Know Your Rights When Shopping for Credit

Like everything else you buy, it pays to comparison shop for credit. Check financial and banking websites to find up-to-date interest rate reports on mortgages, auto loans, credit cards, home equity loans, and other banking products. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act protects you when dealing with anyone who regularly offers credit, including banks, finance companies, stores, credit card companies and credit unions. When you apply for credit, a creditor may not:

  • Ask about or consider your sex, race, national origin or religion.
  • Ask about your marital status or your spouse, unless you are applying for a joint account or relying on your spouse's income, or you live in a community property state (Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, or Wisconsin)
  • Ask about your plans to have or raise children
  • Refuse to consider public assistance income or regularly received alimony or child support
  • Refuse to consider income because of your sex or marital status or because it is from part-time work or retirement benefits

You have the right to:

  • Have credit in your birth name, your first name and your spouse/ partner's last name, or your first name and a combined last name
  • Have a co-signer other than your spouse if one is necessary
  • Keep your own accounts after you change your name or marital status or retire, unless the creditor has evidence you are unable or unwilling to pay
  • Know why a credit application was rejected-the creditor must give you the specific reasons or tell you where and how you can get them if you ask within 60 days
  • Have accounts shared with your spouse reported in both your names
  • Know how much it will cost to borrow money

For additional information on credit, see Buying a Home. Other sources of information include the HUD Housing Counseling Clearinghouse (1-888-466-3487), the FTC and the National Consumer Law Center.