How Marriage Affects your Credit Score — For Better or Worse
When you say, “I do,” your credit scores don’t become one, even if your hearts do. Credit scores are tied to your Social Security number, so your score remains separate from your spouse’s.
However, while your spouse’s past credit history has no direct impact on your own, your spouse’s money habits can impact your life -- and in certain circumstances, your credit score, too.
For example, if your spouse has a low credit score, it may affect your ability to borrow money as a couple, since a bad credit score may often indicate debt and a history of late payments.
Managing personal finances together is a significant aspect of marriage. That’s why it’s important to know how your spouse’s debt, credit, and overall financial situation can impact yours.
How your spouse’s credit score impacts joint purchases and accounts
Couples usually make joint financial decisions together when it comes to big-ticket items like mortgages, car loans, and personal loans. When you co-sign a loan with your partner, both of your credit scores will be weighed to determine the loan amount and interest.
If your partner has a history of missing or defaulting on payments, their credit score could drive down the qualifying loan amount and you may have to pay a higher interest rate on the loan you do receive. You can leave your spouse off a loan application if they have a low credit score, but by doing so and not including both of your incomes on the application, you could miss out on qualifying for the full line of credit that you need.
“If one person’s income is not sufficient, you’ll have to factor in both [credit] scores,” says Megan McCoy, Ph.D., director of the personal financial planning master’s program at Kansas State University.
Financial transparency makes for stronger marriages
Talking to your partner about their credit score and finances can help promote better communication about financial goals, and in general, as a couple.
Helping a spouse with bad credit
Your spouse’s bad credit and debt may make you cautious about opening a joint account with them.
For some couples, it may make more financial sense to keep accounts separate until healthy spending patterns are developed. However, with the right financial habits, poor credit scores can improve over time.
Megan McCoy, Ph.D., a licensed marriage and family therapist and a Level-1 certified financial therapist, is the director of the personal financial planning master’s program at Kansas State University where she teaches courses for the financial therapy certificate program. She is also the secretary for the board of financial therapy and the associate editor of profiles and book reviews for the Journal of Financial Therapy.