Marriage doesn’t directly affect your credit scores since you and your spouse will each still maintain separate credit histories. However, both of your credit histories can affect any shared accounts and future possibilities of taking out a loan together.
Or, if you live in a community property state and take out loans after getting married, both of you could be responsible for that debt. Let’s take a look at what happens to your credit when you get married.
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What if Your Spouse Has a Bad Credit Score?
First off, your credit won’t directly be impacted once you get married, since your marital status doesn’t show up on your credit reports.
If either of you had loans before you got hitched, then they’ll simply remain on your respective credit reports. Same goes for any individual loans you take out after you’re married. One notable exception is if you were to apply for loans together, like a mortgage. In this case, the rates and terms you may qualify for could be less competitive because your spouse doesn’t have a good credit score.
Or, it could be that if you were to open a credit card with both your names on it (or an account where one person is the primary cardholder and the other is an authorized user on a credit card), both of your financial behaviors will affect your future credit score. Say your spouse has a history of late payments, which would have a major impact on their credit score. If they were to miss a payment on your joint account, then both your credit scores could be affected, since your name is also on the account.
If possible, it’s best to discuss the pros and cons of joint accounts and other financial matters with your spouse. This includes coming up with a plan to help them build their score before you apply for joint loans.
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Tips for Building Your Credit Score With Aid from Your Spouse
If either you or your spouse wants to build credit, here are some best practices for doing so:
• Review your credit report: Checking your credit history reports from all three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) can give you some insight into what is affecting your score. That way, you can use those insights to change your financial behavior. Plus, if there are any errors that may affect your score, checking your credit report will help you spot and dispute them.
• Continue to make on-time payments: Paying your credit card bills on time is a major factor that affects your score. Doing so consistently signals to lenders you’re being responsible with credit.
• Hold off on opening new accounts: Each time you apply for a loan, a hard inquiry will occur, which could temporarily affect your score. Too many hard inquiries within a short period of time could signal to lenders that you’re stretched thin financially and need to rely on credit. As such, be mindful about when and how often you’re applying for new accounts.
• Request a credit limit increase on your credit cards: Credit utilization is another major factor affecting credit scores. It looks at the overall credit limit of your revolving accounts (like credit cards) compared to your overall balance. If you can increase your credit limit, it could lower your credit utilization, which is favorable for your credit score. Another option is to apply for a new credit card, like the SoFi cash-back rewards credit card, though only if you’re certain your credit can afford the slight dip from a hard inquiry.
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Will Changing Your Name Affect Your Credit?
Changing your name to your spouse’s after you’re married won’t affect your credit. However, it will result in an update to your credit report. The major credit bureaus should update your credit report automatically once lenders start reporting your credit activity using your new name. When this happens, your old name will remain on your credit history but as an alias.
To ensure your new name gets reported on your credit report, you’ll need to notify your lenders. It’s also a good idea to update your name with the Social Security Administration and any other relevant official entities.
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How Cosigning a Credit Card With a Spouse Can Impact Your Score
Becoming a cosigner means you’re legally agreeing to be responsible for the other party’s debt. In other words, acting as a cosigner can affect your score positively or negatively, depending on your spouse’s financial behavior.
For example, if your spouse consistently makes on-time payments and keeps their credit utilization low, then your credit score could be positively affected. However, if they make late payments or worse, the account gets sent to collections, your score and theirs could take a hit. Still, you might decide it’s worth the risk if you’re hoping to help your spouse establish credit.
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Do You Share Debt When You Get Married?
Any debt that you or your spouse had before you got married will remain each of your own responsibilities. Once you’re married, however, any joint debts are shared. Whether debt that’s only taken out in one person’s name is considered shared debt will depend on what state you reside in.
If you live in any of the following community property states, both you and your spouse will be responsible for all debts acquired during the time you’re married — even if they’re not joint ones:
• New Mexico
• Alaska (residents can opt into community property laws)
If you’re unsure of what you and your spouses’ responsibilities are, or if you have any concerns related to marriage and credit scores, it’s best to seek the advice of a legal expert.
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Should You Join Your Credit Accounts After Getting Married?
Merging your credit accounts is a decision that only you and your spouse can make, and it will require a discussion about your expectations and basic credit card rules. One of the main benefits of merging your accounts is the ability to simplify your finances. Doing so could make it easier to keep records and compile documentation for tax returns.
However, if you will both be responsible for debt, both of your credit scores could be affected if either one misses a payment, for example. You can consider keeping one credit account in each of your names in case of an emergency though, even if you do decide to merge your accounts. And whether you’re choosing a joint bank account or a joint credit card account, make sure to shop around and compare your options.
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Discussing Credit With Your Spouse Before Marriage
Communication is key in your relationship, even before you’re married. It’s crucial that you have a detailed conversation with your partner about both of your financial situations. This includes any debt incurred, as well as any behavior that could negatively affect your finances. After all, it’s ‘til death do us part (and here’s a look at what happens to credit card debt when you die).
To help prepare for your financial future together, consider discussing plans you have that may involve the need to rely on your credit, such as buying a house. That way, if either of you doesn’t have an ideal credit score, you can come up with a plan to work on it together.
One of the keys to a successful marriage is understanding how each other’s financial situation — including credit behavior — can affect the other person. Whether you open an individual or joint credit account, it keeps both of you in the loop so you’re working as a team.
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Do lenders look at both spouses’ credit scores?
Lenders will look at both spouses’ credit scores if they’re applying for a loan jointly. Otherwise, if you only want one name on the account, the lender will only look at that person’s credit.
Can credit be denied based on marital status?
Credit issuers and lenders are not allowed to deny credit based on your marital status. This is due to protections offered by the Equal Credit Opportunity Act against discrimination when applying for credit.
What happens if I marry someone with low credit?
You won’t be directly affected, as your individual credit report is still yours. However, it could impact your score if you apply for credit jointly and your spouse doesn’t handle the shared account responsibly. It could also impact you in terms of what joint loans you may be able to qualify for, as well as what terms you receive.
Does my spouse’s debt merge with mine?
Any debt that you and your spouse have before marriage will remain separate. You’ll share debts if you have joint loans. In some community property states, both spouses are considered responsible for all debts acquired during the marriage, even if only one name is on them.
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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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This article is not intended to be legal advice. Please consult an attorney for advice.