4 Ways Marriage and Credit Scores Can Affect Your Finances
Credit scores are individual, and getting married doesn’t change that. But there’s still a link between marriage and credit scores.
August 19, 2022
Many people describe their wedding day as the “best day of their life.”
That’s probably because marriage is an important milestone that marks a new beginning — the merging of two lives into one.
Although marriage is first and foremost a symbol of love and devotion, it’s also a legal agreement that comes with many technical changes — like your tax filing status, possibly your last name and your financial decisions.
But what happens to your credit when you get married and how is your credit score calculated as a married couple? This article explores the relationship between marriage and credit scores, covering everything newlyweds and engaged couples need to know.
Do married couples share a credit score?
Credit scores are individual and tied to a person’s Social Security Number (SSN), so married couples do not share a credit score. In fact, credit reports don’t even list whether an individual is married or not.
Each partner will have their own dedicated credit score based on their personal credit history, which will include:
Your payment history
Your credit utilization
The types of debt you carry, like car loans and mortgages
The act of getting married does not directly affect credit in any way — but there may be some indirect effects on your credit that could have an impact on your financial accounts.
What about domestic partnerships and common-law marriages?
Domestic partnerships are no different than marriage in this case. Each partner will still retain their personal credit score.
Entering into a domestic partnership (or common-law marriage) will not directly affect either partner’s credit score.
However, like married couples, domestic partners often combine their finances — and this may have an effect on credit scores and overall finances.
Marriage and credit scores: 4 ways they affect your finances
When it comes to marriage and credit scores, the act of getting married or entering a domestic partnership will not affect your credit score in any way. However, combining finances with a partner may affect you in several ways.
Shared credit accounts will affect both partners’ scores
If you open any shared credit accounts with your new spouse, this could affect both your credit scores. For instance, you may co-sign on a mortgage together, buy a new car with a loan or open a joint credit card.
Activity on shared accounts will affect both partners’ credit scores. For instance, if you accidentally miss a payment on a joint credit card, this could negatively affect both scores.
The act of co-signing or opening a joint account essentially “links” you to the other person in the eyes of the three main credit bureaus (i.e., Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). This means that, if your partner has a good credit score, your score may improve once you co-sign on a loan (and vice versa if they have poor credit).
Lower credit scores can limit co-signed loans
Does marital status affect the annual percentage rate or the terms of a loan? Your marital status does not, but if one partner has a substantially lower credit score than the other, this may alter the lender’s decision-making.
If you’re wondering how lenders analyze credit scores for married couples who apply for a loan together, the process will differ from lender to lender.
When you apply for a loan, such as a mortgage or a personal loan, the lender will pull both partners’ credit reports. However, many lenders choose to look at the lower credit score between the two partners when setting the terms of the loan.
This means that if there is a big mismatch between your credit score and your partner’s, this could have a negative effect on the interest rates and terms you’re approved for.
Becoming an authorized user could improve your credit score
If you have a lower credit score than your partner, becoming an “authorized user” on their credit card account could help you build your own credit. This allows you to piggyback off your partner’s credit score, which may provide a small boost to your own score.
Financed wedding costs could affect credit
If you pay for your wedding using credit cards or a loan, this could directly affect your credit score. This is due to the increase in credit usage that comes with taking on new debt.
Whichever partner actually took on the debt — i.e., paid for the expense on their credit card — is the one whose credit score would be affected, even if you both helped to pay the bill.
Considering the average wedding now costs over $20,000, it’s common for couples to take on debt to finance their special day. In fact, for many married couples, this may have a substantial effect on their credit scores after they tie the knot.
What about name changes?
If one partner changes their last name, what happens to that partner’s credit report?
There is no direct impact on a spouse’s credit score due to a name change.
However, it’s important to update the name you have on file with financial institutions so your bank will send the new name to the credit bureaus. If you move to a new home, you’ll need to update your address as well.
It’s wise to check your credit report for errors to ensure the report accurately displays your new legal name and address. It may take up to a month to see these changes in your new credit report, so remember to check it a month or two after you update your information with your bank.
What happens to your credit if you get divorced?
Credit reports do not include whether an individual is single, married or separated. So the actual act of getting divorced will not affect your credit score.
However, if you get divorced, lenders could still hold you responsible for any co-signed loans or co-owned accounts with your ex. The activity on those accounts will continue to influence your credit score.
It’s helpful to close as many shared accounts as possible prior to the divorce.
Marriage can indirectly affect your credit score
The relationship between marriage and credit scores is simple: The act of getting married won’t affect your scores, but combining finances and co-signing on loans together can. Several practices can affect your credit score after you combine finances with a partner, including:
Joint credit accounts
If both partners have solid financial habits and credit practices, merging finances won’t make much of a difference in either partner’s credit score. However, if there’s a mismatch between your credit scores or financial habits, you may notice a more significant impact.
If you’re still paying off wedding-related credit card debt (or any credit card debt), check out the Tally† app. Tally helps you pay down high-interest credit cards more efficiently with a lower-interest line of credit.
†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.