Transgender Name Changes Can Pose a Challenge -- but Help Is Available

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  • Transgender name changes are common, but they can be challenging from a credit history standpoint.
  • The good news is that there are steps you can take to avoid problems with your credit history.

Changing your name? Here's how to preserve your credit history.

There are certain challenges that transgender and nonbinary consumers face. For example, Ascent research recently found that the transgender population has a poverty rate of 29.4%, compared to a poverty rate of 16% in cisgender, straight Americans. 

Furthermore, because transgender individuals may be drawn to cities that are generally seen as more LGBTQ-friendly, they often tend to face higher living costs. San Francisco, for example, is known as a more accepting city, so to speak. But rents there have long been sky-high, and such remains the case today. 

Transgender individuals might also face certain challenges related to name changes. For example, a person in this boat might change their name and then go to apply for a new loan or credit card, only to be denied or get stuck with a higher borrowing rate because there's no credit history associated with their new name. 

The good news, though, is that the Consumer Data Industry Association (CDIA) is aware of the challenges transgender individuals might face. And thankfully, there are guidelines available to prevent credit history issues in the course of a name change.

The impact of a name change

The three major credit bureaus -- Experian, Equifax, and Transunion -- have found that transgender and nonbinary individuals often need help preserving their credit history after going through with a legal name change. That's because the credit report attached to a loan applicant's new name may not contain the credit history associated with their former name. 

According to Eric J. Ellman, CDIA Senior Vice President, Public Policy & Legal Affairs, "Consumers are likely to get approved or obtain better interest rates when lenders and creditors can see their full credit history. Without access to the full credit history of a consumer, some consumers may not be able to secure a loan or credit."

Thankfully, though, the CDIA supports transgender and nonbinary individuals to prevent disruption to their credit scores. As Ellman puts it, "Changing a gender identity and legally changing a name is worth celebrating. We want to be part of that celebration. That’s why in February 2022, we updated our guidance on how transgender and nonbinary consumers can make sure their credit history follows them if they change first or middle names."

Preserving your credit history

If you're undergoing a name change, it's a good idea, says Ellman, to inform your bank, credit card companies, and other lenders so they're aware of your situation. Ellman also says it's important to inform each of the three major credit bureaus of a name change so they can make sure to connect an existing credit history with a new name. 

Each credit bureau has its own system for reporting a name change, so it's best to access each one's website directly to see what that process entails. Often, it does mean providing supporting documentation, such as a new driver's license or Social Security card. 

Support is available

Those who are transgender face their share of challenges -- social, emotional, and financial ones. But the good news is that in regard to the latter, there is support, and there is a process in place to help ensure that a new name does not wipe out an otherwise solid credit history. The CDIA is also loaded with resources for consumers that extend to those who identify as transgender, so it's worth doing some reading to see what protections are available to you.

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