Finance Globe

U.S. financial and economic topics from several finance writers.
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Calm Your Fears About Marriage and Credit

Marriage affects many aspects of your life, but credit isn't necessarily one of them. Marriage itself does not affect your credit. Contrary to a common myth, your credit report doesn’t merge with your spouse’s once you get married. Nor does your marital status affect your credit rating. Single, married, separated, or divorced, your credit rating is based strictly on your credit history. So, the mere act of saying “I do” and signing a marriage license won’t have any bearing, positive or negative, on your credit rating.

Spouses who change their last names won’t get a new credit history. Instead, the new name will be added to the existing credit report. And, while the two of you have “become one,” you’ll continue to maintain separate credit reports and credit scores. There is no marital credit report that reflects your union.

That marriage doesn’t affect your credit may be a good thing if you’re marrying (or already married to) someone who doesn’t have as great a credit score as you do. Marriage won’t make your credit score go down. Of course, if you’re the spouse with the lesser credit score, you won’t be lucky enough to get a better credit score through your spouse.

Getting a Credit Card Together

Spouses may choose to combine aspects of their finances, including having credit cards together. There are basically two options for sharing a credit card. One spouse can add the other as an authorized user on an existing account. The authorized user has all the privileges associated with the credit card – they get a credit card with their name on it and they’re allowed to make purchases toward the account. But, authorized users aren’t legally responsible for making payments on the account.

The other option is to have a joint credit card. With a joint credit card, both spouses apply together and are approved – or denied – together. The creditor considers both applicants’ credit history and income to decide the credit card terms. In this way, one spouse’s negative credit history can affect the credit card terms. Both spouses are equally responsible for making payments on a joint account. Neither spouse can remove the other from the account, even if you decide to split up.

Whether you’re an authorized user or a joint account holder, the only accounts that will appear on your credit report are the ones that have your name on them. All other accounts will continue to be reported separately.

Applying for Loans Together

When spouses apply for loans together, both credit histories are considered, just as with a joint credit card application. And if either spouse has a negative credit history, that could prevent the two of you from getting approved for the loan. Or, if you are approved, you may not get a great interest rate. Despite that, it’s often better for spouses to apply together. The combined income can help qualify for a higher loan amount than either spouse would qualify for alone.

Check your credit reports and scores several months before applying for the loan. Work on improving your credit history to improve your chance at getting loan.

Once you’ve joined accounts with your spouse, that’s when their credit habits will affect you. As long as the accounts are managed well and paid on time, you have nothing to worry about. However, if the payments are late or credit cards are maxed out, your credit score will be affected. Give a second thought to opening accounts with a spouse who doesn’t have the best financial habits. If you decide to get credit with a spouse who’s less responsible, it’ll be up to you to preserve your good credit standing.
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Friday, 18 October 2019

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