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How to Make Marriage Work on Your Credit

[Friday, December 27th, 2019]

It is assumed that having made a serious decision to get married, the two persons promise to live happily ever after and share both joys and sorrows. Being honest and keeping no secrets from each other seems to be taken for granted. But have you ever discussed each other’s credit history?

Meanwhile, being aware of what is hidden in the credit reports of your husband or wife is just as important as knowledge of where he/she works or his/her parents’ names. Sharing such valuable information will help you assess risks in advance, avoid unpleasant surprises in the future, and, of course, understand whether your beloved can potentially make your credit score rise or, on the contrary, fall.

What happens to credit reports after the wedding?

The answer is nothing. Entering into a legal marriage does not at all mean combining your credit histories. You and your spouse will continue to have your own separate reports. Your names in no way will be displayed in each other’s reports. And your score will not decrease or increase simply on the basis of your partner’s credit.

Does a name change eliminate all credit history?

The belief that a new name implies a new credit history from scratch is just a myth. For sure, your credit history will not be reset after you change the last name. You will just need to provide the credit bureaus, as well as the issuers of your cards, deposits, and loans, with your new data so that they can associate them with the existing accounts.

What to beware of?

If you and your spouse decide to buy something expensive, such as a car or a house, you will probably want to file a joint account application. The procedure presupposes that the issuer or lender will check both your credit reports. In case at least one of you have poor credit, it’s very likely that either your application won’t be approved at all or the interest rate and fees will be much higher. Moreover, since both spouses are responsible for payments on credit cards and loans on joint accounts, if the account becomes past due, the consequences will affect both spouses.

So if it’s your case, try to stay away from joint accounts. Applying separately will often be more beneficial and less harmful, especially if the amount needed is not as big. However, if your scores are approximately the same, a joint application, on the contrary, can mean better chances of approval and larger amounts.

How to play win-win?

The situation when one of the spouses kept to a healthy financial behavior for many years and managed to create a good credit history, while the credit of the other leaves much to be desired, is rather common. In this case, a spouse with a higher score may help their match. The best way is to add the spouse with a lower score as an authorized user to a credit card of the spouse with a higher score. Not all issuers allow this, but many of those who do charge no fees for the action.

Authorized users can typically make purchases, report stolen or lost cards, obtain account information and make payments. But they are not responsible for paying the bills, close the account or request credit line increases or APR decreases. The main thing to check out in advance is whether the issuer will as well report authorized user accounts to the credit bureaus. If both, primary and authorized, users use the card responsibly, their scores will be gradually increasing.

In a nutshell, the very fact of marriage cannot affect your credit. However, your further financial steps as a married couple may. Financial relationships are a very fragile thing. Husband and wife can certainly help each other improve their credit. But in the same way, errors related to inept money handling can lead to disastrous consequences like the destruction of both spouses’ credit and loss of trust. That is why it is so significant to know the whole truth in order to properly plan the budget and further large joint purchases.

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