A reader’s credit report incorrectly reflects his age and he wonders if he should hold off applying for a credit card until the mistake is rectified.
Your credit report contains personal information such as your date of birth and address. What if your age is reported incorrectly? That’s the concern a reader has.
Mike writes, “Hello, one of the three major credit bureaus has my date of birth incorrect. The other two have the correct date. I will correct the incorrect date. Should I wait until that information is corrected before applying for a credit card, or does it not make any difference? Thanks!”
Equal Credit Opportunity Act prevents age discrimination
Your date of birth should not have an impact on the outcome of your credit card application, considering that the Equal Credit Opportunity Act prohibits discrimination by lenders based on the age of the applicant.
However, “a creditor may use an applicant’s age as part of a valid credit scoring system,” the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau advises, except that this approach should not discriminate against those 62 or older.
One way that your age could impact your credit card application process is if you are considered underage, that is, below the age of 21 (even though you can apply for your own card if you are 18 or older).
See related: Consumer rights for credit and debit cards
CARD Act and underage credit card applicants
Before the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (the CARD Act) was passed, card issuers saw college students as an attractive demographic to target. They would entice them to sign up with swag such as T-shirts.
If you are under 21 years of age, or if your age is not on your credit report, the CARD Act prohibits card issuers from accessing your credit report to make you preapproved offers of credit. They would need your permission to access your credit report in such cases.
When you submit a written application for a credit card account, issuers should verify that you have the means to make your payments. In determining your income, the issuer can take into account your current and expected assets and income.
This could include employment-based income such as salary, bonuses, tips and commissions. Other sources of income such as dividends, retirement benefits, alimony, child support and any public assistance would also count.
Issuers are also supposed to verify your ability to make payments before deciding whether to raise your line of credit.
Those underage applicants who cannot make payments on their own could also enlist a co-signer on the account who is more than 21 years old and has the means to make payments. In this case, too, the co-signer would have to agree to any increase in the account’s credit limit.
See related: 10 ways students can build good credit
Disputing a credit report
It is possible to have incorrect input on personal information such as a person’s name, Social Security number or date of birth on a credit report. Credit bureaus rely to a large extent on the input that lenders send them to develop their reports
It could be that you provided inaccurate input when applying for credit, or it could be that the lender introduced the error when inputting your data. Or maybe the credit bureau has mixed up your file with that for someone else in its database.
Although inaccurate input could be a red flag for fraud, that’s more likely to be the case when you see an account you don’t recognize on your credit report.
However, the mix-up happened, you need to take action so that your credit report reflects your actual age. The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you the right to dispute any inaccurate data on your credit report.
You should file a dispute with the credit bureau that has incorrect information, sending in copies of any supporting documents for evidence of your age. It would be best to send this by certified mail, requesting a return receipt, so that you have a record of your contact.
The credit bureau has to investigate the matter in 30 days and give you the results of the investigation in writing. If it corrects your age based on the information you provided, it will also provide you a free copy of your credit report for your reference. The credit bureau will also send a copy of the correction to lenders (and any others, such as prospective landlords and employers) that got your report in the last six months if you ask it to do so.
Mike, you could go ahead and apply for a credit card while you file a dispute with the credit bureau. It seems the other two bureaus have your age right on their records, and it’s not clear which bureau’s input the lender will use to qualify you.
If the lender does use the credit report with the inaccurate date of birth, though, there might be issues if you are actually underage and have been reported as an adult, considering the more stringent requirements for underage applicants.
Similarly, if you are an adult who has been misreported as underage, the lender could be holding you to different standards. Hope your issue is satisfactorily resolved!
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your credit card-related questions.