Marriage can seal a union between two people, but it doesn't mean it unites their credit scores. Married or not, you still have your own individual credit score. Aspects of marital life, however, can impact your individual credit score in a few cases.
Let's explore the reasons a partnership might include different credit scores and what that might mean for your marriage and credit.
Why spouses may have different credit scores
Your spouse may have a different credit score because of your different credit histories. Information that is part of your individual credit history includes:
- Payment practices: Showing a history of consistent payments on time can improve your credit score.
- Age of credit accounts: The longer you hold credit accounts, the better the potential impact on your credit.
- Number and variety of accounts: Maintaining what's considered a healthy mix of credit accounts can help boost your credit.
- Credit availability: Having a lower balance and more credit available for use may also translate into a higher credit score.
This credit history is recorded into your personal credit report, which is used to calculate your credit score. So, if your spouse has a different credit score than you, this separate credit history could be why. Getting married does not automatically combine your individual credit accounts — it all remains separate unless you decide otherwise.
How much does my spouse's credit affect mine?
In many cases, your spouse's credit won't affect yours if you maintain separate bank and credit accounts. However, if you open credit accounts together, actions taken on those accounts (such as timely or missed payments) will become part of both of your credit histories and affect both scores. That includes accounts with both spouses as joint owners and accounts with one spouse as a primary owner and the other as a co-signer or authorized user. So, it can be helpful for both spouses to be aware of how the credit account is being handled. Chase Credit Journey® offers tools to help, from a free credit score check to credit monitoring and alerts that can help you stay informed about changes in your credit report and score.
Meanwhile, when you apply together for credit or financing, lenders will consider both of your credit scores. So, if one spouse has a lower score, that could affect your results. Your joint credit account applications may not qualify or may garner higher interest rates than if the spouse with the higher score applied on their own.
Is a spouse responsible for their partner's credit card debt?
There are situations in which you may be responsible for your partner's credit card debt. If you have a joint credit account, are a cosigner or are the primary with your spouse as an authorized user, then you are responsible for any debt your spouse accumulates on that account.
Other factors such as a death or divorce can also contribute to credit account liability. That's because, in some states, when your spouse dies you may be wholly or partially responsible for their individual debts. In other states, you might not hold any such culpability. When it comes to divorce, the laws vary.
Whose credit score matters most in a marriage?
Neither of your credit scores matters more in a marriage. However, as discussed above, lenders may weigh or view both credit scores of a married couple when they apply for credit. That's why a spouse with a lower credit score could hamper the couple's chance of securing financing. By the same logic, a lender might look favorably on a couple if one spouse has an especially high score. So, although there's no singular married couple credit score, it can potentially benefit or hinder your ability to secure joint accounts if one member of a partnership has exceptionally good or bad credit.
How can I improve my own credit score in a marriage?
Whatever your spouse's credit score or history, perhaps you'd just like to work toward better credit for yourself, with an eye to the future. Here are some ideas you could consider.
Credit Journey® offers tools to help you follow these steps. From a free credit check to credit monitoring and alerts, the services Chase Credit Journey® provides can guide you on the path to better credit. For example, credit monitoring can notify you when changes occur in your credit accounts. These alerts often include insights about what may have prompted the changes as well as how much they can impact your credit score.
When you're thinking about marriage and credit scores, it may help to focus on your individual score. That's because your credit score remains your own throughout marriage, even if you use it to set up joint accounts with your partner. Boosting your credit can potentially help your chances as a couple when applying for a shared credit account. With the help of tools from Chase Credit Journey®, you can know where your credit stands today and build better credit for yourself in the future.