A bad credit score can be as scary to share with your husband as many other secrets. The good news: Bad credit scores aren't contagious. If you've made some mistakes in the past, you won't hurt your husband's credit score just by getting married. However, it may hamper your ability to get loans as a couple.
No Joint Credit Score
When you get hitched, one thing you can't share is your credit score. The score is generated based on the information in your credit report, and only your accounts appear in the credit report. For example, your credit cards, student loans and car loan accounts generally have only your name on them. If you have a cosigner, then the cosigner's credit is also affected. Getting married doesn't mean your husband's credit report suddenly picks up all of your bad history.
Effects of Joint Accounts
If you decide to open joint accounts after getting married, credit history accumulated on those accounts will start to appear on both of your credit reports. Your prior history won't get tacked on, though. For example, if you have a credit card for five years before marrying and add your husband to the card after the wedding, your husband's credit score would only be affected by the account activity after he was added; none of your prior delinquencies would carry over. However, if you miss a payment and he's a joint account holder, his credit score gets dinged, too.
The biggest negative effect your bad credit will have on your husband is when you apply jointly for loans. Especially for larger loans, like a new car or house, lenders want to see both your credit scores and a bad score can outweigh a good score. If you can't get a lender to look at just your husband's score, you might have to pay a higher interest rate to compensate for your added risk. You might even be forced wait until your credit score improves before you get approved.
Teaming Up for a Better Score
If you have bad credit, consider applying for a joint account with your husband for something smaller, like a credit card. His good credit could help you get approved; keeping the account in good standing will slowly improve your score. For example, if he's the only one using the card and he always makes sure it is paid on time, your credit report will show the positive credit history, too. Remember that when you cosign, both people are equally liable, so if the relationship goes south, you could be on the hook for the debt, too.
- MyFICO: What's in Your Credit Score?
- MyFICO: What's NOT in Your FICO Score?
- Experian: Both of Married Couple's Credit Reports Are Considered When Applying for a Home
- Experian: Marriage Will Not Combine New Husband’s Old Credit History With Wife’s
- Experian: Marriage Doesn't Merge Your New Spouse's Bad Credit With Your Good History
- Experian: Responsibility for a Cosigned Loan When the Engagement Is Called Off
Mark Kennan is a writer based in the Kansas City area, specializing in personal finance and business topics. He has been writing since 2009 and has been published by "Quicken," "TurboTax," and "The Motley Fool."