I Need My Husband's Permission?!
In 1974, Congresswoman Bella Abzug realized something: she could make laws in Congress, but she couldn’t get her own credit card without her husband’s permission.
Now, almost 40 years after Congresswoman Abzug fought for - and won - the rights of women to get their own credit, that right is being threatened.
Last fall, my husband and I decided that a Target credit card would be a good idea for our family. We are lucky to have a stable income from my husband’s job and great credit scores asa result of regularly paying our full credit card balances. As a result, neither of us have ever been turned down for credit before.
Since I shop at Target and he doesn't, I applied while checking out. I was embarrassed to find out that I was not approved for that card because I don't personally earn an income. I'm a stay at home mother.
It is 2012, and because I’m a stay at home mom, I can’t get my own credit card. My husband has to give me permission to get my own line of credit. This is demeaning and flat out unfair.
Once I realized why I was denied credit, I was not just disappointed and embarrassed, I was angry. Last year, a law called the CARD (Credit Card Accountability and Responsibility Disclosure) Act took effect. It was meant to protect consumers from misleading credit card practices. Instead, it set the United States back almost half a century. The CARD Act dramatically changed the way people - especially stay at home moms - could apply for a credit card. Instead of filling in your “household income” (the combined income of you and your partner or spouse), you can only note your own income. This is despite the fact that I make 95% of our household purchases, have an impeccable credit score and handle the majority of my family’s finances.
I knew I couldn't be the only one feeling an unfair impact of this. My husband and I immediately contacted the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) with a complaint. Unfortunately, we were passed off until eventually our complaint ended up back at Target who politely reaffirmed that my denial was a result of the new law which does not allow them to consider my household income. The agency with the power to do anything, the CFPB, did not follow up.
Since beginning my campaign with MomsRising, I have learned that some of my friends have also been in the same situation. Many of them feeling embarrassed about it until I told them about my experience and explained what had happened. My petition to the CFPB – now circulated by both MomsRising.org and Change.org – has over 45,000 signatures and counting. This overwhelmingly positive response shows that this isn’t an isolated injustice. Further, this is something that the CFPB has the power to correct.
Unintended consequence or not, I still struggle to come to terms with the fact that despite being an equal partner in financial decisions for our household and making the vast majority of our household purchases, I cannot obtain a credit card in my name. This was not something I expected when becoming a stay home parent. Furthermore, it endangers my future and my children’s future should something happen to my husband or my marriage. Individuals without a current, independent credit history can find it nearly impossible to rent an apartment, buy a home or even rent a car.
I’m excited to visit the CFPB this month to show them just how many of us want this change. I, along with other MomsRising and Change.org members will be delivering our petition to the CFPB on Thursday, May 15th.
Sign our petition now to stand with me and other stay-at-home parents: http://action.momsrising.org/letter/CARDAct