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Can a credit card issuer consider my sex or marital status when I apply for a credit card?

Credit card companies can’t deny you credit or offer you less favorable terms because of your sex or marital status.

The Equal Credit Opportunity Act protects consumers from discrimination when they apply for a credit card. This law prevents companies from using any of the following factors to determine whether or not to extend credit to an applicant:

  • Age
  • Sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Marital status
  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • National origin

If your individual credit profile, income, and assets meet the lender’s criteria for receiving credit, you should be able to obtain a credit card.

Protections against credit discrimination based on sex

Typically, credit card companies or issuers can’t ask your sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity) on an application form. In fact, if a form asks you to pick a title (such as Mr., Miss, Mrs., Ms., or Mx), it must also state that including that information is optional.

Protections against credit discrimination based on marital status

If you’re applying for an individual, unsecured credit card, a card issuer may not ask for information about your spouse or former spouse when you apply, except in these cases:

  • You are relying on income from alimony, child support, or separate maintenance payments from your spouse or former spouse as a basis for repayment of the credit requested.
  • You live in a “community property” state or get income from a property located in a “community property” state. These states consider debts incurred during marriage as joint debts. “Community property” states include:
    • Alaska (if you sign a special agreement)
    • Arizona
    • California
    • Idaho
    • Louisiana
    • Nevada
    • New Mexico
    • Texas
    • Washington
    • Wisconsin

Even though some credit-related information may indirectly show your marital status, a creditor can still seek this information. For example, a creditor may ask about your asset ownership, which may disclose that you have a spouse.

If you’re applying for a joint credit card with a spouse or secured credit, the creditor may inquire about your marital status, but must only use the terms married, unmarried, or separated. The creditor may also explain that the “unmarried” category includes single, divorced, and widowed.

Learn more about credit cards