With the expansion of marriage rights due to the U.S. Supreme Court decision on gay marriage in 2015, more people are getting married — and some are finding that their true love may not have an ideal credit profile. Does getting married affect your credit? The answer may surprise you, especially if you’re marrying someone with bad credit.
Many newlyweds assume that getting married automatically creates a combined credit report. In fact, each person maintains a separate credit history tied to his or her Social Security number. It’s only by creating joint credit accounts and adding a spouse as a co-signer on existing accounts that a married couple’s credit histories begin to overlap.
Certain hallmarks of married life usually require that spouses apply for credit jointly. Buying a house can involve an evaluation of a couple’s creditworthiness if both incomes are used to qualify for the mortgage. Landlords can evaluate the credit scores of both spouses before they jointly sign a rental agreement. Insurance companies also typically evaluate the credit histories of a couple before issuing a policy that covers them. Married life naturally brings with it shared financial responsibilities that make it hard to keep your credit histories completely separate.
For Better or For Worse — Credit
Your credit may be stellar, but you can expect some rough roads ahead if you marry someone with bad credit. A person’s credit history can affect everything from getting a mortgage to qualifying for professional licensing and even getting the best rate on car insurance. To avoid unexpected marital stress, couples should fully disclose their credit histories prior to tying the knot. While a variety of circumstances can lead to a poor credit history, bad credit can also be a sign of underlying problems handling money.
Improving Your Spouse’s Score
Marriage is all about bringing people together, but does that include their bad credit history? Fortunately, you can take steps to help improve your spouse’s credit score. One of the easiest ways to help improve your partner’s credit is to add your partner as a joint account holder to one or more of your accounts with a long, positive history.
The account is now also listed on your spouse’s credit report, which may have the effect of raising his or her score. In some cases, simply adding your spouse as an authorized user on an account can have a positive effect. Of course, these methods only work if you both continue to manage these shared accounts responsibly.
Maintaining Individual Accounts
Keep your individual accounts open, even if you open joint accounts. This maintains the good standing of your individual credit report and preserves your credit score. Individual accounts with long, positive histories help keep credit scores high. Even if you don’t use these accounts as much after the wedding, having available but unused credit lines also helps your credit score. And although no one wants to go into marriage thinking it might end someday, if you ever separate, these individual credit accounts can come in handy.