Although a job is not required to be approved for a credit card, most prospective card holders will find it is very difficult to get approved for a new credit card without either a job or a source of income.

One of the main catalysts pushing credit card companies to involve income verification for credit card approvals was the passage of the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (CARD Act).  Prior to the Passage of the CARD Act, a number of credit card companies were already tightening their lending standards to reduce delinquency rates and credit card charge offs following the financial crisis of 2007-2008.  But, the CARD Act imposed direct restrictions on credit card approvals without income verification.

Within the terms of the CARD ACT is Section 150, Consideration of Ability to Repay.  This section states, “A card issuer may not open any credit card account for any consumer under an open end consumer credit plan, or increase any credit limit applicable to such account, unless the card issuer considers the ability of the consumer to make the required payments under the terms of such account.”

Income requirements for credit card approvals were loosened up a bit after some backlash over the CARD Acts impact on non-working spouses, partners, and family members.  Concerns that the rules unduly limited the ability of spouses and partners not working outside the home to obtain credit cards based on the income of their spouse or partner led to an amendment.  A rule was subsequently implemented that removed the requirement that issuers consider consumers’ independent ability to pay for applicants who are 21 or older.  Instead, issuers may now consider income and assets to which such consumers have a reasonable expectation of access.

As a result of the CARD Act and its amended rules, most credit card applications request income information from the applicant but allow family income sources to be included.  Applications for new credit cards will generally allow applicants to include personal income such as full-time, part-time, seasonal jobs, self-employment, interest or dividends, retirement, and public assistance to qualify.  In addition, the applications for most cards allow the applicant to include shared income, which is money from somebody else that is regularly deposited into the applicants financial account or into a joint account that person shares.

Credit card companies are not required to obtain direct proof of income such as pay stubs and tax returns.  Instead, credit card issuers are permitted to use “statistically valid” data, or scoring models, to estimate income and assets.

The end result for most consumers means a source of individual or family income is required to get a credit card approval.  Proof of the income stream or source is up to the credit card issuer to prove or otherwise validate.

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