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1026.51—Ability to Repay

(a) General rule. (1)(i) Consideration of ability to pay. A card issuer must not open a credit card account for a consumer under an open-end (not home-secured) consumer credit plan, or increase any credit limit applicable to such account, unless the card issuer considers the consumer's ability to make the required minimum periodic payments under the terms of the account based on the consumer's income or assets and the consumer's current obligations.

(ii) Reasonable policies and procedures. Card issuers must establish and maintain reasonable written policies and procedures to consider the consumer's ability to make the required minimum payments under the terms of the account based on a consumer's income or assets and a consumer's current obligations. Reasonable policies and procedures include treating any income and assets to which the consumer has a reasonable expectation of access as the consumer's income or assets, or limiting consideration of the consumer's income or assets to the consumer's independent income and assets. Reasonable policies and procedures also include consideration of at least one of the following: The ratio of debt obligations to income; the ratio of debt obligations to assets; or the income the consumer will have after paying debt obligations. It would be unreasonable for a card issuer not to review any information about a consumer's income or assets and current obligations, or to issue a credit card to a consumer who does not have any income or assets.

(2) Minimum periodic payments. (i) Reasonable method. For purposes of paragraph (a)(1) of this section, a card issuer must use a reasonable method for estimating the minimum periodic payments the consumer would be required to pay under the terms of the account.

(ii) Safe harbor. A card issuer complies with paragraph (a)(2)(i) of this section if it estimates required minimum periodic payments using the following method:

(A) The card issuer assumes utilization, from the first day of the billing cycle, of the full credit line that the issuer is considering offering to the consumer; and

(B) The card issuer uses a minimum payment formula employed by the issuer for the product the issuer is considering offering to the consumer or, in the case of an existing account, the minimum payment formula that currently applies to that account, provided that:

( 1 ) If the applicable minimum payment formula includes interest charges, the card issuer estimates those charges using an interest rate that the issuer is considering offering to the consumer for purchases or, in the case of an existing account, the interest rate that currently applies to purchases; and

( 2 ) If the applicable minimum payment formula includes mandatory fees, the card issuer must assume that such fees have been charged to the account.

Official Interpretation

51(a) General Rule

51(a)(1)(i) Consideration of Ability to Pay

1. Consideration of additional factors. Section 1026.51(a) requires a card issuer to consider a consumer's ability to make the required minimum periodic payments under the terms of an account based on the consumer's income or assets and current obligations. The card issuer may also consider consumer reports, credit scores, and other factors, consistent with Regulation B (12 CFR part 1002).

2. Ability to pay as of application or consideration of increase. A card issuer complies with § 1026.51(a) if it bases its consideration of a consumer's ability to make the required minimum periodic payments on the facts and circumstances known to the card issuer at the time the consumer applies to open the credit card account or when the card issuer considers increasing the credit line on an existing account.

3. Credit line increase. When a card issuer considers increasing the credit line on an existing account, §1026.51(a) applies whether the consideration is based upon a request of the consumer or is initiated by the card issuer.

4. Consideration of income and assets. For purposes of § 1026.51(a):

i. A card issuer may consider any current or reasonably expected income or assets of the consumer or consumers who are applying for a new account or will be liable for debts incurred on that account, including a cosigner or guarantor. Similarly, when a card issuer is considering whether to increase the credit limit on an existing account, the card issuer may consider any current or reasonably expected income or assets of the consumer or consumers who are accountholders, cosigners, or guarantors, and are liable for debts incurred on that account. In both of these circumstances, a card issuer may treat any income and assets to which an applicant, accountholder, joint applicant, cosigner, or guarantor who is or will be liable for debts incurred on the account has a reasonable expectation of access as the applicant's current or reasonably expected income – but is not required to do so. A card issuer may instead limit its consideration of a consumer's current or reasonably expected income or assets to the consumer's independent income or assets as discussed in comments 51(b)(1)(i)-1 and 51(b)(2)-2. Although these comments clarify the independent ability-to-pay requirement that governs applications from consumers under 21, they provide guidance regarding the use of "independent income and assets" as an underwriting criterion under § 1026.51(a). For example, comment 51(b)(1)(i)-1 explains that card issuers may not consider income or assets to which applicants under 21 have only a reasonable expectation of access. An issuer who chooses to comply with § 1026.51(a) by limiting its consideration to applicants' independent income and assets likewise would not consider income or assets to which applicants 21 or older have only a reasonable expectation of access.

