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One of the pitfalls of Congress passing complicated, sweeping legislation is that sometimes provisions designed to protect one group unexpectedly create hardships for others.
That’s what happened with 2009’s Credit Card Accountability Responsibility Disclosure Act, which was hailed as legislation that would protect consumers from misleading credit practices.
Among other things, the CARD Act requires that people under 21 must have an adult co-signer in order to open a credit account unless they can prove their ability to repay their account balance.
This provision was designed to prevent young adults from assuming more debt than they can afford and then being unable to pay it off, thereby ruining their credit standing.
So far, so good.
Then, in 2011 the Federal Reserve finalized rules around the CARD Act’s “ability to pay” provision. It stated that credit card issuers generally could only consider an applicant’s independent income, or assets before issuing a new card or increasing a credit limit, not his or her access to the household’s overall income.
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