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If you're not currently working, you can use your spouse's or partner's income on your credit application. This can help you get approved while still having a card in your own name. Here's what to consider before doing so.
Does My Spouse's Income Count on My Credit Application?
If you are currently unemployed, you can use your spouse's income alone on your application. If you do have your own income, but want to be approved for a higher limit or get better odds of approval, you can include your family's total income.
Even if you use your spouse's income to get approved, they don't have to be an authorized user on the card. You also don't have to be legally married, but rather partners with reasonable access to that shared income.
There is one exception: If you are under 21, you won't be able to use your spouse's or partner's income on a credit application. Instead, you will be considered based on your own individual earnings. But if you need a cosigner, you can have someone 21 or older cosign, including your spouse.
The Benefits of Having Your Own Accounts
Depending on how you split your finances, it may seem unnecessary for you to have your own credit card granted based on your spouse's income. However, there are some major benefits to having a card in your own name, even if you don't currently have an income.
Consider these benefits when deciding whether or not to apply for your own card using your spouse's income:
- Build credit in your own name: Even if you are not earning money currently, building your credit is still an achievable goal. You have your own credit report separate from your spouse even if you share finances. By getting an account in your own name, you can improve your own credit score.
- Access to credit in case of emergency: Having your own credit card, savings or other financial account can keep you solvent even if something happens to your spouse. When a spouse dies, accounts in their name only may be frozen while the probate process is underway. Sudden separations or hostile divorces may restrict access to previously shared accounts.
- Financial privacy: Having access to a card where you can make purchases privately may also be important to you. Whether you wish to be able to keep holiday presents a secret or simply want to use your spending money without oversight, having your own credit card is a reasonable desire.
How to Apply for a Credit Card
Start the application process by gathering necessary information. When you apply for a credit card, you'll need information like:
- Name and address
- Social Security number
- Available household income
When you find a card you like, follow these steps to apply:
- Find the application form. It's common to apply for a credit card online, but you can also apply over the phone, by mailing in an application or in person, such as at a store or bank.
- Review the card's terms. As part of the application process, you should get access to the card's Schumer box. This is a standardized form that clearly explains rates and fees associated with your card. Make sure you understand the length of any introductory 0% annual percentage rate (APR) offers and the interest rate afterward, as well as fees.
- Provide your application information. Make sure you have your personal identifying information available, such as your address, phone number and Social Security number. Applications will also ask for your total gross income and perhaps some further details like employment status or your monthly housing costs.
- Submit your application. Try to submit applications judiciously, by only applying to credit cards for which you have good odds of approval.
Before applying for a card, do your research. Make sure you know your current credit score—or if you even have a credit score. Target cards that you have a good chance of getting approved for to avoid having too many new credit inquiries on your credit report.
You can use a tool like Experian CreditMatch™ to gauge your odds before sending in applications. Even if you don't have much credit history, there are cards out there—such as secured cards—that you may be approved for.
The Bottom Line
The first step in getting approved for a credit card is knowing your credit score. When you monitor your credit for free with Experian, you'll get regular updates on changes in your credit report and access to a real-time score. You can also get copies of your credit reports from TransUnion and Equifax directly or from AnnualCreditReport.com.
Be prepared to apply for a card you've got great odds of getting approved for when you use smart tools like credit monitoring and Experian CreditMatch.