What Newlyweds Need to Know About Credit

by Erika Torres
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marriage tips, newlyweds advice, newlyweds and credit

We know better than anyone what it is like to let love overcome logic when it comes to marriage. In the excitement of committing to a person you feel passionate about, you can easily forget about finances until well after you’ve tied the knot. However, sooner or later ― ideally sooner ― you will need to discuss your financial goals, and to do that, you need to reveal your financial pasts.

Because credit cards are the most popular way to pay, it is entirely possible that one (or both) of you has a less-than-perfect credit history. However, before you have a knock-down, drag-out fight over marital credit woes, it is worthwhile to understand exactly what marriage doesn’t do to your credit.

Marriage Doesn’t Affect Your Credit Report or Score

You will likely be pleased to learn that the most pervasive credit myth ― that married couples combine their credit histories and utilize one post-nuptial credit score ― is completely false. Your credit history is linked directly to your Social Security number. Because neither you nor your spouse changed SS numbers during or after your nuptials, your personal credit report will be utterly unaffected by your marriage.

Of course, marriage can affect your personal credit score in different ways. Weddings, honeymoons, and married life can be costly, and overusing your credit card or racking up other debt could make your score go down. However, these effects are related only to your spending sprees, not your legal joining to your new spouse, and they can be counteracted with the development of healthy financial habits.

Marriage Doesn’t Automatically Join Any Accounts

In marriage, what’s mine is yours, right? Actually, married individuals retain a surprising amount of financial autonomy; all of the accounts you held before you tied the knot are yours alone, and your spouse has no authority to take from them without your consent. In fact, even after you tie the knot, you have the ability to open personal accounts without your significant other becoming an authorized user or co-signer, which means your credit cards can be yours and yours alone.

The only exception is bank loans, which do necessitate spouses as co-signers. Fortunately, when you become added to a loan, the previous payment history is never added to your credit report. Thus, you and your partner have the chance to improve both of your scores by working together to pay off the loan.

Marriage Doesn’t Erase Your Credit History

Your last name is printed on your credit cards, so you might be tempted to believe that your credit history will be scrubbed clean once you change your name to match your spouse’s. However, as previously explained, credit is linked with your government-issued SS number, not your name. Despite how much you might want your credit history to disappear, your history will likely stay with you for life, which is why you should always try to improve your personal credit score.

In fact, you don’t even have to tell your spouse about your credit history if you so choose. No credit information is shared or combined when you file a marriage license; only lenders like banks investigate both spouses’ credit reports when you file for joint accounts, so your partner will never have access to your true credit history. Still, to build a strong foundation for your marriage, it is important that you are honest with your significant other about everything ― including your potentially less-than-savory credit history.

Marriage Doesn’t Make Credit Easy

With all this information, you might sigh with relief that your pristine credit won’t be marred whatsoever by your new partner’s terrible history ― or vice versa. Yet, marriage is anything but easy, and managing your credit will only become more difficult as you settle into wedded bliss.

The more you open joint accounts, the more imperative it is that both spouses have equivalent scores. You can use a balance transfer credit card to make credit debt more manageable and help add new positive events to an overall negative history. After all, one partner’s bad score affects a joint account more drastically than the other partner’s immaculate report. If you do decide to share credit cards and other financial accounts, you must remember that your spending directly impacts your partner’s credit.

For the rest of your married life, you must strive to have frank discussions about your finances. The more open you both are about your credit history now, the sooner you can start building a life together ― with two perpetually distinct credit scores, of course.

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