Credit is used by millions of consumers to finance an education or a house, remodel a home, or get a small business loan.
The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) ensures that all consumers are given an equal chance to obtain credit. This doesn’t mean all consumers who apply for credit get it: Factors such as income, expenses, debt, and credit history are considerations for creditworthiness.
The law protects you when you deal with any creditor who regularly extends credit, including banks, small loan and finance companies, retail and department stores, credit card companies, and credit unions. Anyone involved in granting credit, such as real estate brokers who arrange financing, is covered by the law. Businesses applying for credit also are protected by the law.
You Also Have the Right to…
- Have credit in your birth name (Mary Smith), your first and your spouse’s last name (Mary Jones), or your first name and a combined last name (Mary Smith-Jones).
- Get credit without a cosigner, if you meet the creditor’s standards.
- Have a cosigner other than your husband or wife, 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 give you a notice that tells you either the specific reasons for your rejection or your right to learn the reasons if you ask within 60 days.
- Acceptable reasons include: “Your income was low,” or “You haven’t been employed long enough.” Unacceptable reasons are: “You didn’t meet our minimum standards,” or “You didn’t receive enough points on our credit-scoring system.” Indefinite and vague reasons are illegal, so ask the creditor to be specific.
- Find out why you were offered less favorable terms than you applied for—unless you accept the terms. Ask for details. Examples of less favorable terms include higher finance charges or less money than you requested.
- Find out why your account was closed or why the terms of the account were made less favorable unless the account was inactive or delinquent.
A Special Note to Women
A good credit history—a record of how you paid past bills—often is necessary to get credit. Unfortunately, this hurts many married, separated, divorced, and widowed women. There are two common reasons women don’t have credit histories in their own names: they lost their credit histories when they married and changed their names; or creditors reported accounts shared by married couples in the husband’s name only.
If you’re married, divorced, separated, or widowed, contact your local credit bureau(s) to make sure all relevant information is in a file under your own name.