No, tying the knot does not cause your credit score to take a hit just because your new spouse didn't pay the bills on time in the past. However, it can affect your ability as a couple to qualify for new credit, and if your spouse's credit habits don't change, it could eventually affect your score as well.
What's in Your Score
Your credit score is only affected by your own financial history, which only includes accounts with your name on it. For example, your credit score will be based on your history with credit cards, student loans, mortgages and any other debt you've signed for over the years. If you've cosigned for anyone else, those accounts are included as well. Your credit score isn't impacted by other people's accounts, how much money you make, your age, or where you live.
Your spouse's credit practices can affect your credit score if the two of you have any joint accounts. Joint accounts appear on both credit reports and affect both credit scores. If something positive occurs with the account, both credit scores are improved. However, if something negative occurs, both scores will take a hit regardless who which person made the mistake. For example, if your spouse promises to pay the car loan on time but forgets, both your scores take the hit from the late payment if both your names are on the loan.
Joint Loans Consider Both Spouses
If you apply for a joint loan, lenders will check both of your credit scores. If your credit score is good but your spouse's is low, the poor score could carry more weight. If your spouse's score is causing you to be denied for credit, you could try applying for credit yourself and just using your income to qualify. However, you may be stuck waiting for your spouse's score to improve because most lenders want to see both scores, especially for larger loans like mortgages.
Improving Your Spouse's Score
If your spouse's credit score isn't up to par, consider adding him as a joint account holder on some of your accounts, such as a credit card or two. That way, when you make your payments on time, those same payments are reported on his credit report and help him build a positive credit history. However, beware that if things don't work out, you will continue to be liable for any debt you cosigned for when you were in the relationship.
- myFICO: What's in Your Credit Score?
- myFICO: What's NOT in Your FICO Score?
- Kiplinger: Marriage and Your Credit Score
- Experian: Topics Addressed on August 19, 2009
- Experian: Topics Addressed on January 4, 2012
- Experian: Topics Addressed on March 22, 2006
- Experian: Topics addressed on October 14, 2009
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."