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What do I do if I think a lender discriminated against me?

If you believe a lender discriminated against you, you can submit a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or with the CFPB online or by calling 1-855-411-CFPB (2372). You can also file a complaint with your state attorney general or state consumer protection office . If you’re in the military, report it to your installation JAG immediately.

Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, it is illegal for a creditor or lender to discriminate against you based on a number of factors. The law applies to most loans, including auto loans, credit cards, mortgages, and student loans, among others.

The factors include:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity)
  • Marital status
  • Age (if the applicant is old enough to enter into a contract)
  • Receiving income from any public assistance program – this includes Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), unemployment, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Exercising in good faith a right under the Consumer Credit Protection Act, which includes consumer protection laws relating to credit

For most mortgage loans, the lender is allowed to ask about your race, ethnicity, and sex to comply with anti-discrimination laws.

State or local law could prohibit discrimination on additional grounds.

This means that a creditor may not use any of the factors listed above as a reason to:

  • Refuse you credit if you qualify for it
  • Discourage you from applying for credit
  • Provide you credit on terms that are different from the terms given to someone else who is in a similar situation as yours, such as having similar credit scores
  • Close your existing account

Marital status

If you are applying for a loan in your own name, a creditor may not deny you credit because of your marital status. If you meet the lender’s standards for your credit score, you may get your own credit, and a creditor generally may not require that your spouse co-sign your account.

Generally, a creditor is allowed to ask for information about your spouse or former spouse only when:

  • Your spouse or former spouse is responsible for paying debts on the account
  • You are relying on your spouse’s income or former spouse’s income to repay the loan you are applying for
  • You are relying on alimony, child support, or maintenance payments from a spouse or former spouse to repay the loan you are applying for

Sex or gender

A creditor generally may not ask you about your sex or gender, or the sex or gender of a co-signer on an application form. However, a creditor may ask you to select a title (Mr., Miss, Mrs., or Ms.) on the application form, if the form states this is optional.

Citizenship or national origin

A creditor cannot discriminate on the basis of national origin. However, a creditor may ask about your immigration status or status as a permanent resident, or immigration status or status as a permanent resident of any co-signer. A lender is allowed to consider other information that could affect the lender's ability under the law to make sure the loan is repaid.

A creditor may also take into account laws, regulations, and executive orders that limit dealings with citizens of certain countries. But they cannot use immigration status to justify discriminating against you based on your national origin, race, or other protected characteristics.


Generally, a creditor cannot use your age to make credit decisions. However, there are exceptions to this rule.

For example, age can be considered in a valid credit scoring system. A creditor may also relate your age to other information about you that they use to evaluate your credit, such as your lack of job history.

Children or dependents

A creditor can ask about the number and ages of your dependents. They can also ask about dependent-related financial obligations or expenses. However, a creditor can do this only if they ask for this information without regard to sex or marital status (or any other prohibited basis).

A creditor cannot ask you about your birth control practices. A creditor also cannot ask about your intentions to have or raise children or about your capability to have children.

Income from alimony or child support

A creditor can consider your income from child support or alimony. The creditor can also consider the amount of payments and the likelihood that payments will continue. This means they can consider factors such as whether there is a written agreement or court decree, how long and how regularly you or your co-signer have been receiving payments, and the credit standing of the person paying you child support or alimony, when that information is available.

Income from a public assistance program

A creditor cannot discriminate against you because you (or your co-signer) receive or have received public assistance income.

Like any other income, a creditor can consider whether you or your co-signer’s public assistance income is likely to continue. If that income is not likely to continue, that fact can be considered in determining whether to lend to you.

You are entitled to receive information about negative credit decisions

If your loan application is turned down, or if you receive an offer that is less favorable than the loan you applied for, you should receive information about why you were denied. This is called an “adverse action notice.” The notice includes a statement of the specific reasons for the denial, or a notice that you may request a statement of specific reasons within 60 days.

Watch for warning signs

Credit discrimination is often hidden or even unintentional, which makes it hard to spot. Look for red flags, such as:

  • You are treated differently in person than on the phone
  • You are discouraged from applying for credit
  • You hear the lender make negative comments about race, national origin, sex, or other protected characteristics
  • You are refused credit even though you qualify for it
  • You are offered credit with a higher rate than the one you applied for, even though you qualify for the lower rate
  • You are denied credit, but not given a reason why or told how to find out why
  • Your deal sounds too good to be true
  • You feel pushed or pressured to sign

Learn more about fair lending.