How Will Getting Married Affect My Credit?
There’s no formula for the perfect marriage, however, studies show that the higher a person’s credit score is when a committed relationship starts, the less likely it is that the couple will break up after the first few years. 1 Credit scores also play a role in the potential for relationships to blossom – nearly 50% of people say they refuse to date someone with a bad credit score!2
Your credit score sums up your credit history and not your relationship, however, many common post-nuptial life leaps like creating joint bank accounts or buying a home together can be impacted by your credit scores. These moments can turn from exciting to stressful if you discover that one of you has a financial history or habits that are holding you back from creating the fairy tale you dreamed of.
First, let’s start by demystifying some common confusions couples have about marriage and credit scores:
- Our credit scores will merge. There’s no such thing as a “joint credit score.” Credit reports are tied to each person’s individual Social Security number. Your Social Security numbers don’t blend into a single number when you get married, and neither will your credit scores.
- If I change my name, my credit history will be erased.See above. Your credit history outlined in your credit report is tied to your social security number, so changing your name won’t have an effect on your credit score or previous credit history. Your credit history, whether good or bad, will stick with you just like your social security number.
- My accounts will automatically merge with my spouse’s. Simply getting married will not automatically turn all of your accounts into joint accounts, and it doesn’t mean that you’re automatically a co-signer of each other’s loans. Only if you open a joint account together or if one of you adds the other as an authorized user will your accounts be connected, in which case activity on these accounts can impact your credit reports.
While getting married won’t immediately affect your credit score or change your previous credit history logged on your credit report, you and your beloved’s scores and financial habits can, and likely will, impact each other’s future together. There are situations when lenders or businesses will evaluate both of your credit reports, so it’s important that once you’re married you’re both doing your part to make smart credit decisions that will help you get the best rates and the most savings. Here are some common scenarios:
- Buying a home or other major purchase. For many of us, qualifying for a mortgage or loan for a large ticket item on one income can be difficult. If buying a house together is in your future, mortgage lenders will pull both of your credit scores and both of your incomes will also be factored into your debt-to-income ratio. Your combined incomes may help you qualify for a larger loan, but if one of you has a poor credit score or bad credit history, it may limit your ability to qualify at all or to access the best rates. Additionally, once you have a mortgage making on-time payments is critical. Any missed mortgage payments will majorly hinder your credit score.
- Qualifying for the best offers. From lower interest rates to attractive reward offers, qualifying for the best offers is based on your credit history. If one of you has a low score, that means that the other one will likely have to take on the responsibility of applying for credit to access the best offers. If you want to up your chances for affordable credit and more, you and your beau should aim towards making sure you have a strong credit history that can help you score the best offers.
- Joint accounts. Many couples merge their accounts for easier bookkeeping and to see each other’s spending habits. While this may bring more transparency and convenience, it’s important to note that joint account activity will appear on both of your credit reports and factor into both of your credit scores. That means moving forward, both of you are responsible for making payments. Joint accounts can be a great way to build credit, but they can also drag your score down if your partner has careless payment habits.
- Adding your spouse as an authorized user. Adding your spouse as an authorized user on an account is different than a joint account, as the primary account holder is on the hook for all the payments. If the authorized user doesn’t use the account responsibly, they can damage the primary account holder’s credit score.
Tips to for a successful marriage and credit:
- Honesty is the best policy: avoid surprises by discussing your financial status (savings, salaries, investments, real estate, and especially credit) before you get married. Reviewing your credit reports together will help ensure you don’t have any major surprises as you build a future together and work towards goals that rely on your credit histories.
- Keep each other accountable: you and your partner’s credit habits can affect your future together in a big way. Encouraging each other to make financially responsible decisions will help ensure you’re best positioned as to accomplish your ambitions, like buying a home.
- Be strategic about applying for joint credit or being a co-signer for a loan: if one of you has a low credit score it may be a good idea to keep your credit accounts separate or apply for credit individually until the other one can raise their score. This approach, however, only works if one of you has an individual income and assets that is substantial enough to qualify for the credit alone. On the flip side, a joint account could help the one with a lower score access better rates or rewards etc.
- Align on spending habits before merging or creating joint accounts: before deciding to have a joint account, make sure you’re aligned on a spending plan that you can manage together since both of you are responsible for all repayments, regardless of who’s spending the money or incurring the debt. It’s also a good idea to think through which one of you will take on the responsibility of making sure that on-time payments are made on the shared account.
- Pay down debt plan: if you or your spouse (or both) begin your marriage with a lot of debt, you should consider putting together a plan to pay down that debt. Creating a solid budget and sticking to it can help you curb overspending, pay down your debt, lower your credit utilization ratio, and ultimately improve your credit score and financial health.
Tying the knot will not automatically affect your credit score, but your union likely means there are situations on the horizon in which your financial habits and credit histories together will impact your shared goals. Open communication is vital in building any strong relationship. Taking the time to understand how each other’s credit histories and habits affect your shared goals will help you create and commit to a plan together that helps you build the future you both want. You and your partner can sign up for Credit Health Insights to get your free credit score and easily keep tabs on it with the suite of credit monitoring tools and resources that come with it at no cost.