Marriage and credit scores: What you need to know

You’re getting married. It’s romantic. It’s exciting. It’s sometimes overwhelming. With so much to plan and do, you might not have thought about how marriage affects your finances. For example, what happens to your credit?

While getting married doesn’t directly affect your credit scores, it can have financial implications that do. Knowing what’s in your credit reports and understanding how you and your partner could affect each other’s credit can contribute to a solid financial foundation for your marriage. And that could help you and your loved one have the happily ever after you deserve. 

Key takeaways

  • Marriage has no direct effect on your credit scores or credit reports, but other financial decisions you make as a couple could affect your credit scores once you are married.
  • Changing your name doesn’t affect your credit either, but you should inform the Social Security Administration and any current creditors of the change.
  • If you or your spouse have less-than-perfect credit, there are ways you can work to improve your credit scores.
  • You and your spouse can monitor your credit for free with CreditWise from Capital One.

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How does marriage affect credit?

There’s no such thing as a marriage credit score. Credit histories and scores don’t combine when you get married. Your credit history and scores are yours and yours alone, and your marital status is not included in your credit reports.

But if you have a shared account or you’re an authorized user of your spouse’s account, you could affect each other’s scores. 

Anytime you apply for credit together, you could trigger a hard inquiry on both your credit reports, which can temporarily lower your credit scores.

You’ll also both be responsible for the activity on your joint credit accounts. If you use your credit cards responsibly, you could both improve your scores. But your scores could drop if either of you are late with payments on a joint credit card account, for example.

What if one spouse has bad credit?

Marrying someone with bad credit doesn’t automatically hurt your credit score. But your spouse’s bad credit could affect you after you get married. 

When you apply for credit together, lenders could look at both your and your spouse’s credit scores. Your spouse’s bad credit might stop you from getting the best interest rate. Or your application might even be denied.

However, if a person with less-than-perfect credit is applying for a loan, a spouse with good credit may be able to serve as a co-signer on the application. This means that the spouse who co-signs will be responsible for making payments if their partner cannot.

How to improve your credit as a married couple

If you or your spouse has less-than-perfect credit, there are some things you can do to try to improve your credit scores:

  • Pay your bills on time. It may seem obvious, but consistently paying your bills on time can improve your and your spouse’s credit scores over time. Credit-scoring companies FICO® and VantageScore® weigh payment history heavily in their credit-scoring models. 
  • Stay below your credit limit. Your credit utilization ratio measures how much revolving credit you’re using compared to your total available revolving credit across all accounts. Credit experts recommend keeping your credit utilization ratio below 30%. 
  • Explore consolidating credit card debt. If you or your spouse have credit card debt, you might consider a plan to consolidate your debt so that interest charges don’t build up. Balance transfers, personal loans and debt management plans are some of the common ways to consolidate debt.
  • Consider a credit card to build credit. If you or your spouse has poor credit or no credit at all, you might look for a credit card to build credit, like a secured card. With a secured card, you pay a security deposit, which acts as collateral, to the card issuer to open the account.

Will changing your name affect your credit?

Changing your name after marriage won’t affect your credit. But you should inform your lenders of your new name. They’ll report it to the three major credit bureaus: TransUnion®, Experian® and Equifax®. It might take a month or even longer to show up, so don’t panic if you don’t see the change right away.

Do you share debt after you’re married?

Any activity on a joint credit account will show up in both your and your spouse’s credit histories. And both of you are financially responsible for paying the debt.

Whether you’re responsible for any debt your spouse took on before you were married will depend on the property laws in your state.

According to the IRS, in most states, you’re unlikely to be liable for any individual debt your spouse takes on. But you should check your state’s laws or consult an attorney or qualified professional if you have any questions.

Marriage and credit scores in a nutshell

There’s no doubt that marriage is life-changing. But one thing it doesn’t change is how important it is to monitor your credit. It will help each of you know where you stand and make decisions about your personal finances.

CreditWise can help with that. You can access your TransUnion credit report and VantageScore 3.0 credit score and monitor your credit with CreditWise. It’s free for everyone, not just Capital One cardholders. And using it won’t hurt your score. You can also see how different decisions could affect your credit score by using the CreditWise Simulator.

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