Thanks to the CARD Act of 2009 and a 2013 update from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), it’s legal to use your household income, including a spouse or partner’s income, when applying for a credit card or asking for a credit line increase. You do, though, need to be 21 years old and have “reasonable access” to your partner’s income for this rule to apply.
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. However, this amendment made it possible to list your spouse’s income as your own, making it considerably easier to be approved for cards and continue building credit over time.
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.”
Either way, you are free to include household income when you apply for any credit card (provided you meet the CFPB requirements of being 21 and older and having reasonable access to funding from a spouse or partner).
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 information when approving applicants. Factors 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.
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.
Why you should never lie on a credit card application
While you may not have to prove your income, 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.
While unlikely, punishment for bank fraud could potentially include jail time or exorbitant fines. Overall, the risk of lying on a credit card or loan application just isn’t worth it.
The best way to get a credit card without a job
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 without a job. This is based on the fact that the CFPB ruling lets you list household income on your credit card application as consideration for approval.
While this is great news for stay-at-home parents and caregivers, it’s also ideal for anyone who relies on their partner in a financial sense but wants their own account instead of a joint credit card. With that in mind, make sure you compare the top credit cards in terms of rewards and benefits before you apply.