Losing your spouse is hard enough. But some surviving spouses also discover that they lose their ability to get credit as well. This is because they have no independent credit history since all of the couple’s credit cards and loans were in the name of the deceased spouse.
For many women, in particular, this can be a shocking discovery. But if a woman did not work outside the home, never had a credit card in her own name, and has no record of an independent income, she runs the risk of having her credit cards cancelled after the death of her spouse, or loans denied, even if she’s been well provided for and has enough income to live comfortably.
In 2011, new federal rules actually made it harder for non-working spouses to get credit cards, because it required credit card companies to look at an individual’s own salary and income (and not the household’s income) to decide whether or not they qualified. This caused so much trouble, that the rules were changed, and now credit card companies can consider the household’s income for anyone over 21 years old who applies for credit.