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Building Good Credit for Women

Prior to 1970, women had a very hard time getting their own credit. Much of this was attributed to the fact that lenders could use a woman's age as the sole determining factor of her creditworthiness. Alimony and child support were not considered sources of income, and divorce or widowhood were capable of wiping out any positive credit history a woman may have had.

Fortunately for women, the Federal Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) that was established in 1970 which made it illegal to discriminate on gender for the purposes of a loan. Along with these fair credit rights came other legal changes that had previously prohibited women from obtaining their own credit.  The use of alimony and child support as income was accepted and women no longer lost their personal credit history when they married, divorced, or became widowed.  However, women are still at risk of having little to no credit by themselves and need to be aware of how to ensure their financial security.

A study conducted by Money Management International found that 73% of women considered themselves the primary spender in their households. Furthermore, they were responsible for paying the bills and teaching the children about finances. Yet, many of those same women couldn't get approved for an auto loan by themselves. 

As a woman, the first thing you can do is find out what accounts you hold jointly with your husband. If they are joint accounts and both social security numbers are on file, then the information should be reported to the credit bureaus for both names. Make sure these accounts are being paid on time and used wisely. If the account is an individual account in your spouse's name, be aware that the information is not being reported to your credit file.  Simply contact your creditor and ask them to report it to your file as well. Most creditors are happy to add another responsible party to the account, although they will have their own guidelines.

If you had credit under a different name, such as a maiden name, make sure the credit bureau has your updated information so they can accurately report your history. Having your information updated can help keep you aware of any fraud that may be going on as well.  Identity theft is rampant, and while it can happen to anyone, if you're a woman reporting credit under two different names, it is far more likely that one of those reports could have fraudulent repots.  Be aware that if you have a common name, such as Smith or Gonzalez, you have to be more conscientious of your accounts as well. 

Getting good credit starts with making smarter decisions when it comes to your credit. Be careful to whom you give your personal information  and make sure that you follow your credit report. Keep records of your accounts and your payments so that you have those available should any discrepancies arise. Make your payments on time and use your credit wisely.  Following these practices will help you obtain, or to improve, your credit standing.

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