You and your partner have decided to tie the knot--congratulations! This is an exciting time with lots of learning and growing involved, especially when it comes to your personal finance. One way marriage could affect your finances that you may not have considered yet is your credit score. While getting married won't change your credit score, taking out joint credit accounts as partners can.
In this article, you'll learn how the choices you make about joint credit accounts and co-signing loans may impact your credit score.
Does getting married affect your credit?
Credit reports often contain public records and other personal information. In that case, you may be wondering if your new marriage can affect your credit. The marriage itself won't affect your credit history or score directly. In that case, you may be wondering if your newly minted marital status could affect your credit. The short answer is no. In and of itself, marriage will not directly affect credit history or credit score, as it does not get reported to the three main credit bureaus: Experian™, Equifax® and TransUnion®.
Your credit history belongs to you, as an individual. It includes your past credit behavior, including details of past payments, debt and balances, age and type of credit accounts, as well as available credit amounts. These factors are used to populate your credit report.
Your credit score, on the other hand, is the three-digit numerical value that's calculated based on your credit history. Credit scores range from approximately 300–850 depending on the scoring model used (for example, VantageScore® or FICO® and can be categorized from poor to excellent. Your credit score represents your creditworthiness within the credit-lending industry and is a defining factor when it comes to opening up new credit card accounts, qualifying for loans and mortgages and being eligible for low APRs.
If you're interested in learning more about what your specific credit score is, what it means and how you can improve it, enroll in Chase Credit Journey® to get your free VantageScore and a credit report powered by Experian. With Credit Journey, you can see how various milestones—from getting married and having joint accounts to making a large purchase like a home—can impact your score.
When you get married, does your credit combine?
Now that you know a little more about your individual credit, credit score and credit history, you may be wondering if your credit gets combined with your partner's when you get married. To put it simply, no--credit does not combine with your spouse's when you get married. You will always have your individual credit score.
However, as a married couple, you may have some joint accounts. This could affect your credit score—let's get into more detail below.
How do joint credit card accounts impact your credit score?
As a married couple, you may open (or have already opened) joint lines of credit. This type of credit entails that both you and your spouse's names will appear on the credit card account. That means the financial activity towards this account will get reflected in both individual credit scores. How one spouse handles the account will show on the other spouse's credit, and therefore have the potential to impact their credit score.
Joint accounts are opened after considering both you and your spouse's incomes, assets and credit history. Not all joint accounts are the same, and depending on how yours is structured your credit score can be significantly affected if you or your spouse fail to make payments on time.
Spouse as a co-signer
A co-signer is a person who contractually agrees to cover repayment of a loan, mortgage or credit account if the primary account user doesn't. Co-signers can help those with poor credit get approvals for things like leases and auto loans.
If you decide to co-sign an account with your spouse, keep in mind that you, as a co-signer, will be responsible for stepping in if your partner can't afford the payments. Should you and your spouse miss payments or make frequent late payments, you could face negative impacts to your scores. The impact depends on your current credit score--for example, the higher your score, the more points you could risk losing.
Spouse as an authorized user
An authorized user is a credit card user who's been added to the account by the card's owner, also known as the primary cardholder. If you decide to authorize your spouse to use your credit card, be prepared to have their activity reflect in your credit score. For example, if your spouse makes regular payments on time and in full, this could benefit your score as it contributes towards your payment history. On the other hand, if your spouse misses payments or over-spends, causing overdrafts and additional late fees, you could face negative impacts to your credit scores.
Just because you and your loved one decide to tie the knot, your credit score won't be impacted from that union. In fact, your score shouldn't change much at all unless you open joint accounts with your partner.
Just be mindful that as you build your financial foundation with your spouse, your choices (individually and as a couple) can affect your credit score and cause it to fluctuate.