Stay-At-Home Mom Fights New Credit Card Rule

Credit Card Act
Credit Card Act

By Blake Ellis

After nearly five years managing her family's finances, Holly McCall, a 34-year old stay-at-home mother of two from Vienna, Va., never thought she would have trouble getting a credit card.

She makes the majority of family purchases, has an excellent credit score and has been approved for several cards in the past. But when McCall applied for a Target (TGT) card last fall, she was denied.

She blames that denial on a recent Card Act rule.

The law was passed in 2009 to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive credit card practices. But some stay-at-home parents argue that a Card Act rule that took effect last October has made it harder for them to get approved for credit cards.
Aiming to protect consumers from racking up too much debt, the Federal Reserve now requires credit card issuers to consider individual income from applicants instead of household income.

As a result, stay-at-home parents who rely mainly on their spouse's income have a harder time getting approved for credit cards on their own.

"I think it's demeaning -- I don't want to ask my husband's permission for a credit card," McCall said. "Just because I don't get a direct paycheck for [my work], doesn't mean it's not worthwhile work that I'm doing."

Outraged by the new requirements, McCall created an online petition at a couple weeks ago and has already received more than 30,000 signatures -- many of which are from other stay-at-home mothers and fathers.

"I used to be CEO of a small software consulting business and am now staying at home to take care of a toddler and first grader. If you had to pay someone to do what I do now, it would cost you at least $120,000, which is a lot less than what I used to earn," one stay-at-home mom wrote on the online petition. "BTW, it's a 24x7, not a 40 hour per week job. Don't you think I should be allowed to get a credit card on my own?!"

On Tuesday, McCall said she and about half a dozen other petitioners delivered the signatures in thick binders to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in Washington, D.C.

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Some petitioners dressed up as housewives from the 1950s -- complete with A-line skirts, pearls and tightly pulled back hair -- since the rule "feels like a flashback to the 1950s because of the way women aren't empowered financially." One petitioner held a sign in the shape of a credit card with the word "DENIED" stamped on it in red.

McCall said she hopes the petition will push the CFPB to amend the Card Act rule in order to protect the rights of all stay-at-home parents -- both moms and dads alike.

"It's about fair and equal access to credit," said McCall.

The CFPB inherited the Card Act rules from the Federal Reserve last summer, when the bureau was launched.

The agency said it is looking into the issue.

"We recognize that stay-at-home spouses have significant financial responsibilities and play an important role in the U.S. economy," said CFPB spokeswoman Jen Howard.

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