Can You Apply for a Credit Card With a Spouse's Income?
Applying for a credit card is an inevitable step in building your credit history. Whether you’re just starting out or rebuilding your credit, banks want reassurance that you can repay your debts. One way of assessing whether you’re a credit risk is by reviewing your income. The number you list can well impact whether you get approved or denied for a new credit card. But what if you don’t have your income?
The good news is that the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act (CARD Act) and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) allow banks to use your household income when making credit decisions. That includes earnings from your spouse or significant other, assuming you’re at least 21 years old and have “reasonable” access to the funds to repay debts.
This rule makes credit more accessible to people who might not otherwise qualify. For example, if you’re a stay-at-home parent, you can list your spouse’s income to get approved for your own credit card. Of course, there are pros and cons to doing so. We’ll go over everything you need to know about applying for a credit card with household income and why you might want to consider alternatives:
Why do banks require proof of income?
Banks require proof of income to ensure you can repay your debts. Since they issue thousands of dollars in credit limits to each cardholder, they want to make sure the money is repaid in a timely manner. Yes, you can pay your balance over time (and pay interest in the process), but that’s factored into the amount of credit the banks decide to extend to you.
By asking for your income, the banks can better determine whether you’re a credit risk. They can also figure and how much credit you should qualify for. Baks also recognize that not everyone generates income. Some people forego traditional jobs to maintain the home and care for the family. Those people still have access to a spouse’s income and thus should be able to get their own credit cards. The above-mentioned laws codify this fact.
Why you should list a spouse’s income on your credit card application
Listing a spouse’s income on your credit card application can increase your approval odds, especially if your own income isn’t very high. Banks will feel better issuing you credit if they know you have income (whether your own your spouse's) available to pay your debts.
Some credit cards have minimum credit limits - if you don’t qualify for those limits based on your income, adding a spouse’s can increase your approval odds. Higher income can also translate to a higher credit limit. So even if you have plenty of income of your own, adding a spouse’s can get you approved for more credit.
If you use it responsibly, a high credit limit can translate to a lower utilization rate. Keeping your credit utilization rate below 30% contributes to a good credit score.
Why you shouldn’t list a spouse’s income on your credit card application
A lot more goes into a credit card application review than just your income. You’ll first need to make sure you have good credit. If you don’t have good credit, adding your spouse’s income to your application won’t help. By applying for a card outside your credit score range, you’ll waste a credit inquiry and take a 3-5 point credit score hit. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have options.
You can try applying for a card with lower credit requirements. Or you can work on improving your credit score so you can qualify for a better card. Even if you don’t have your own income, you’ll need to have a good credit score for most credit cards. That’s why you should remove delinquencies from your credit report before applying for any cards.
You’ll not only improve your odds of approval, but you’ll also qualify for better cards that earn travel rewards and valuable perks. So while you can list a spouse’s income on your credit application, you should first ensure that your credit score is in good shape.
Becoming an authorized user vs. getting your own card
If you can’t get approved for a credit card due to credit issues or lack of income, you can become an authorized user on a spouse’s card instead. In these scenarios, the primary card member (i.e., your spouse) will be responsible for repaying any debt accrued on the card.
Most banks won’t pull your credit, but they will report the account to credit bureaus. Being an authorized user can thus build your credit history, assuming you use the card responsibly. It’s a great way to access a trade line when you can’t qualify for a credit card based on income alone.
The only downside to being an authorized user is that some credit cards charge a fee. For example, The Platinum Card from American Express charges $175 for up to three authorized users, while the style Chase Sapphire Reserve charges $75. Most other credit cards won’t charge an annual authorized user fee, but you should still double-check.
The only other possible downside to being an authorized user is if you and your spouse accrue a lot of debt on the card, it will reflect poorly on both of your credit scores. With two people utilizing one credit line, that’s more likely to happen. By maintaining a utilization rate under 30%, you’ll avoid a negative impact on both your credit scores.
Do credit card companies require proof of income?
Most credit card companies do not require proof of income, though they can certainly ask for it. Regardless of the likelihood, you should never lie on your application. Only list your own income, your spouse’s and any others that qualify under CFPB and the CARD Act. The last thing you want is to have a credit card shut down because you can’t verify the income listed on the application.
Additionally, the income you list factors into your credit limit. If you exaggerate your income, you might get a much larger credit line than you can reasonably handle. Credit card debt is a massive problem in America and the more credit you have access to, the more likely you will fall into this trap. The last thing you want is to accrue debt because you’ve had access to more credit than you can repay. Honesty is the best policy.
Hopefully, you have a better understanding of credit card application requirements and how the income component works. But if you're still left wondering whether you can apply for a credit card with non-traditional income, here are some answers to common questions you might have.
What can be counted as income on a credit card application?
The CARD Act and CFPB mandate that various monetary sources count as income on a credit card application. This includes all household income (your own and your partner's or spouse’s), allowances, trust fund disbursements, retirement and social security income.
More people can qualify for credit cards based on this expanded definition of income. For example, retired people can be eligible based on their social security income, while college students can list any allowance they receive from their parents.
Can I include my spouse’s income on a credit card application?
You can include your spouse's income on a credit card application. Banks will consider your household income when evaluating your credit card application. Household income includes personal income from your spouse if you’re at least 21 years old.
Can my spouse get a credit card without a job?
Your spouse can get a credit card without a job by listing your income on the credit application. Just be prepared to take on the joint financial responsibility of repaying their debt. If that’s not something you’re willing to do, consider limiting their available credit to avoid overspending.
Can I get a credit card if I don’t work but my spouse does?
Yes, you can get a credit card if you don’t work but your spouse does. As long as your spouse contributes income to the household, you can list that income on your credit card application. Alternatively, you can list any social security or other qualifying revenue on your application.
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