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Fair and Equal Access to Credit Must Include Puerto Rico and All U.S. Territories

Thursday, August 24, 2017
Aracely Panameño

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A recent resolution reached between the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and American Express will cure the harms previously caused to consumers residing in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and other U.S. territories. Under the agreement, American Express agreed to compensate consumers who were harmed by unequal and inferior credit card terms that occurred in these U.S. territories, compared to credit they would have received in the continental United States. Higher interest rates, stricter credit cutoffs, and less debt forgiveness harmed more than 200,000 consumers for at least a decade, according to the CFPB.

CRL's Director of Latino Affairs Aracely Panameño released the following statement:

The protections afforded by the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) apply to all consumers in continental U.S., its Territories, embassies, and military bases. Geographic location or territory of residence and language preference do not determine creditworthiness. Consumers are entitled to equal and fair access to credit. Further, in an increasing global economy, consumers indicating a Spanish-language preference should not be treated differently when it comes to credit access, fees and interest. As a worldwide leader in financial services, American Express has a duty to compensate every consumer that received unequal treatment.

The agreed compensation that will exceed $96 million will hopefully send a signal to other card issuers that may engage in similar practices that cause financial penalties by locale and/or language. Whether living in the continental United States or as part of a territory, every consumer that qualifies for a credit card should be afforded equal access and terms. Financial fairness must be more than a slogan. It should be the way financial firms treat their customers.

For more information, or to arrange an interview with a CRL spokesperson on this issue, please contact Charlene Crowell at or 919.313.8523