Equal Credit Opportunity Act

The Equal Credit Opportunity Act prohibits credit discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age or because you get public assistance.

Creditors may ask you for some of this information in certain situations, but they may not use it when deciding whether to give you credit or when setting the terms of your credit.  Factors like income, expenses, debts and credit history are among the considerations lenders use to determine your creditworthiness.

Basic Provisions of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act - When you apply for credit, lenders or creditors may not:

  • Discourage you from applying or reject your application because of your race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age or because you receive public assistance.  They also may not consider this information in determining terms of credit, such as fees or the interest rate. 
  • Ask if you’re widowed or divorced. A creditor may use only the terms married, unmarried or separated.
  • Ask about your marital status if you’re applying for a separate, unsecured account.  However, a creditor may ask you to provide this information if you live in a “community property” state.
  • Ask for information about your spouse, except:
    • if your spouse is applying with you
    • if your spouse will be allowed to use the account
    • if you are relying on your spouse’s income or on alimony or child support income from a former spouse
  • Ask about your plans for having or raising children.  But they can ask questions about expenses related to your dependents.

Your Income - When evaluating your income, creditors may not:

  • Refuse to consider reliable public assistance income the same way as other income.
  • Discount income because of your sex or marital status.  For example, a creditor can't count a man’s salary at 100 percent and a woman’s at 75 percent. A creditor may not assume that a woman of childbearing age will stop working to raise children.
  • Discount or refuse to consider income because it comes from part-time employment, Social Security, pensions or annuities.
  • Refuse to consider reliable alimony, child support or separate maintenance payments. A creditor may ask you for proof that you receive this income consistently.

Additional Rights - You also have the right to:

  • Get credit without a cosigner if you meet the creditor’s standards.
  • Have a cosigner other than your spouse, if one is necessary.
  • Keep your own accounts after you change your name, marital status, reach a certain age, or retire, unless the creditor has evidence that you’re not willing or able to pay.
  • Know whether your application was accepted or rejected within 30 days of filing a complete application.
  • Know why your application was rejected.  The creditor must tell you the specific reason for the rejection or that you are entitled to learn the reason if you ask within 60 days.  An acceptable reason might be that your income was too low or you haven’t been employed long enough.  An unacceptable reason might be "you didn’t meet our minimum standards.”  That information isn’t specific enough.