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Unmarried Couples and Credit Discrimination

The Equal Credit Opportunity Act prohibits creditors from discriminating on the basis of martial status -- or race, national origin, religion, sex, age, or because a portion or all of a persons income is derived from public assistance. Creditors may ask about most of this information in specific situations, but they may not use it when deciding whether to issue credit, or for determining the terms of credit. Legally, ability to pay and demonstrated responsibility in pay should be the only criteria that matters.

By law, creditors cannot:

  • Inquire about martial status of applicants for individual unsecured credit unless the applicant lives in or is using property as collateral that exists in a community property state
  • Require the use of a married name; they must allow credit to be issued in a person's given name or a combined surname. 
  • Terminate your account or require reapplication if you change your name or martial status unless there is evidence that you're unwilling or unable to pay your bill. 
  • Ignore income from child support or alimony in determining creditworthiness, but may take into consideration how likely a person is to receive it
  • ask questions about your intentions to have children in the future, or about your birth control practices. 
Creditors can require you to reveal alimony and child-support payments for which you are responsible. Received payments are exempt unless those payments are being counted toward establishing income for credit purposes. Creditors must also inform you as to why credit is being denied.


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