How does getting married affect your credit score?
What happens to your credit when you get married? A lot of people don’t consider how tying the knot might affect their credit—and what they might have to do to ensure that their credit reports reflect their new name, address or life.
Does getting married affect your credit score? No—that’s not how credit scores work. Married couples don’t share credit scores, and your individual score won’t change simply because you’ve become legally wed. That said, getting married can still have an effect on your credit score, especially if you and your spouse begin opening shared credit accounts like a joint credit card or a mortgage.
Let’s take a look at what happens to your credit when you get married, whether you are responsible for your spouse’s debts and how you and your partner can start building good credit habits together.
What happens to your credit when you get married?
In most cases, nothing happens to your credit score when you get married. Getting married does not affect your credit score, and you and your spouse will continue to maintain separate credit histories and credit reports.
You each retain your own credit score
Do married couples share credit scores? No. Each married partner retains their own credit score—which means that if one partner entered the marriage with good credit and the other entered the marriage with poor credit, neither partner’s credit score will change simply because they have become legally married.
Any shared credit will affect both your credit scores
That said, there are ways in which getting married can affect your credit. If you and your spouse open a joint credit account or co-sign a mortgage, any activity on the shared credit account could affect both of your credit. If your spouse is responsible for paying the mortgage bill and accidentally misses a mortgage payment, for example, both of your credit scores could suffer. On the other hand, if you and your spouse both practice good credit habits on all of your shared credit accounts, both of your credit scores could benefit.
Shared credit applications may be limited by the lower credit score
There’s one more way in which marriage could affect your credit. If you and your spouse apply for a mortgage, loan or shared credit account, the lender may perform hard credit inquiries on both of your accounts and base the terms of the agreement on the account with the lowest credit score. If you are used to paying below-average interest rates due to your excellent credit, for example, marrying a person with less-than-excellent credit could mean paying higher interest rates on co-signed credit accounts like loans and mortgages.
Will changing your name affect your credit report?
Changing your name does not directly affect your credit report. You won’t start a new credit report under your married name, for example—you’ll keep the same credit report and credit history you’ve always had.
However, you do need to make the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) aware of your name change. The best way to ensure that your new name appears on your credit report is by updating your name with your banks, credit cards and other financial accounts. When these accounts report activity to the credit bureaus, they’ll report your updated name as well.
It’s a good idea to check your credit reports to ensure that they reflect your name change (as well as any other relevant changes, like a new address). Try to check your credit reports about 30 days after changing your name with your banks and credit card accounts; otherwise, the credit bureaus might not have had time to update the information.
While you’ve got your credit reports pulled, check them carefully for errors. Sometimes two people with similar names have their credit activity sent to the wrong credit report, so make sure all of the credit accounts associated with your recently changed name are, in fact, yours—and make sure to dispute any errors you find.
How to raise your credit score with help from your spouse
Just because married couples don’t share credit scores, that doesn’t mean that your spouse can’t help you build your credit. If you want to raise your credit score with help from your spouse, consider becoming an authorized user on one of your spouse’s credit card accounts. This will allow you to piggyback on your spouse’s good credit, and your spouse’s responsible credit habits could help your own credit score improve.
You might also want to think about opening a joint credit card. If you and your partner open a credit card together, you won’t necessarily be able to piggyback on your spouse’s credit—but your spouse’s good credit habits could help your own credit grow.
There’s one more way for your spouse to help you improve your credit score, and that’s to ask your partner to support you as you build your credit. Get in the habit of sharing your credit score with your spouse, and ask for advice on how to improve it. Have your spouse cheer you on every time you reduce your credit card debt or increase your available credit. Make credit-building a team effort, because having good credit will benefit both of you when it comes time to apply for a shared loan or mortgage.
What if your spouse has bad credit?
If you are marrying someone with bad credit, you might wonder how getting married affects your credit score, and whether your spouse’s poor credit will bring your own credit score down.
Getting married does not automatically change your credit score. You and your spouse will continue to maintain your own separate credit histories and scores. However, marrying someone with bad credit could affect your finances in other ways.
There are many reasons why someone might have bad credit. Maybe they took on a lot of credit card debt during a period of unemployment, for example, and fell behind on the payments. Maybe a parent took out credit cards and loans under their name. Maybe they made a few poor financial decisions when they were young and are currently working to rebuild their credit.
A person might also have bad credit because they are making poor financial decisions in the present—and although those financial decisions might not affect your credit score, they could affect your married life. A spouse who maxes out their credit cards on unnecessary purchases, for example, might have a hard time sticking to a household budget.
A spouse with bad credit could also make it harder for the two of you to take out shared credit accounts, like a mortgage—and if a lender is willing to issue you a shared line of credit, you might have to pay significantly higher interest rates.
If your partner has poor credit, it’s time to have an honest conversation about your shared financial goals. If those goals would be better achieved if your spouse had a better credit score, see if the two of you can team up to improve your spouse’s credit together.
Do married couples share debt?
Married couples are not responsible for any debts incurred before the marriage. If you have credit card debt and your spouse has student loan debt, for example, those debts remain your own—neither of you are liable for the other person’s debts. After you are married, you and your spouse could each continue to take out debts that are not shared. If you apply for a new credit card, for example, only you are liable for any debt charged to that card (unless you make your spouse a joint credit account holder).
If a married couple co-signs a loan, a mortgage or a joint credit card, they both become liable for the shared debt. If one spouse passes away, for example, the surviving spouse will be responsible for paying off the debt in full.
A handful of U.S. states have what are called “community property” laws (Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin). These laws state that any assets or debts accumulated during the marriage are the property of both spouses—which means that if your spouse runs up debt on their credit cards or takes out a loan that you are not aware of, you could still be liable for the debt. Know your state’s laws to ensure you don’t find yourself unexpectedly stuck with a shared debt.
If you’re curious to learn how getting married affects your credit score, you can rest assured that your credit score won’t change simply because you’ve tied the knot. You and your spouse will continue to maintain independent credit histories, reports and scores.
That said, your spouse might still have an effect on your credit score over time. If you and your partner co-sign a credit card, loan or mortgage, for example, the way you treat that shared credit account will affect both of your credit scores. You also might find that your spouse’s financial habits start rubbing off on you, whether they’re fastidious about paying their credit card in full every month or are more likely to make spontaneous purchases without a specific plan to pay them off.
The best way to maintain a good credit score after getting married is to practice good credit habits. While you can do it on your own, it’s often better done as a team effort with your partner. Make on-time payments every month, keep any revolving credit card balances as low as possible and work toward paying down long-term debt like mortgages and student loans.