the application process due to the CFPB ruling, but the phrasing of the question can vary.
When you apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, for example, the application asks for your total gross annual income but doesn’t specify whether to include household income (you can still do so if you prefer).
When you apply for the Citi® Double Cash Card, however, it explicitly states that, if you are 21 or older, you may include “income from others that you can reasonably access to pay your bills.”
American Express also words this rule differently on its credit card applications. With Amex credit cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express, the application states that you can include “all income” available to you including “wages, retirement income, investments, rental properties, etc.” unless you are under the age of 21. In that case, you can only include your own income.
Whichever credit card you choose, you are free to include household income when you apply provided you meet the CFPB requirements of being 21 and older and having reasonable access to funding from a spouse or partner.
Reasons to get your own credit card
If you are considering getting your own separate credit card account, you have probably heard about the process of being added as an authorized user. With authorized user accounts, you can get your own credit card with your name on it, but the primary account holder will see all your charges on their statement and ultimately be responsible for repayment.
So, why would you want your own credit card account instead of just being an authorized user on your spouse or partner’s account? At the end of the day, there are numerous ways being a primary account holder can benefit you:
- Having your own credit card helps you build credit history. While some card issuers report authorized user activity to the credit bureaus, not all of them do. Either way, having your own credit card ensures you are building credit history with each monthly payment you make.
- Having your own card helps decrease your reliance on someone else. Being an authorized user may leave you feeling beholden to or controlled by a spouse or partner, whereas you call the shots when you have your own credit card account.
- You can use your credit card for separate expenses you incur. Maybe you want a credit card for birthday gifts and other expenses you don’t want others to see. In this case, having your own credit card makes sense.
- Earn your own rewards. Finally, having your own credit card can help you begin racking up a separate stash of rewards points. Many credit cards even let you earn valuable sign-up bonuses worth $500 or more during the first few months.
Why do credit card issuers want to know your income in the first place?
Credit card issuers typically consider their approval requirements to be proprietary information, yet it’s well known that card issuers consider a variety of factors before approving applicants. Information considered can include your credit score, employment situation, income and any debts you have.
The main purpose of knowing your income is to gauge your ability to repay any amounts you borrow—or at the very least your ability to keep up with minimum payments. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why couples managing joint finances would want the ability to list household income without both going in on a joint credit card.
Do credit cards require proof of income?
While you need to submit pay stubs and income tax returns when you apply for other financial products like personal loans or a home mortgage, credit card issuers don’t typically require proof of income. Without this step, many issuers have the ability to approve your application online within a matter of minutes. Some instant approval credit cards even give you the option to access a digital card number you can use right away.
With this being said, you should never lie on a credit card application. Your card issuer probably won’t investigate your income or other details you share on your application if you’re a responsible cardholder, but misleading banks when applying for credit may still be considered bank fraud.
Consequences of bank fraud could include exorbitant fines or even jail time. Overall, the risk of lying on a credit card or loan application just isn’t worth it.
The bottom line
If you don’t have a job but share a household with a spouse or partner (or someone who lets you have “reasonable access” to their income), you can be approved for a credit card by listing household income.
While this is great news for stay-at-home parents and caregivers, it’s also ideal for anyone over 21 and living at home or with a family member. As long as you’re granted access to household funds, you can use that income to get approved for a line of credit.