Marriage means sharing many aspects of your life with your spouse—but does that include your credit? Amid the excitement of tying the knot, you may be wondering how credit scores work for married couples.
Do your spouse’s credit activities affect your own credit score? For that matter, will you even have an individual credit score anymore, or will you and your spouse have a joint score?
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Will getting married affect my credit score?
The short answer is no, getting married won’t directly affect your personal credit score. For that matter, getting divorced won’t directly affect your credit either. This is because the three main credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) don’t keep records on your status as a single, married, or divorced person. 1 2
Will my spouse and I have a joint credit score?
No, there’s no such thing as a “joint” or “spousal” credit score. Both you and your spouse will retain your own individual credit histories and credit scores after you get married, and your credit scores won’t be combined. 1
Your marital status will not impact your credit score even if you:
- Marry someone with a bad credit score: Your credit score won’t suffer if your spouse has a bad credit history. To reiterate, there’s no such thing as a joint credit score, and neither your spouse’s credit history nor their credit score will show on your own credit report. 3
- Change your name: Changing your name has no impact on your credit score, nor will it erase your credit history. Once you’ve legally changed your name, notify your creditors. They will then report to the three main credit bureaus so that your new name is updated on your credit file. 1
- Move in with your spouse and change your address: Your address has no influence on your credit score. It’s just an additional form of identification on your credit report. If you move in with your spouse, your lenders will report your new address to the credit bureaus, who will update it on your credit file. 4
- Have errors on your credit report: If you or your spouse discovers an error on your credit report, it won’t affect the other person’s credit score. When you file a credit dispute, you’ll still need to do so individually—joint credit disputes don’t exist any more than joint credit scores do, and you can’t file a dispute on your spouse’s behalf.
When can my spouse’s credit affect my finances?
Although your credit score is independent of your spouse’s, it’s still possible for their credit to affect your finances. This can easily happen if you apply for a new credit account together—although joint credit scores don’t exist, jointly owned loans and credit cards do.
How joint credit applications work
If you apply for a joint credit card, loan, or mortgage, your lender will assess both of your individual credit scores and credit reports during the application process. Applying jointly has both pros and cons.
Pros and cons of opening a joint credit account
Do married couples have to apply for credit accounts together?
No, married couples don’t have to apply for credit accounts together unless they want to. You’re still permitted to apply for individual accounts without your spouse co-signing them.
Can I use my spouse’s credit card when we get married?
You can use your spouse’s credit card if you’re a joint account holder on the card or if they add you as an “authorized user” on their account.
However, your name won’t automatically be added to your spouse’s financial accounts when you get married. You’ll have to do it manually on each account that you want to share.
How to improve your spouse’s bad credit
If your credit score is higher than your spouse’s, one way you can help them improve their credit is to add them as an authorized user on your own credit card. This can help improve their credit score because the primary cardholder’s good payment history (i.e., yours) will be reflected on their credit report.
Other than that, you and your spouse should communicate honestly about money to each other, including any financial problems you have. There are new tools to help couples with these tricky issues. For instance, Float’s credit and finance app provides a platform for the transparent and equal sharing of financial information, including credit scores.
Setting a household budget to plan your spending may be a good start to building a healthy financial life together.
Will I share my spouse’s debt when we get married?
You’re not financially responsible for any debts that your spouse incurred on their own before your marriage. However, you’re liable for joint credit accounts that you share.
You might also be liable for other debts that your spouse individually took on during your marriage—that depends on the property laws in your state.
If you live in a “community property” state, such as California, you and your spouse share ownership of everything the two of you obtained during your marriage (with the exception of gifts and inheritances). This includes all of your earnings and debts. If your spouse takes out a credit card or another debt in their own name, you’ll still be responsible for the debt. 5
The following are community property states:
- New Mexico
Guam and Puerto Rico are community property jurisdictions as well. Alaska also has a community property system, but it’s optional. 6