ii. Current or reasonably expected income includes, for example, current or expected salary, wages, bonus pay, tips, and commissions. Employment may be full-time, part-time, seasonal, irregular, military, or self-employment. Other sources of income include interest or dividends, retirement benefits, public assistance, alimony, child support, and separate maintenance payments. Proceeds from student loans may be considered as current or reasonably expected income only to the extent that those proceeds exceed the amount disbursed or owed to an educational institution for tuition and other expenses. Current or reasonably expected income also includes income that is being deposited regularly into an account on which the consumer is an accountholder (e.g., an individual deposit account or joint account). Assets include, for example, savings accounts and investments.

iii. Consideration of the income or assets of authorized users, household members, or other persons who are not liable for debts incurred on the account does not satisfy the requirement to consider the consumer's current or reasonably expected income or assets, unless a Federal or State statute or regulation grants a consumer who is liable for debts incurred on the account an ownership interest in such income and assets (e.g., joint ownership granted under State community property laws), such income is being deposited regularly into an account on which the consumer is an accountholder (e.g., an individual deposit account or a joint account), or the consumer has a reasonable expectation of access to such income or assets even though the consumer does not have a current or expected ownership interest in the income or assets. See comment 51(a)(1)-6 for examples of non-applicant income to which a consumer has a reasonable expectation of access.

5. Information regarding income and assets. For purposes of § 1026.51(a), a card issuer may consider the consumer's current or reasonably expected income and assets based on the following information:

i. Information provided by the consumer in connection with the account, including information provided by the consumer through the application process. For example, card issuers may rely without further inquiry on information provided by applicants in response to a request for "salary," "income," "assets," "available income," "accessible income," or other language requesting that the applicant provide information regarding current or reasonably expected income or assets or any income or assets to which the applicant has a reasonable expectation of access. However, card issuers may not rely solely on information provided in response to a request for "household income." In that case, the card issuer would need to obtain additional information about an applicant's current or reasonably expected income, including income and assets to which the applicant has a reasonable expectation of access (such as by contacting the applicant). See comments 51(a)(1)-4, -5, and -6 for additional guidance on determining the consumer's current or reasonably expected income under § 1026.51(a)(1). See comment 51(a)(1)-9 for guidance regarding the use of a single, common application form or process for all credit card applicants, regardless of age.

ii. Information provided by the consumer in connection with any other financial relationship the card issuer or its affiliates have with the consumer (subject to any applicable information-sharing rules).

iii. Information obtained through third parties (subject to any applicable information-sharing rules).

iv. Information obtained through any empirically derived, demonstrably and statistically sound model that reasonably estimates a consumer's income or assets, including any income or assets to which the consumer has a reasonable expectation of access.

6. Examples of considering income. Assume that an applicant is not employed and that the applicant is age 21 or older so § 1026.51(b) does not apply.

i. If a non-applicant's salary or other income is deposited regularly into a joint account shared with the applicant, a card issuer is permitted to consider the amount of the non-applicant's income that is being deposited regularly into the account to be the applicant's current or reasonably expected income for purposes of § 1026.51(a).

ii. The non-applicant's salary or other income is deposited into an account to which the applicant does not have access. However, the non-applicant regularly transfers a portion of that income into the applicant's individual deposit account. A card issuer is permitted to consider the amount of the non-applicant's income that is being transferred regularly into the applicant's account to be the applicant's current or reasonably expected income for purposes of § 1026.51(a).

