Does Marriage Affect Credit Scores?
The short answer is no. Tying the knot does not affect credit history or credit scores. In fact, the credit bureaus don’t even track marital status. Your credit reports and credit histories remain separate, so there’s no such thing as a marriage credit score.
Your credit history is tied to your social security number and is unique to you. The only time your spouse’s credit becomes relevant to you is when you engage in joint financing, such as a shared mortgage or car loan.
The creditor will pull both credit reports whenever you apply for joint financing. Approval, funding, and interest rate decisions are made based on each of your credit scores and your combined household income. If one spouse has a low credit score, it could mean higher interest rates, lower purchasing power, and less favorable terms. A very low score could even cause a denial.
Once approved for joint financing, any credit activity on joint credit accounts is recorded in your unique credit reports. That means a missed payment or default on a joint account will negatively affect both of your credit histories and scores.
Will my Spouse’s Bad Credit bring my Credit Score down?
No, marrying someone with poor credit won’t lower your credit score because the credit reports are separate. However, your spouse’s credit does affect shared financing options, so it is best to address issues with credit before applying for shared credit accounts.
What can I do to help my Spouse’s Bad Credit?
While your spouse’s poor credit won’t affect your credit score, it does impact your joint financing options. You might also want to help your spouse repair their damaged credit for their own financing options.
Here are some strategies to help with your spouse’s bad credit before applying for a joint credit account.
Understand the Problem
The first step is to understand why their credit score is so low. You each get a free yearly credit report from all three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) at www.AnnualCreditReport.com.
Pull your separate credit reports and look for errors and negative remarks causing a low credit score. Examples of negative marks on the credit report that drag down credit scores include missed or late payments, carrying too much credit card debt, defaults, charge-offs, foreclosures, and bankruptcies.
Devise a Plan of Action
You can create a plan to improve your partner’s credit score once you know the issues causing it. For example, if your spouse’s credit utilization is too high, you can pay down the debt and reduce credit card balances.
If it’s a foreclosure or bankruptcy, you must continue making on-time payments while keeping credit utilization low. Over time, the effects of the foreclosure will lessen until it’s eventually removed altogether after seven years. Meanwhile, positive credit activity will improve your spouse’s credit score.
Strategic Account Sharing
If you have good credit, you could consider adding your spouse to one of your credit card accounts as an authorized user. Using a credit card account with a high credit limit and low balance would be best. The credit limit will get added to your partner’s credit profile, decreasing their credit utilization ratio. Positive payment history on the credit account also adds to your spouse’s payment history.
You can also consider opening a shared credit card. Again, the credit limit and payment history are added to your and your spouse’s credit reports. Ensure you keep credit usage low on the card and never miss a payment on joint credit card accounts.
Once you implement your plan, pull the credit report every few months to track progress on repairing the credit score. You can adjust the plan based on the new credit report updates.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the most common questions about marrying someone with poor credit.
What happens to my Credit History if I change my name?
Your credit history is tied to your social security, so changing your name doesn’t change your credit history. The name change is recorded in your credit report but only as identifiable information. It does not affect your credit score or creditworthiness.
Does Marriage merge Credit Reports?
While it’s a common myth, getting married does not merge your credit reports. Each individual has a unique credit profile that can’t merge with another person’s credit report.
If you have a shared loan or credit card, any activity for that credit account is recorded in each of your credit reports. But any loans or credit cards in your name only stay on your credit report and don’t affect your spouse. Any credit cards or loans in your spouse’s name only remain on their credit report and won’t affect yours.
How does my Spouse’s Bad Credit affect financing?
Getting married to someone with bad credit only impacts joint accounts, but that’s common in marriage. For example, getting a mortgage, refinancing a mortgage, and getting a car loan are common joint financing arrangements in matrimony.
When you and your spouse apply for credit, the lender pulls both of your credit reports. Lenders consider both credit scores when underwriting a loan. Some lenders use what’s called the lowest middle score. That means they take the middle scores for each person and use the lowest one as the determining score for the loan.
If one partner has bad credit, you can expect higher interest rates and fees, less favorable terms, or the loan being denied. If your income is enough to handle payments, you may want to consider putting the loan in just your name.
Business Loans with Bad Credit
Having a spouse with bad credit could also impact your business loan opportunities if you’re in business together. Commercial lenders typically pull credit reports for every owner with a 20% or greater ownership stake.
That could be an issue for married couples who are also business partners or co-owners of a business. While bad credit business loan options exist, they usually have lower borrowing ranges, higher interest rates, increased fees, and shorter terms.
Sometimes, you can use business loans for bad credit as bridge financing. Since most bad credit business loan lenders are alternative financing facilitators, you get a quick and convenient online application with a fast turnaround on approval and funding.
You and your business partner/spouse can use the short-term loan funds to keep the business running. As you pay back the loan and build credit, you can qualify for more advantageous business loans in the future.
Bad Credit Business Loans Pros & Cons
- Provides funding when you can’t qualify for traditional business loans.
- Usually has a quick and easy online application.
- Fast approval and funding times.
- Multiple types of loans are available.
- Could potentially help build good credit with timely payments.
- Higher interest rates than conventional business loans.
- Might include additional fees.
- Might require collateral, a down payment, or a personal guarantee.
- Usually short-term funding.
- Lower borrowing amounts.
Marrying Someone with Bad Credit – Final Thoughts
Fortunately, when you get married, you marry the person, not their credit score. The credit bureaus will always keep your credit report separate from your spouse’s, as all credit reports are unique to the individual, regardless of marital status. Credit reports don’t even reflect marital status. Name changes get recorded but don’t impact credit scores.
The only time a spouse’s bad credit comes into play is when applying for joint financing, such as a home mortgage. If you know your spouse has bad credit and you plan to apply for joint loans or credit cards, take some time to help your spouse improve their credit.
Improving credit requires patience and discipline. You must pay down debts if credit utilization is above 30%. The most reliable way to improve credit is to build a positive payment history.