How Marriage Affects Your Credit

Spouses use a credit card online
© Rob Lewine / Image Source / Getty

In the midst of planning your wedding and planning a life with the one you love, one of the things you probably wonder is how marriage will affect your credit score. Will your spouse’s credit will affect yours or vice versa? In marriage, much of your life is combined; does that include your credit?

What Happens to Your Credit When You Marry

First, the good news. In most cases, nothing will happen to your credit after you exchange your “I dos.” You and your spouse will each continue to have separate credit reports containing your credit history.

Your spouse’s credit history won’t appear on your credit report. Neither will your information appear on your spouse’s credit report. So, if your spouse a negative credit history, no one will ever know by looking at your credit report.

Fortunately, your credit score won’t drop simply because you marry someone with a bad credit history. Neither will your score improve on basis of your spouse’s good credit score. Each spouses’ credit score will continue to be calculated based on the information in his or her own credit report.

Will a Name Change Create a New History?

If a spouse changes their name, the new name will be reflected on that spouse's credit report. The theory that a wife changing her name erases her past credit history is not true. Since each person's credit report information is directly tied to their social security number, the spouse who changes their name will continue to have just one credit report with accounts under the old and new names.

Sometimes credit bureaus erroneously create a split credit file following a name change, but this isn't typical and it's not supposed to happen. If this happens to you, you can contact the credit bureaus to have your credit files re-merged.

When Does Your Spouse's Credit Affect Yours

If you and your spouse jointly apply for a credit card or loan, both your credit scores will be checked to approve the application.

If one or both of you have bad credit, there’s a chance your application won’t be approved. Or, if the application is approved, the interest rate and fees might be higher than if the spouse with the higher credit score applied separately.

With joint accounts and authorized user accounts, the history of only that account is reported on both spouses’ credit reports, even if only one spouse actually uses the account.

On joint accounts, both spouses are responsible for making credit card and loan payments. Furthermore, if the account becomes delinquent, the creditor or lender will attempt to collect from both spouses. With authorized user accounts, only the primary account holder is legally responsible for paying the credit card debt.

When One Spouse Has Bad Credit

When you and your spouse have different credit scores, you have to decide how you want to handle credit-based applications. Will the spouse with better credit make all the applications to get better rates? Will you apply jointly and accept higher interest rates to improve the other spouse’s credit score? These decisions depend on your financial situation and priorities.