iii. The non-applicant's salary or other income is deposited into an account to which the applicant does not have access. However, the non-applicant regularly uses a portion of that income to pay for the applicant's expenses. A card issuer is permitted to consider the amount of the non-applicant's income that is used regularly to pay for the applicant's expenses to be the applicant's current or reasonably expected income for purposes of § 1026.51(a) because the applicant has a reasonable expectation of access to that income.

iv. The non-applicant's salary or other income is deposited into an account to which the applicant does not have access, the non-applicant does not regularly use that income to pay for the applicant's expenses, and no Federal or State statute or regulation grants the applicant an ownership interest in that income. A card issuer is not permitted to consider the non-applicant's income as the applicant's current or reasonably expected income for purposes of § 1026.51(a) because the applicant does not have a reasonable expectation of access to the non-applicant's income.

7. Current obligations. A card issuer may consider the consumer's current obligations based on information provided by the consumer or in a consumer report. In evaluating a consumer's current obligations, a card issuer need not assume that credit lines for other obligations are fully utilized.

8. Joint applicants and joint accountholders. With respect to the opening of a joint account for two or more consumers or a credit line increase on such an account, the card issuer may consider the collective ability of all persons who are or will be liable for debts incurred on the account to make the required payments.

9. Single application. A card issuer may use a single, common application form or process for all credit card applicants, regardless of age. A card issuer may rely without further verification on income and asset information provided by applicants through such an application, so long as the application questions gather sufficient information to allow the card issuer to satisfy the requirements of both § 1026.51(a) and (b), depending on whether a particular applicant has reached the age of 21. For example, a card issuer might provide two separate line items on its application form, one prompting applicants to provide their "personal income," and the other prompting applicants for "available income." A card issuer might also prompt applicants, regardless of age, using only the term "income" and satisfy the requirements of both § 1026.51(a) and (b).

51(a)(2) Minimum Periodic Payments

1. Applicable minimum payment formula. For purposes of estimating required minimum periodic payments under the safe harbor set forth in §1026.51(a)(2)(ii), if the account has or may have a promotional program, such as a deferred payment or similar program, where there is no applicable minimum payment formula during the promotional period, the issuer must estimate the required minimum periodic payment based on the minimum payment formula that will apply when the promotion ends.

2. Interest rate for purchases. For purposes of estimating required minimum periodic payments under the safe harbor set forth in §1026.51(a)(2)(ii), if the interest rate for purchases is or may be a promotional rate, the issuer must use the post-promotional rate to estimate interest charges.

3. Mandatory fees. For purposes of estimating required minimum periodic payments under the safe harbor set forth in §1026.51(a)(2)(ii), mandatory fees that must be assumed to be charged include those fees the card issuer knows the consumer will be required to pay under the terms of the account if the account is opened, such as an annual fee. If a mandatory fee is a promotional fee (as defined in §1026.16(g)), the issuer must use the post-promotional fee amount for purposes of §1026.51(a)(2)(ii).

 

(b) Rules affecting young consumers. (1) Applications from young consumers. A card issuer may not open a credit card account under an open-end (not home-secured) consumer credit plan for a consumer less than 21 years old, unless the consumer has submitted a written application and the card issuer has:

(i) Financial information indicating the consumer has an independent ability to make the required minimum periodic payments on the proposed extension of credit in connection with the account; or

(ii)(A) A signed agreement of a cosigner, guarantor, or joint applicant who is at least 21 years old to be either secondarily liable for any debt on the account incurred by the consumer before the consumer has attained the age of 21 or jointly liable with the consumer for any debt on the account; and

(B) Financial information indicating such cosigner, guarantor, or joint applicant has the ability to make the required minimu periodic payments on such debts, consistent with paragraph (a) of this section.

