By Jim Donovan
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Thinking about applying for a credit card? New government regulations have touched off a battle possibly affecting millions of women. 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan tells us how new rules designed to protect some, may end up hurting many more.
Jenn Mandelenakis gave up the corporate life for a life at home with her two children. She says, “My husband and I have worked very hard to build a situation that’s secure, that’s financially stable.” But all that planning won’t do her any good the next time she applies for a credit card in her own name. She’ll be denied. She says, “It’s really frustrating and upsetting.”
It’s a consequence of The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act, a law that cracks down on all kinds of bank fees but also requires that lenders consider a person’s ability to repay what they borrow. That means no income, no credit card.
Financial Advisor Dana Levitt says, “It was really intended for young people who were just getting out of college and establishing huge amounts of credit lines and getting in over their heads. But unfortunately it had a much bigger net than it was ever intended to.”
That net includes stay-at-home parents like Jenn, who just months ago could claim household income and had no problem getting a credit card. According to Levitt, “So if she doesn’t have income now, she’s out of luck.” Jenn says, “It really makes me feel frustrated with how hard I’ve worked and this choice that I’ve made to be home with my children.”
Some retailers aren’t happy about the new regulations either. They often make big money by offering discounts to shoppers who open instant credit cards. Stay-at-home moms are a large part of their customer base. But it’s that ability to obtain instant credit that some consumer groups believe gets people into trouble. That’s why The National Consumer Law Center and Consumers Union support the ability to pay rule.
For Jenn, it’s about fairness and family values. She days, “I feel as through the federal government is placing a zero value on my contribution here.” Women’s groups say this regulation could be devastating for those who are widowed or divorced. Some members of Congress agree, so there might be some changes coming down the road.