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Credit Discrimination

Money & Debt

This article provides information about creditor discrimination.

Learn more about what credit discrimination is, what rights you have, what questions creditors are prohibited to ask you, and what factors cannot be considered when you apply for credit. 

What is credit discrimination?

Credit discrimination is when a creditor considers factors such as race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, age, and more when making a credit determination. 

Who is protected from credit discrimination?

All credit applicants are protected from discrimination based on race or color, religion, national origin, sex, gender or sexual orientation, marital or familial status, age, disability, and public assistance status. 

What law gives me these protections?

The Equal Credit Opportunity Act [ECOA], 15 U.S.C. 1691 et seq. Protects credit applicants from credit discrimination by prohibiting creditors from discriminating against them based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, and more. 

In addition, the Fair Housing Act makes many discrimination practices in home financing illegal. 

What practices are discriminatory?

  • Considering your race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, or whether you get public assistance. 

  • Considering your age, unless: 

    • you are too young to sign contracts, generally under 18; 

    • you’re at least 62, and the creditor will favor you because of your age; 

    • It is used to determine the meaning of other factors important to creditworthiness. For example, a creditor could use your age to determine if your income might drop because you are about to retire; 

    • It is used in a valid credit scoring system that favors applicants 62 and older. A credit scoring system assigns points to answers you give on credit applications. For example, your length of employment might be scored differently depending on your age. 

  • Considering whether you have a telephone account in your name.  

  • A creditor may consider whether you have a phone. 

  • Considering the racial composition of the neighborhood where you want to buy, refinance or improve a house with money you are borrowing. 

Note: Although creditors may not consider any of the above, they may ask you to voluntarily disclose this information, as it does help federal agencies enforce anti-discrimination laws. 

Are there any questions a creditor may not ask me?

Yes, a creditor cannot ask you the following: 

  • Questions about your race or national origin. However, a creditor may ask you about and consider your immigration status and whether you have the right to stay in the country long enough to repay the debt. 

  • Questions about your plans for having or raising children. However, they may ask questions about expenses related to your dependents. 

  • Questions about whether you receive alimony, child support, or separate maintenance payments unless they tell you first that you do not have to provide this information if you are not relying on these payments to get credit. However, they may ask if you must pay alimony, child support, or separate maintenance payments. 

  • Questions about your spouse, unless   

    • Your spouse is applying for credit with you. 

    • Your spouse will be allowed to use the account. 

    • You are relying on your spouse’s income or alimony or child support income from a former spouse. 

    • You live in a community property state. 

Where can I learn more about Credit Discrimination?

Visit the Federal Trade Commission to learn more about credit discrimination