(2) Credit line increases for young consumers. (i) If a credit card account has been opened pursuant to paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section, no increase in the credit limit may be made on such account before the consumer attains the age of 21 unless:

(A) At the time of the contemplated increase, the consumer has an independent ability to make the required minimum periodic payments on the increased limit consistent with paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section; or

(B) A cosigner, guarantor, or joint applicant who is at least 21 years old agrees in writing to assume liability for any debt incurred on the account, consistent with paragraph (b)(1)(ii) of this section.

(ii) If a credit card account has been opened pursuant to paragraph (b)(1)(ii) of this section, no increase in the credit limit may be made on such account before the consumer attains the age of 21 unless the cosigner, guarantor, or joint accountholder who assumed liability at account opening agrees in writing to assume liability on the increase.

Official Interpretation

51(b) Rules affecting young consumers

1. Age as of date of application or consideration of credit line increase. Sections 1026.51(b)(1) and (b)(2) apply only to a consumer who has not attained the age of 21 as of the date of submission of the application under §1026.51(b)(1) or the date the credit line increase is requested by the consumer (or if no request has been made, the date the credit line increase is considered by the card issuer) under §1026.51(b)(2).

2. Liability of cosigner, guarantor, or joint accountholder. Sections 1026.51(b)(1)(ii) and (b)(2) require the signature or written consent of a cosigner, guarantor, or joint accountholder agreeing either to be secondarily liable for any debt on the account incurred by the consumer before the consumer has attained the age of 21 or to be jointly liable with the consumer for any debt on the account. Sections 1026.51(b)(1)(ii) and (b)(2) do not prohibit a card issuer from also requiring the cosigner, guarantor, or joint accountholder to assume liability for debts incurred after the consumer has attained the age of 21, consistent with any agreement made between the parties.

3. Authorized users exempt. If a consumer who has not attained the age of 21 is being added to another person's account as an authorized user and has no liability for debts incurred on the account, §1026.51(b)(1) and (b)(2) do not apply.

4. Electronic application. Consistent with §1026.5(a)(1)(iii), an application may be provided to the consumer in electronic form without regard to the consumer consent or other provisions of the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-Sign Act) (15 U.S.C. 7001 et seq. ) in the circumstances set forth in §1026.60. The electronic submission of an application from a consumer or a consent to a credit line increase from a cosigner, guarantor, or joint accountholder to a card issuer would constitute a written application or consent for purposes of §1026.51(b) and would not be considered a consumer disclosure for purposes of the E-Sign Act.

5. Current obligations. A card issuer may consider the consumer's current obligations under § 1026.51(b)(1) and (2)(i) based on information provided by the consumer or in a consumer report. In evaluating a consumer's current obligations, a card issuer need not assume that credit lines for other obligations are fully utilized.

6. Joint applicants or joint accountholders. With respect to the opening of a joint account for two or more consumers under § 1026.51(b)(1) or a credit line increase on such an account under § 1026.51(b)(2)(i), the card issuer may consider the collective ability of all persons who are or will be liable for debts incurred on the account to make the required payments. See commentary to § 1026.51(b)(1)(i) and (2) for information on income and assets that may be considered for joint applicants, joint accountholders, cosigners, or guarantors who are under the age of 21, and commentary to § 1026.51(b)(1)(ii) for information on income and assets that may be considered for joint applicants, joint accountholders, cosigners, or guarantors who are at least 21 years old.

7. Relation to Regulation B. In considering an application or credit line increase on the credit card account of a consumer who is less than 21 years old, creditors must comply with the applicable rules in Regulation B (12 CFR part 1002). A card issuer does not violate Regulation B by complying with the requirements in § 1026.51(b).

51(b)(1) Applications from young consumers
Paragraph 51(b)(1)(i).

