Adding your spouse to a credit card could indirectly affect your credit, for better or for worse.
First, though, consider that many married people choose to combine their finances — using a joint bank account and treating all income as shared. Others keep some or all of their money separate.
But regardless of whether or not you choose to combine your finances, both partners will still have their own separate credit scores. Credit cards in the name of one spouse will not directly affect the credit of the other spouse.
If you add your spouse as an authorized user to a credit card in your name, it won’t affect your credit directly. However, how your spouse chooses to use their card can possibly impact your credit. If they don’t use the card responsibly and it impacts your ability to pay the monthly bill, your credit may suffer as a result.
Take a closer look at how adding your spouse to a credit card can affect credit.
Can Adding Your Spouse as a Co-borrower Affect Your Credit Score?
Adding your spouse as a co-borrower will not have an impact on your credit score directly. Simply having a spouse (or anyone) as a co-borrower or authorized user won’t affect your credit score. However, how your spouse uses the card may impact your credit. If they use the credit card responsibly then it may help your credit.
But if they spend more than you can afford to pay, your credit may be negatively affected.
Can Cosigning Affect Your Credit Score?
Cosigning on a loan, credit card, or other debt account can impact your credit score. Applying for a new credit account, even as a cosigner, will show up on your credit report. Having a new account on your credit may have a small impact just for opening the account.
Additionally, how you and your spouse use the new account will also affect your credit score, as your balance and payment history will be reported to both of your credit reports. For instance, a new account could raise your total credit limit, but if you don’t carry a balance, then your credit utilization would look smaller, which can be a positive.
If however, you use that credit you are granted and your credit utilization percentage goes up or you make late payments, then it could have a negative effect. For these reasons, the answer to “If I add my spouse to my credit card, will it help their credit?” is “Maybe.”
Recommended: Joint Accounts vs. Separate Accounts in Marriage
7 Ways You Can Help Your Spouse Build Credit
If you have good credit but your spouse does not, here are a few ways that you might consider helping them build credit:
1. Authorized User
If you already have good credit but your spouse does not, one thing that you can do is add them as an authorized user on a credit card. Having them on an account that you already have in good standing can help them to build their credit. Just make sure that they use their card responsibly or it can negatively impact both of your credit scores.
2. Secured Credit Card
If you don’t want to or can’t add them as an authorized user to one of your accounts, another option might be to have them apply for a secured credit card. With a secured credit card, you put down an initial deposit that serves as your credit line. As you make payments to your account, your available credit increases.
Depending on the card, you may be able to change from a secured card to a traditional or unsecured card after building your credit history.
3. Joint Credit Account
Like a joint bank account, a joint credit account is one where two people are both listed as owners of the account and are jointly responsible for usage. With a joint credit account, usage, balance and payment history will show up on both borrowers’ credit reports.
However, it’s worth noting that many major credit card issuers no longer allow joint credit card accounts. If you find one that does, then this could be an option to help build credit.
Recommended: How to Build Credit Over Time
4. Apply for a Small Loan
Another option to help build credit may be to apply for a small loan together. Getting a personal loan in both of your names may help build credit. One of the things many lenders look for in a credit report is a reliable history of on-time and regular payments. Taking out a small personal loan (and then regularly making payments) can help build credit history.
5. Review Credit Reports Together
Another tip for establishing credit is to regularly review both of your credit reports together. Your credit report contains a history of the different loan, credit card and other debt accounts that you have had. Going through your credit report regularly is a great habit to have as you can make sure that there are no errors, inconsistencies or incorrect information on your report. If there is, you can take steps to correct it, either with the account directly or the credit bureau.
You are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the big three credit-reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). You can access your reports at AnnualCreditReport.com .
6. Discuss Money Management
Another great financial habit to have is to regularly discuss money management. You’ll want to work together on making sound financial decisions, setting financial goals, or deciding on big-ticket purchases. When both partners are involved in the household finances, it makes it easier to stay on the same financial page.
7. Establish and Stick to a Budget
One of the best habits that you can have to improve your finances is to establish and stick to a budget. A budget is a tool that helps you not spend money on things that are not important to you, so that you still have money to spend on the things that are important to you.
At its simplest, a budget can just be a listing of the expected income and expenses for a month. Sticking to a budget can just mean making sure that your income exceeds your expenses. There are a variety of methods you might try out and see how they work for you, such as the envelope system and the 50/30/20 budget rule, among others.
Even if you combine finances in your marriage or partnership, each individual will still have their own credit report and credit score. Adding your spouse to a credit card account will not directly impact your credit score. However, the manner in which they use the card can have an affect on your credit.
Work together to set up sound financial habits so that both of you use your credit responsibly. Having a good credit score is one of the biggest financial assets that you will have in life.
Will adding my spouse to my credit card build our credit?
It’s important to note that even if you combine your other finances, both you and your spouse will continue to have separate credit reports and credit scores. If you have good credit but your spouse does not, you could add them as an authorized user to one of your credit card accounts. Just make sure that they use the card responsibly, or it can have a negative impact on both of your scores.
Does my spouse affect my credit score?
Regardless of whether or not you combine finances in marriage, your credit scores remain individual accounts. Your spouse will not affect your credit score, unless you have joint accounts where both of you are listed as borrowers on the account. Another way your spouse can affect your credit score is if their spending or financial habits cause you to miss payments or increase balances on your own accounts.
Will lenders look at both spouses’ credit scores?
Whether or not lenders look at both spouses’ credit scores will depend on what type of loan you’re applying for. If you apply for an individual credit card, the lender will generally only look at your credit report. However, if you apply for a joint loan (such as a home mortgage), then lenders will look at both credit reports. If one spouse has poor credit, it may not make sense to apply in both spouses’ names.
What happens if I have a good credit score, but my spouse doesn’t?
One spouse’s credit score does not directly affect the credit score of the other spouse, unless they are joint borrowers. If you have a good credit score but your spouse does not, that may mean that you will want to apply for loans or mortgages in only your name.
Photo credit: iStock/Eva-Katalin
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