Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, reports to credit bureaus must be made in the names of both husband and wife if both use an account or are responsible for repaying
the debt. Some women who are divorced or widowed may not have separate credit histories because their credit accounts were listed only in their husband's names. But divorced and widowed women can
still benefit from such a record. Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, creditors must consider the credit history of accounts women have held jointly with their husbands. Creditors must also look
at the record of any account held only in the husband's name if a woman can show that it also reflects her own creditworthiness. If the record is unfavorable, for example, if an ex-husband is a bad
credit risk, she can try to show that the record does not reflect her own creditworthiness. Remember that a wife may also open her own account to ensure starting her own credit history.
If you’re married, separated, divorced, or widowed, contact your local credit reporting companies to make sure all relevant bill payment information is in a file under your own name. Your credit report includes information on where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you have been sued, arrested or filed for bankruptcy. National credit reporting companies sell the information in your report to creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that, in turn, use it to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or renting a home.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, enforces the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA), which prohibits credit discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, or because you get public assistance. Creditors may ask you for most of this information in certain situations, but they may not use it when deciding whether to give you credit or when setting the terms of your credit. Not everyone who applies for credit gets it or gets the same terms: Factors like income, expenses, debts, and credit history are among the considerations lenders use to determine your creditworthiness. The law provides protections when you deal with any organizations or people who regularly extend credit, including banks, small loan and finance companies, retail and department stores, credit card companies, and credit unions. Everyone who participates in the decision to grant credit or in setting the terms of that credit, including real estate brokers who arrange financing, must comply with the ECOA.