The Act gives every consumer the equal chance to obtain credit. Keep in mind that this does not mean everyone is entitled to credit, but only that every consumer’s application for credit will be seen in the same light and that a creditor cannot unfairly discriminate against a consumer.

What Are Creditors Prohibited from Doing when I Apply for Credit?

Generally, creditors are prohibited from asking a consumer personal questions relating to the consumer’s race, sex, or religion, as well as questions regarding the consumer’s marital status and/or child custody status that have no bearing on the consumer’s application for credit.

A creditor may not require you to disclose:

  • Race
  • Sex
  • National origin
  • Religion

The creditor can ask you to voluntarily give this information, but it should not affect your application for credit.

Pertaining to Marital Status, a Creditor May Not Ask:

  • About your marital status at all if you are applying for a separate account, unless you are living in a "community property" state (i.e. Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin)
  • If you are widowed or divorced. Creditors may only ask if you are married, unmarried, or separated
  • About your spouse, unless your spouse plans on using the account or you are relying on child support or alimony from a former spouse or live in a community property state

Pertaining to Your Children, a Creditor May Not Ask:

  • About your plans to have or raise children
  • If you receive child support or alimony unless you are relying on these payments to get credit or if the creditor has told you ahead of time you are not required to give the information but may do so voluntarily

What Is a Creditor Prohibited from Considering when Deciding to Give Me Credit?

When a creditor is deciding whether to grant you credit, the creditor cannot consider:

  • Your sex, religion, national origin, marital status, or race (or the race of the people in your neighborhood)
  • Whether you are listed in the phone book
  • Your age, unless it is used to evaluate other factors important to creditworthiness (such as whether the consumer is old enough to legally sign contracts)

What Am I Entitled to Know Once I Have Finished Applying for Credit?

Once you have finished the application process, the creditor must notify you within 30 days if your application was approved or denied. If you are denied, you may ask for the specific reasons why and the creditor must inform you of those reasons within 60 days. By law, the creditor must be specific. If you were approved for credit, but on less favorable terms, the creditor must explain why those terms were offered.

What Should I Do if I Feel My Consumer Rights under this Act Have Been Violated?

Complain to the creditor. You should also report this violation to your state Attorney General and the appropriate federal agency (in most cases that will be the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)). You may also want to consult a business attorney who specializes in civil suits concerning consumer credit since you could be entitled to money damages in a lawsuit, or may be able to join an already existing class action suit against the creditor.