For most of the past few years, I would have had to tell you "no." After the credit crunch of 2008 inspired a tighter set of federal banking regulations, lawmakers forced banks to get strict about offering new credit only on the basis of a customer's ability to repay a balance from their personal assets.

In reality, most couples I know still entered their entire household income every time they tried to accept an instant approval credit card offer. Because your credit report doesn't include salary information, there's not an easy way for banks to verify exactly how much you make. Besides, other items on your credit report tend to indicate a typical consumer's overall financial situation. However, if a bank later learns that you stretched the truth on your application, you could face reduced credit limits, account cancellation, or even legal proceedings.

That's why small-business owners and stay-at-home parents found themselves stuck in a paradox, unable to truthfully report their family's earnings on credit card applications. Entrepreneurs could at least apply for small-business credit cards. Activists like Holly McCall noted that a typical stay-at-home mom would have to ask her working husband for permission to open a new credit card account. Without cards in their own names, those spouses would have difficulty building solid credit reports that would become essential after a death or divorce.

By 2012, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proposed an amendment to the Credit CARD Act that would permit applicants to include the amount of income to which they could expect to have reasonable access. After a period of public comment, the amendment became official in the spring of 2013.

Therefore, as of right now, you're free to apply for credit card deals with a dollar figure that represents the household income you and your spouse essentially share throughout the year. You won't be penalized if a bank later finds out that all that cash comes from your spouse. Just remember that your spouse isn't liable for debt you accrue in an account under your own name, especially if they're not included on the application or as an authorized user.

Featured Partner Cards