Good News for Stay-At-Home Spouses: The Government Now Allowing You to Have a Credit Card

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) picked a new winner this week: stay-at-home spouses and “partners”. If you stay at home while your spouse or partner brings home the bacon, you can soon use household income when applying for a credit card.

Like it or not, the new and controversial CFPB dictates what the financial industry can and cannot do. In an impressive display of their power this week, they changed the CARD Act effectively obliterating the income requirements for stay-at-home spouses and partners to qualify for a credit card. Card issuers have six months to comply with the change.

The CARD Act originally required that a credit card applicant show independent income or assets (i.e. demonstrate that you can pay back the amount that you run up on the card). Now an applicant can simply list household income (i.e. income that the applicant can reasonably be expected to access), whether that be from a married spouse or a partner.

Reaction from Twitter about the original CARD Act rule…

This new move is estimated to have affected 16 million people, who are stay-at-home spouses or partners, in the U.S.

Mrs. PT used to be a stay-at-home Mom and so I’m personally happy to see this change. I want her to be able to qualify for the same cards that I qualify for so that she can maintain her own credit history and so we can take advantage of multiple card applications for points, like we did with our latest app party.

But I’m surprised to see the CFPB make this change given that they are supposed to be the watchdog for the industry. Of course consumers and issuers are going to like this move! Why wouldn’t they?! But isn’t the CFPB supposed to be the grown-up here?

It’s much easier to regulate credit based on a person’s independent income and assets. When you start relying on the assets and income from others, the waters get a big murky, which can lead to too many people having credit card debt they can’t afford. All the more reason, in my opinion, not to have the government involved in the issue to begin with.

What about you? Does this news affect you? Will you be applying for a credit card soon? Are you a stay-at-home spouse or partner, and have you ever been turned down for a credit card application for lack of income?

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Last Edited: May 25, 2013 @ 12:21 amThe content of is for general information purposes only and does not constitute professional advice. Visitors to should not act upon the content or information without first seeking appropriate professional advice. In accordance with the latest FTC guidelines, we declare that we have a financial relationship with every company mentioned on this site.
About Philip Taylor

Philip Taylor, aka “PT”, is a CPA, financial writer, podcaster, FinCon Founder, husband, and father of three. He created PT Money back in 2007 to share his thoughts on money and to meet others passionate about managing their finances. All the content on this blog is original, and created or edited by PT. Read more about Philip Taylor, and be sure to connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. Listen to the new podcast, Masters of Money!


  1. Maybe a better route to the desired result would have been improving the joint account and co-signer systems — one current option for a non-working spouse to be extended credit. (in the case of a divorce happening, repayment can be factored into alimony)
    I do need to read the rule in its entirety to make a final determination, but I generally err on the side of supporting policy that would help dependent spouses… more to follow

  2. CommonCentsWealth says:

    This change does not affect my wife or I right now, but may in the future if she stays at home.  I think this change makes sense and I agree with you that it’ll be nice to qualify for the same cards now.