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How Does Marriage Affect Your Credit?

You’ve heard about it in television ads and hushed chatter leading up to your nuptials. “I hope he has a good credit score,” your friends say in ominous tones. All the talk about what marriage is going to do to your credit score won’t necessarily have you rethinking your walk down the aisle, but it will have you wondering what’s going to happen after you’re both wearing rings. Quit wondering!  We’ve put together this helpful guide on how marriage affects credit ratings to separate fact from fiction.

What Doesn’t Happen When You Get Married

When you and your future spouse get married, you will not have a “joint credit report.” Nor will the bride get an all-new credit report if she chooses to change her last name. Your married name will typically be included in your regular credit report as an alias “also known by”, effectively keeping your credit history in one piece and simply adding your new name to your credit information. Sometimes a credit reporting bureau might inadvertently split a new file for the new name, but this is the exception rather than the rule and in any event, it’s a data mistake — one that you should rectify quickly. Blank periods on a credit report are never good for your credit score.

Your credit score will be unaffected by the marriage itself and you will both maintain separate credit files at each of the three major credit reporting bureaus.

How Marriage Affects Your Credit

Marriage will affect your credit only in as much as you apply for lines of credit together. For example, when you go to apply for a home loan, if the loan is in both of your names then both of you will have your credit history checked by the potential lender. This means that you might be rejected for a loan because of your spouse’s credit. Alternately, you might get charged a higher interest rate for a joint loan than you would for a loan that you applied for on your own if your credit is stellar and your spouse’s is subpar.

Further, if you apply jointly for the mortgage, you will both be liable for the loan and it’s repayment, which will affect your credit score (so make sure you manage the account responsibly for both your sakes.) The same is true for any other credit account where both of you apply for the account jointly. In cases where only one person in a marriage is using the line of credit, both are equally liable and accountable if both applied for the loan. And in cases where a joint account becomes delinquent or enters collection, the lender will attempt to collect the debt from both of you if you both applied for it, regardless of who actually used the credit line in question.

A credit report for a married couple will include the following things for both partners:

  • Accounts where one of you is the cosigner for the other’s line of credit.
  • Accounts that you and your spouse opened together, jointly.
  • Existing accounts that one partner has been added to after the marriage. (If you add your spouse as an authorized user to a credit card, for example.)

What If My Spouse Has Bad Credit?

Determining what to do when one spouse has bad credit can be tricky. On the one hand, your partner’s bad credit might keep you from getting credit, or at least make getting credit more expensive when both of your incomes and credit are needed – when you go to buy a house, for example. On the other hand, your assets and income alone might not be enough to qualify for the loan. Another thing to consider is that if you apply for accounts together jointly, you can help your partner with bad credit increase their credit score by managing the account impeccably by paying the account on time, every time, and keeping the balance as low as possible if it’s a revolving credit card account. With all that said, only you can determine what is the best course of action for you and your spouse.

Authorized Users Versus Account Holder

One last word: There’s a difference between making someone an authorized user of an account and making them an account holder. An authorized user can use an account, but isn’t responsible for any of the associated debt. A joint account holder has the same level of culpability as any other account holder. Some of the pros and cons of each include:

  • Authorized users are much easier to remove from an account than a joint account holder.
  • Adding your spouse to an existing account as either won’t ipso facto affect your credit score. It will only do so if your spouse uses a large line of your credit, bringing the total amount you have borrowed close to your actual credit limit on the account.
  • Adding a spouse with bad credit as an account holder on a healthy credit card account can actually help their credit score if the account has a low balance and an excellent history of on time payments. On the other hand, your credit score can drop if you are added to a delinquent or maxed out credit card  account.

Be Happy, Get Married

On its own, getting married doesn’t do much to affect your credit score one way or the other. However, you will want to keep all of the above in mind going forward after your wedding day. This will help both you and your spouse to reap the maximum benefits of marriage for your credit. If this article has sparked your interest, you may also want to consider what affects credit score with our without matrimony.

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