1. Consideration of income and assets for young consumers. For purposes of § 1026.51(b)(1)(i):

i. A card issuer may consider any current or reasonably expected income or assets of the consumer or consumers who are applying for a new account or will be liable for debts incurred on that account, including a cosigner or guarantor. However, because § 1026.51(b)(1)(i) requires that the consumer who has not attained the age of 21 have an independent ability to make the required minimum periodic payments, the card issuer may only consider the applicant's current or reasonably expected income or assets under § 1026.51(b)(1)(i). The card issuer may not consider income or assets to which an applicant, joint applicant, cosigner, or guarantor, in each case who is under the age of 21 and is or will be liable for debts incurred on the account, has only a reasonable expectation of access.

ii. Current or reasonably expected income includes, for example, current or expected salary, wages, bonus pay, tips, and commissions. Employment may be full-time, part-time, seasonal, irregular, military, or self-employment. Other sources of income include interest or dividends, retirement benefits, public assistance, alimony, child support, and separate maintenance payments. Proceeds from student loans may be considered as current or reasonably expected income only to the extent that those proceeds exceed the amount disbursed or owed to an educational institution for tuition and other expenses. Current or reasonably expected income includes income that is being deposited regularly into an account on which the consumer is an accountholder (e.g., an individual deposit account or a joint account). Assets include, for example, savings accounts and investments. Current or reasonably expected income and assets does not include income and assets to which the consumer only has a reasonable expectation of access.

iii. Consideration of the income and assets of authorized users, household members, or other persons who are not liable for debts incurred on the account does not satisfy the requirement to consider the consumer's current or reasonably expected income or assets, unless a Federal or State statute or regulation grants a consumer who is liable for debts incurred on the account an ownership interest in such income or assets (e.g., joint ownership granted under State community property laws), or the income is being deposited regularly into an account on which the consumer is an accountholder (e.g., an individual deposit account or a joint account). See comment 51(b)(1)(i)-3 for examples of income that may be relied upon as a consumer's current or reasonably expected income.

2. Information regarding income and assets for young consumers. For purposes of § 1026.51(b)(1)(i), a card issuer may consider the consumer's current or reasonably expected income and assets based on the following information:

i. Information provided by the consumer in connection with the account, including information provided by the consumer through the application process. For example, card issuers may rely without further inquiry on information provided by applicants in response to a request for "salary," "income," "personal income," "individual income," "assets," or other language requesting that the applicant provide information regarding his or her current or reasonably expected income or assets. However, card issuers may not rely solely on information provided in response to a request for "household income." Nor may they rely solely on information provided in response to a request for "available income," "accessible income," or other language requesting that the applicant provide any income or assets to which the applicant has a reasonable expectation of access. In such cases, the card issuer would need to obtain additional information about an applicant's current or reasonably expected income (such as by contacting the applicant). See comments 51(b)(1)(i)-1, -2, and -3 for additional guidance on determining the consumer's current or reasonably expected income under § 1026.51(b)(1)(i). See comment 51(a)(1)-9 for guidance regarding the use of a single, common application for all credit card applicants, regardless of age.

ii. Information provided by the consumer in connection with any other financial relationship the card issuer or its affiliates have with the consumer (subject to any applicable information-sharing rules).

iii. Information obtained through third parties (subject to any applicable information- sharing rules).

iv. Information obtained through any empirically derived, demonstrably and statistically sound model that reasonably estimates a consumer's income or assets.

3. Examples of considering income for young consumers. Assume that an applicant is not employed and the applicant is under the age of 21 so § 1026.51(b) applies.

i. If a non-applicant's salary or other income is deposited regularly into a joint account shared with the applicant, a card issuer is permitted to consider the amount of the non-applicant's income that is being deposited regularly into the account to be the applicant's current or reasonably expected income for purposes of § 1026.51(b)(1)(i).

ii. The non-applicant's salary or other income is deposited into an account to which the applicant does not have access. However, the non-applicant regularly transfers a portion of that income into the applicant's individual deposit account. A card issuer is permitted to consider the amount of the non-applicant's income that is being transferred regularly into the applicant's account to be the applicant's current or reasonably expected income for purposes of § 1026.51(b)(1)(i).

