Stay-at-home moms can boost credit, too

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Dear Dr. Don,
I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for more than 20 years. We have a good FICO score but I can’t get a credit card because I don’t have an income. Is a secured card the only way for me? Can I get such a card, since I don’t have a job?

I’m an officer in my husband’s self-owned business — would it help to give myself a “salary”? Would that get me into trouble with the IRS?

Carol Creditworthy

Dear Carol,
You and your husband have separate credit reports. Your FICO score is based on the information in your credit report. If the two of you hold joint credit accounts, the payment history is reflected on both credit reports and both credit scores.

If you are an authorized user on his credit card, that payment history shows up on your credit report but won’t be considered in calculating your credit score. The Bankrate feature, ”
FICO credit score drops authorized users,” explains this change in credit scoring in greater detail.

I can’t advise you on your employment scheme. There are legitimate ways for you to draw a salary or stipend as an officer of your husband’s self-owned business, but you need to take that up with his accountant.

I’m not quite sure what your goal is here. A secured card can add to your payment history as long as you make sure the card provider reports that payment history to a credit bureau. But my guess is that 20 years of marriage have helped you generate a pretty substantial payment history on your credit report.

You, however, don’t have to guess. Pull your free credit reports from the consumer reporting agencies. Bankrate shows you how in the feature ”
Free credit reports available to all.”

If a joint credit account won’t work for you, figure out something on the income side to get approved for credit. Credit-scoring models don’t consider income, but lenders typically do look at income as part of the credit-approval process.

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