NEW YORK ( -- December and January are the biggest months of the year for credit card applications. This is the time consumers look for cards with better rewards or cards with lower interest rates to get their finances in shape.

Federal regulations that went into effect Oct. 1 may prevent some people, including stay-at-home parents, from getting their own credit card.

The rule, part of the CARD Act, says credit card issuers must consider only the applicant's own salary or other income. Any person that applies for a card must be able to make his or her own payments, with household income or combined income no longer considered in the approval process. This means a stay-at-home parent who has no outside income will find it very difficult to get approved for a credit card.

The intent of limiting credit cards to people who can afford them is a good idea, but just like many regulations, there are unintended consequences.

This is a bigger problem than just the name on a piece of plastic: Credit card payment history is an important component in a credit score. If you aren't building a good history with a credit card in your own name, this could drag down your score and may cause higher rates with future loans or become a reason for rejection during job interviews.

Before the regulation, a person could get a credit card account based on the income of another family member. The stay-at-home spouse could get a credit card in his/her own name based on the salary of the working spouse.

This new income requirement applies only to new accounts.

If you don't qualify for a card in your own name, you may want to consider a secured card. The credit limit will be the amount of your deposit. Some cards such as

Capital One's

(COF) - Get Report

Secured MasterCard

may give credit line increases based on your payment and credit history.

Make sure the card reports to all three credit bureaus so you get credit for a good payment history. If you carry a balance, you will still have to pay interest, so pay off the card each month. Many secured cards have higher interest rates than standard credit cards.

You can also become an authorized user on your spouse's credit card. Your name will appear on the credit card and you will have full charging privileges, but you are not the owner of the account.

-- Reported by Bill Hardekopf of

Bill Hardekopf is chief executive of

, which compares and rates more than 1,000 credit cards. He is the co-author of "The Credit Card Guidebook."