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U.S. consumer bureau tweaks credit card rule for at-home parents

American Express and MasterCard credit cards are shown in Washington June 25, 2008. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
American Express and MasterCard credit cards are shown in Washington June 25, 2008. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The consumer bureau said on Monday it tweaked its rules to fix part of a 2009 law that lawmakers and industry groups said kept some stay-at-home parents from getting credit cards.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said it made changes to a requirement in the Credit CARD Act that called for companies to verify applicants' ability to pay before approving them for credit cards.

Regulators initially interpreted that provision to mean that credit card companies could consider only individuals' independent income, not total household pay.

That led credit card issuers to deny cards to some stay-at-home parents and other non-working people who would otherwise have been approved, consumers, industry groups and some members of Congress have said.

Lawmakers since have said that was an unintended consequence of the law. The consumer bureau said on Monday that credit card companies now will be able to consider the income of a spouse or partner if the card applicant is at least 21 years old.

"Stay-at-home spouses or partners who have access to resources that allow them to make payments on a credit card can now get their own cards," consumer bureau Director Richard Cordray said in a statement.

Congress created the consumer bureau as part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law and gave it oversight of mortgages, student loans and credit cards. The Federal Reserve initially was charged with implementing the 2009 credit card law, but that responsibility later moved to the consumer bureau.

Cordray said last September that the bureau planned to change the rules after several lawmakers, including Representative Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat who sponsored the 2009 law, asked the CFPB to look into it.

The bureau said that the final regulation follows proposed changes released in October and that credit card issuers will have six months to comply with the new rules.

(Reporting By Emily Stephenson; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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