iii. The non-applicant's salary or other income is deposited into an account to which the applicant does not have access. However, the non-applicant regularly uses that income to pay for the applicant's expenses. A card issuer is not permitted to consider the non-applicant's income that is used regularly to pay for the applicant's expenses as the applicant's current or reasonably expected income for purposes of § 1026.51(b)(1)(i), unless a Federal or State statute or regulation grants the applicant an ownership interest in such income.

iv. The non-applicant's salary or other income is deposited into an account to which the applicant does not have access, the non-applicant does not regularly use that income to pay for the applicant's expenses, and no Federal or State statute or regulation grants the applicant an ownership interest in that income. The card issuer is not permitted to consider the non- applicant's income to be the applicant's current or reasonably expected income for purposes of § 1026.51(b)(1)(i).

Paragraph 51(b)(1)(ii).

1. Financial information. Information regarding income and assets that satisfies the requirements of § 1026.51(a) also satisfies the requirements of § 1026.51(b)(1)(ii)(B) and card issuers may rely on the guidance in comments 51(a)(1)–4, -5, and -6 for purposes of determining whether a cosigner, guarantor, or joint applicant who is at least 21 years old has the ability to make the required minimum periodic payments in accordance with § 1026.51(b)(1)(ii)(B).

51(b)(2) Credit line increases for young consumers

1. Credit line request by joint accountholder aged 21 or older. The requirement under §1026.51(b)(2) that a cosigner, guarantor, or joint accountholder for a credit card account opened pursuant to §1026.51(b)(1)(ii) must agree in writing to assume liability for the increase before a credit line is increased, does not apply if the cosigner, guarantor or joint accountholder who is at least 21 years old initiates the request for the increase.

2. Independent ability-to-pay standard. Under § 1026.51(b)(2), if a credit card account has been opened pursuant to § 1026.51(b)(1)(i), no increase in the credit limit may be made on such account before the consumer attains the age of 21 unless, at the time of the contemplated increase, the consumer has an independent ability to make the required minimum periodic payments on the increased limit, consistent with § 1026.51(b)(1)(i), or a cosigner, guarantor, or joint applicant who is at least 21 years old assumes liability for any debt incurred on the account, consistent with § 1026.51(b)(1)(ii). Thus, when a card issuer is considering whether to increase the credit limit on an existing account, § 1026.51(b)(2)(i)(A) requires that consumers who have not attained the age of 21 and do not have a cosigner, guarantor, or joint applicant who is 21 years or older must have an independent ability to make the required minimum periodic payments as of the time of the contemplated increase. Thus, the card issuer may not consider income or assets to which an accountholder, cosigner, or guarantor, in each case who is under the age of 21 and is or will be liable for debts incurred on the account, has only a reasonable expectation of access under § 1026.51(b)(2)(i)(A). The card issuer, however, may consider income or assets to which an accountholder, cosigner, or guarantor, in each case who is age 21 or older and is or will be liable for debts incurred on the account, has a reasonable expectation of access under § 1026.51(b)(2)(i)(B). Information regarding income and assets that satisfies the requirements of § 1026.51(b)(1)(i) also satisfies the requirements of § 1026.51(b)(2)(i)(A) and card issuers may rely on the guidance in the commentary to § 1026.51(b)(1)(i) for purposes of determining whether an accountholder who is less than 21 years old has the independent ability to make the required minimum periodic payments in accordance with § 1026.51(b)(2)(i)(A). Information regarding income and assets that satisfies the requirements of § 1026.51(a) also satisfies the requirements of § 1026.51(b)(2)(i)(B) and card issuers may rely on the guidance in comments 51(a)(1)-4, -5, and -6 for purposes of determining whether a cosigner, guarantor, or joint applicant who is at least 21 years old has the ability to make the required minimum periodic payments in accordance with § 1026.51(b)(2)(i)(B).

 

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