What Happens to Your Credit Score When You Get Married?
When you get married, a lot of things change. It means blending your life with another person’s. You’ll be sharing a home – if you weren’t already – and possibly combining your finances as well. It’s a happy time but it can also be one that’s a bit stressful.
One of the most common questions we get at Addition Financial is this:
That’s a great question to ask – and you should be thinking about all the ways that marriage will change your life.
When it comes to your credit score, there are a lot of myths and misunderstandings related to marriage. Here’s what you need to know.
The Myths About Credit Scores and Marriage
There are a lot of misconceptions about what happens to your credit score when you get married. Here are some of the most common ones – and the real scoop about what’s behind them.
Your spouse’s poor credit will hurt your credit score (or vice versa.) You’ll be relieved to know this one isn’t true. Your credit score is tied to your Social Security Number, which won’t change when you get married.
Your credit scores will merge together when you get married. Again, your score is tied to your SSN. There’s no merging of scores. However, if you take your spouse’s last name, your new name will show up on your credit report as an alias.
You’ll need to start over with a new credit score when you get married. We’re not sure how this one got started but it’s not accurate. Any credit history you had before you got married will still be on your report. Marriage isn’t a financial blank slate.
Your spouse will automatically become a joint user on your accounts. A lot of married couples do decide to open joint checking, savings and credit card accounts. If you don’t do that, your separate accounts will remain separate. Your spouse won’t get access to them just because you’re married.
The takeaway from these myths is that there really isn’t very much that getting married can do to change your credit score. If you’re someone who’s got a long history of prompt payments and responsibility, it’s not going to vanish when you say, “I do.”
How Marriage Can Affect Your Credit Score
We’ve dispelled some myths, but are there any ways that your credit score can be impacted by marriage?
The short answer is yes. Here are some things to consider:
The first thing is more about joint accounts that your credit score. If you and your spouse open joint accounts – particularly joint credit card accounts – late payments will affect your credit score. That’s because both of your Social Security Numbers would be linked to the account and your card activity will appear on both of your credit reports.
If one of you has a high credit score and the other person has a low score, then anything you apply for together will be affected by the lower score. That means you might end up paying higher interest rates or getting less favorable terms on everything from a credit card to a mortgage.
If one partner overspends or is irresponsible with credit cards, it can definitely affect the other partner. While your personal credit score may not change, there’s a chance you might find yourself negatively impacted by the other person’s spending habits.
It’s best to be honest with each other about your credit scores and how they might impact your life together. A low credit score doesn’t have to mean that you’ll end up in financial trouble, but it’s not something you want to blindside your spouse with, either.
Options to Protect Your Score
If you’re worried about your spouse’s spending habits and credit score, there are a few precautionary measures you can take.
The first is to maintain separate accounts. While your score should not be impacted by your spouse’s score or credit history, keeping separate accounts may make you feel better about your finances. You can also open a joint account for shared expenses and each transfer money into it monthly.
The second thing you may want to consider is having the spouse with the higher credit score apply for credit for big purchases alone. That’s not an option with a mortgage, since your combined debt-to-income ratio is one of the deciding factors to quality.
Of course, another option is that the person with the higher score may be able to help the person with the lower score. A joint credit card that’s paid promptly every month can improve your credit score if you’ve struggled in the past – and pave the way for buying a home in the future.
The bottom line is that getting married isn’t going to wipe out your credit history or change your score overnight. It may impact you when it comes to qualifying for the best interest rates and conditions, but that’s something you can work on as a couple.
Need help building your credit? Click here to learn about Addition Financial’s credit cards.