Marriage is a legal union, and it brings financial benefits like tax-free inheritance, sharing of employer and government benefits, and more. But getting married does not affect your credit; there’s no marriage credit score that is recalculated after you say “I do.”
That means if you have good credit, marrying someone with a lower score won’t damage it — although there are ways you can help your spouse build credit.
And if you were hoping your poor credit might get an automatic boost from your new marital status, you’re out of luck.
Your credit records remain separate
Credit reports, which provide the data used to calculate credit scores, include your credit and payment history. They also include personal data, such as your birthdate and Social Security number. But they don’t contain information about your marital status. And when you get married, your credit history stays separate, it doesn’t get merged with your spouse’s.
Changing to a married name does not affect your credit, either — credit records are identified first by your Social Security number, which doesn’t change when you marry.
You don’t automatically share credit cards
Marriage also doesn’t automatically give spouses the right to use each other’s credit cards. If you want to, you can become authorized users on each other’s cards exactly the way you would have before you were married — the account holder adds the authorized user.
If you each already have the same kind of credit card, no problem. You can both keep using them separately, or each can make the other an authorized user to strategize your spending for maximum rewards. You can also apply for the same rewards card and double your rewards if you think you’ll both qualify.
But spouses can help each other
All of this is not to say that spouses can’t give each other a boost.
If one person has a low score or thin credit while the other has a long record of responsible credit use and a good score, the higher-scoring spouse can help the other. But it’s important to do so carefully so that the better score isn’t sacrificed to bring up the lower score.
“If one person has a low score or thin credit while the other has a long record of responsible credit use and a good score, the higher-scoring spouse can help the other.”
Making the lower-scoring spouse an authorized user on a credit card with a good payment history can help them build or rebuild credit. However, an additional card user can mean a higher balance. Using more than 30% of a card’s credit limit can damage your score, even if you pay in full every month, thanks to a scoring factor called credit utilization. One solution is to make an extra payment midcycle to keep the balance low.
If your score is higher because you are more careful to pay on time than your spouse, you may want to be in charge of paying monthly bills to help keep scores from slipping. Better yet, schedule time to do it together and automate at least minimum payments if it’s feasible.
Joint or co-signed accounts can be tricky. Those accounts make both signers fully responsible for repayment, so be careful if you plan to borrow together. If your spouse makes a mistake, it can affect your credit score, too. It can also limit how much you’re able to borrow.
The best idea: Share credit information openly. You may want to apply for credit jointly someday — perhaps a mortgage — and it’s going to require a decent score from both of you.