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Understanding Your Rights Under The Equal Credit Opportunity Act

It wasn't all that long ago that lenders blatantly discriminated when it came to approving credit for women and minority groups. Women were actually asked personal and demeaning questions like, how many children do you plan to have in the future or are you on birth control?

Despite the fact that they were entering the workforce in record numbers, single women were often required to get a cosigner or denied credit altogether. Members of minority groups were denied credit as well, even though they were fully qualified.

Today thanks to the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, millions of consumers from all walks of life are given and equal chance to obtain and use credit to finance educations, buy or remodel homes or get small business loans.

The Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which was passed by congress in 1973 first banned discrimination in credit access on the basis of sex or marital status and was later amended to include race, religion, national origin and age. Of course, this doesn't mean all consumers who apply for credit get it. Factors such as income, expenses, debt and credit history are considerations for credit worthiness.

But 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.

When You Apply For Credit, A Creditor May Not.

Discourage you from applying for credit because of your sex, marital status, age, race, national origin, or because you receive public assistance income.

Ask you to reveal your sex, race, national origin, or religion. A creditor may ask you to voluntarily disclose this information, except for religion if you're applying for a real estate loan. This information helps federal agencies enforce anti discrimination laws. You may be asked about your residence or immigration status.

Ask if you're widowed or divorced. When permitted to ask marital status, a creditor may only use the terms: married, unmarried, or separated.

Ask about your marital status if you're applying for a separate, unsecured account. A creditor may ask you to provide this information if you live in community property states, Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Washington. A creditor in any state may ask for this information if you apply for a joint credit account or one secured by property.

Request information about your spouse, except when your spouse is applying for credit with you. Note: your spouse will be allowed to use the credit account. You are relying on your spouse's income or on alimony or child support income from a former spouse; or if you reside in a community property state.

Inquire about your plans for having or raising children.

Ask if you receive alimony, child support, or separate maintenance payments, unless you're first told that, you don't have to provide this information if you won't rely on these payments to get credit. A creditor may ask if you have to pay alimony, child support, or separate maintenance payments.

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 the credit bureaus to make sure all relevant information is in a file under your own name.

Copyright © Credit and You | All Rights Reserved |

To find additional rights you have, what a creditor may not do: when deciding to give you credit or evaluating your income for credit and what to do if you suspect discrimination visit http://www.creditandyou.com/yourcreditright s.html it's free information website!

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