Everything You Need to Know About Credit After Getting Married
If you just got married, here’s everything you need to know about having a joint credit card and how your credit can be affected by marriage.
March 23, 2022
After finding love and marriage, the time will come to merge your life with your dearly beloved.
And, with so many couples living together before marriage, one of the final relationship frontiers is the combining of the finances.
While plenty of married couples choose to keep their finances separate, many move forward with joint finances.
When you get married, you share most things anyway, so how do credit cards and credit scores come into play? Here’s what newly married couples need to know about their credit.
Does getting married affect your credit score?
In most cases, getting married does not have a direct affect on your credit score.
So, what does happen to your credit when you get married?
Even though you may want to share everything with your spouse after the wedding is over, your credit score is not something you can share with them. It’s still your own. And so is theirs.
That can be a particularly good thing if your spouse doesn’t have a great credit history.
When you get married does your credit combine?
No, it doesn’t. Getting married will have no impact on your credit score or credit report as the three main credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) don’t take your marital status into consideration when creating your credit report.
There is no couple’s credit report or credit score that you need to worry about, so if you apply for a loan together, both of your individual credit scores and histories will be taken into account by the lender.
What happens if you marry someone with bad credit?
While marrying someone with bad credit may not impact your credit score, it can hurt you financially down the road. If you want to jointly take out a car or home loan, apply for a joint credit card or add your spouse as a cardholder to an existing credit account, the financial actions you both take will affect your credit options and what your credit report looks like moving forward.
If you’re a joint borrower on a credit account, both borrowers are equally responsible for making sure the debt is paid back on time. The usage of that credit and payment activity will end up reported on both spouse's credit reports, no matter who used the credit or who was tasked with making payments.
Because both borrowers’ credit histories will be taken into account when jointly applying for loans or credit cards, the rates and terms you’re offered can be affected by your spouse’s negative credit history. If your spouse has a low credit score, you’ll likely be offered less desirable interest rates, loan amounts and repayment terms. In extreme situations, if one spouse has particularly poor credit, even if the other spouse has a pristine record, they may not be able to qualify for the loan.
What is a joint credit card account and how do we combine our accounts?
When you get married, unless you take action to combine your credit card accounts, your individual accounts will not merge automatically.
If you decide you want to share a credit card and take joint responsibility for making payments, you have a few options at your disposal:
Authorized user status: You can add your spouse as an authorized user to your existing individual credit card account, which means they’ll get a credit card with their name on it that’s tied to your account. Because you’re the primary cardholder, you’ll feel more of an impact on your credit history if a payment isn’t made on time or your credit utilization rate shoots up.
Joint account holders or co-signers: Whether you choose to become joint credit card account holders or co-signers, you and your spouse will both be considered primary account holders. This means you’ll share responsibility for any card activities equally and your credit records will be impacted in the same way. Some lenders don’t allow you to add a co-signer, so you may need to research your credit cards for couples options and/or open a new account.
What are my responsibilities if my spouse has credit card debt?
Everyone brings some type of baggage into their marriage, but what do you do if that baggage includes a hefty amount of credit card debt?
Luckily for the spouse without debt, debts acquired before marriage remain the responsibility of the individual who incurred them. Depending on which state you live in, it’s possible to be jointly responsible for debts incurred after marriage.
In community property states — Louisiana, Arizona, California, Texas, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wisconsin — both spouses are equally responsible for any debts acquired during the marriage, even if they were unaware of those debts.
It’s important to note that, even if the debt your spouse acquired before you got married isn’t technically your responsibility, helping them pay off their debts will improve their credit score and work in both of your favors if you jointly apply for a loan. Helping your spouse make on-time payments to get out from under their debt will benefit you both when you’re ready to buy a house or make another major credit move.
Do I Get a New Credit Report if I Change My Name?
If you choose to change your last name once you get married, you need to take certain steps to ensure your new name is properly reflected on each of your credit reports.
You won’t automatically get a new credit report after changing your name. Instead, you’ll contact any credit card issuers, banks and lenders you have accounts with to update them accordingly. After that, your last name will be effectively changed on your credit report.
Congratulations on your new marriage! We hope you can work together to create a financial plan that works for you and your spouse.
Do you and your spouse want to tackle your credit card debt? Tally† can help you make a plan for paying off your debt faster, while possibly saving money on interest payments.
†To get the benefits of a Tally line of credit, you must qualify for and accept a Tally line of credit. The APR (which is the same as your interest rate) will be between 7.90% and 29.99% per year and will be based on your credit history. The APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Annual fees range from $0 - $300.