If you’re single, accumulating miles and points for yourself it is relatively easy (in the grand scheme of things) compared to someone earning for a couple or a family of 3, 4, or 5. Rick and Katy each get their own cards as do Sara and I. It’s a lot easier for two (or more) people to travel when you’ve got multiple people racking up points.
As the points coordinator in my family, I also get to help my parents and brothers figure out what to apply for … in the end we all win as we have a vast selection of accounts, and diversity is key here.
Both Sara and I work, so applying for and being approved for credit cards isn’t an issue for us. We have thick enough credit files with installment loans (car and student loans and a mortgage), some store credit cards, and premium credit / charge cards. Individually our income is sufficient to meet the requirements of all the cards we look to get. We’re very fortunate and definitely make use of our financial situation to the best we can; we’re DINKS.
That said, the majority of families aren’t in the same situation as us. It isn’t that we make a millions of dollars, but rather that we both have individual income; individual being the key word here.
When applying for cards, just as we read the qualifications necessary to get the signup bonus closely, we need to read the wording within the application closely. Assuming my credit score was 750 (high enough for any credit card we’ve ever applied for), and I hadn’t applied for any cards in the past year, with any income of $55,000 for the year (and of course paying my bills in full every month), I’m likely to be approved for almost any card I apply for. Depending on my current accounts I may need to shift credit around, or close a different one … but I’ll get the approval. If on the other hand my income was $8,000, I’m much less likely to be approved for the premium travel cards (SPG Amex, Chase Sapphire Preferred, etc) … the question is though, do I put in my income + my wife’s income when I apply? Well … it depends.
First and foremost, you must always complete your applications 100% truthfully. Never, ever, “stretch the truth”. This is black and white.
If you live in a community property state (Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin), this may be a moot point. I am not a lawyer or a law expert, but as I understand it, if you live in a community property state and are married by entering your income + your spouses income, you’re perfectly within your rights. So if you make $5,000 a year or even $0 a year, but your spouse makes $55,000, that’s what you get to put. If you live with 2 other friends that are roommates; this isn’t for you.
But what if you’re not in a community property state and don’t have regular significant income … well, you might not be out of luck. As I said, it is important to read the application and all the fine print. The Fair Credit Reporting Act made changes to laws that govern issuing of credit, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a few cards.
I went to credit card applications from the five creditors that I apply for credit from: American Express, Bank of America, Barclays, Chase, and Citi and pulled the sections that talk about income from personal applications. Here they are (with a little commentary afterwards):
- American Express – Total Annual Income – Include income from all sources including employment, retirement, investments, rental properties, etc. Alimony, child support, or separate maintenance need not be revealed if you do not wish to rely upon it.
- Bank of America – Total Income – We collect income information to determine your ability to pay. Examples may include income earned from employment (salary, overtime, bonus), retirement/pension benefits and rental properties. If you do not have sufficient income, we may request a co-applicant or guarantor. Alimony, Child Support, or separate maintenance income need not be revealed if you do not wish it considered as a basis for repayment.
- Barclays – Total Annual Income – Alimony, child support or separate maintenance income need not be revealed if you do not wish it to be considered as a basis for repaying this obligation. Please include all of your sources of income, including income from assets, that you would like considered as a basis for repaying this obligation.
- Chase – Gross Annual Income – Gross Annual Income is income that you are able to use for repaying your debts. Examples may include income earned from salaries, investments, rental properties, Social Security benefits and retirement accounts.
- Citi – Annual Salary and Wages – For example, current or reasonably expected salary, wages, bonuses, tips, commission. Please note that alimony, child support or separate maintenance income need not to be revealed if you do not wish to have it considered as a basis for repaying this obligation. AND Other Annual Income – For example, annual amounts from interest or dividends, social security or retirement benefits, rental income, alimony, child support or separate maintenance payments. Please note that alimony, child support or separate maintenance income need not to be revealed if you do not wish to have it considered as a basis for repaying this obligation.
The wording is similar but not the same for all of these. Citi goes as far to separate other annual income, which is where I would put a spouses income when applying. His/her income would be used “as a basis for replaying this obligation” … pretty straightforward to me. Barclays says the same, but doesn’t have it separated … pretty straightforward there. Bank of America uses the phrase “your ability to pay”, but then asks about Total Income. Well, I file all my taxes as a joint-filer with my wife. Both Georgia and the Federal Government count our income as one total mass of income. I consider that to be total income.
American Express uses that word Total again and says “Include income from all sources … etc …”; seems like a no-brainer to me. Last but not least, Chase … which wants Gross Annual Income, which they define as “income that you are able to use for repaying your debts”; my wife’s income is most definitely used to repay my debts. Our mortgage note is in my name and only my name, but the title to our home is in both our names. She gives me money every month to pay our debts. While her name may not be on the debt specifically, her income is most definitely assisting in paying it off.
What situation are y’all in? Are you reading the exact wording of your credit card applications before applying? Have you had different experiences than I?
Deal of the Day
For today’s Deal of the Day TopCashback is donating $50 cash (to be deposited to your TopCashback.com account) for the best overall travel deal submitted. A great mileage run, mistake fare, partner promo, new card sign-up offer, or the special twist you figured out on a deal today. Add it to the comments section of this post (along with your First Name, Last Initial, and Airport Code) or this afternoon’s Deal of the Day post to be eligible to win.