The Equal Credit Opportunity Act guarantees equal opportunity to all customers of credit card companies, banks, loan and finance companies, retail stores and credit unions. It is strictly prohibited under the Consumer Credit Protection Act to discriminate on the basis of:
- National origin
- Marital status
- Age (provided the consumer has the capacity to enter into a binding contract)
- Receipt of public assistance
- Consumer has in good faith exercised any right under the Act
The following summarizes some of the key protections under the Act:
- In general, creditors cannot ask you for your race, sex, or national origin, nor can they use these factors when deciding whether to give you a loan or other credit. However, if you apply for a mortgage, the lender is required to ask you about these facts. Your answers may be used to help enforce laws against discrimination. Even so, you aren't required to give this information.
- You're entitled to your own credit history–in your individual name–even if you are married. This can be important should you ever need credit on your own. However, if you share credit with your spouse, you will share your partner's credit record as well.
- If you apply for unsecured credit on your own, your marital status is off-limits.
- You don't have to tell a creditor you're divorced or that you're receiving support payments. However, a lender has a legitimate interest in your ability to repay your debts. Therefore, you may have to disclose any alimony, maintenance or child support you're obligated to pay. You must also list any support payments you receive if you want them to be counted as income on your application.
- As long as you're old enough to sign a legal contract, your age can't be used against you.
- A creditor cannot discriminate against you if you receive public assistance. However, a creditor can verify any income you list on a credit application.