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I received an email from reader Kurt the other day, who asked:
I found your blog recently and it has been very inspiring to see how you travel for free with a big family. I’ve signed up for a couple of credit cards with bonuses in my name and now I’d like to see if my wife could sign up for the same cards. The reason I have doubts is because she’s a stay-at-home mom and does not have any income. I know the credit card applications ask for personal income and I’m wondering if we could list my income or if it would be questioned?
Great question and one that has come up for our family as well. Kurt (and I) are both talking about Stay at home Moms (SAHM), but the same thing applies for Stay at Home Dads or any other kind of Stay at Home spouses, who typically rely on the income of a spouse / partner.
Stay at Home Mom income: What to put on credit card applications?
I gave Kurt the short answer, which is “Yes, you can put the income of the working spouse”, but told him I’d write a bit more about it as the “long answer”. I’ve actually written about this once before back in January 2014, in a piece called Credit cards for Stay-at-home moms. As Kurt (and myself, and others have seen), all credit card applications have a spot where you have to put in your income. Seems pretty straightforward, right?
But starting in 2010, this got a bit tricky for stay at home moms and other people with more complicated situations. As part of the CARD act of 2009, banks were now required to evaluate people based on their individual ability to re-pay (among many other reforms)
One unintended consequence of this was that all of a sudden, stay-at-home moms and others with more “complicated” situations found themselves frozen out of the credit card market. Applications all of a sudden specified INDIVIDUAL income, and so it was unclear whether stay-at-home mom income was $0 or not.
There were some that went ahead and put in their household income anyways, and if asked about it, just stated the truth. There were probably some people that may even been a bit “dodgy” with the situation, though I wouldn’t recommend that. I wasn’t particularly active in applying for credit cards back then, so I’m not sure what banks would do with a SAHM that listed $0 income, but thankfully this has all now been resolved.
It took 3 years but finally in April 2013 an amendment to the CARD act was finally passed which “allows credit card issuers to consider income that a stay-at-home applicant, who is 21 or older, shares with a spouse or partner when evaluating the applicant for a new account or increased credit limit.”
Playing the “game” in 2-player mode
There are some definite advantages to playing the travel hacking “game” in “2-player mode”, and you can still play even if one spouse is a stay at home mom (or dad). Stay at home mom income can be reported as the total household income (in most cases). If your situation is more complicated, you may want to double check.
Hopefully this helps all the stay at home moms and stay at home dads out there who still want to get lots of travel bonuses from credit cards!