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How Does Marriage Affect Your Credit Score?

scaleA marriage is a joining of lives but is it also a joining of credit scores? Credit.com provides some basic information to clear up misconceptions about what happens to your credit when you get married.

Joined in Matrimony, Not in History: When you marry you do not automatically take on all of your spouse’s credit history because individual credit reports are linked to a person’s Social Security number. These numbers stay separate and so do your credit histories.

Joint Accounts: Spouses do become linked when they open joint accounts together but even then, it is what you two do with a joint account going forward (and not what your spouse did in the past) that can alter your credit report.

Nolo.com suggests,

“Even if you decide to open new accounts jointly, keep your old, individual accounts open, too. Accounts with a longer positive history help your score. You will also benefit from having more available, but unused, credit.”

Applying for Loans: Spouses do find that they are affected for better or for worse by their partner’s financial past when they shop together for financing to make a large purchase, such as a home.

Even though merging lives does not mean merging financial identities, you can still protect your own credit score by not opening joint accounts or cosigning loans if you think your spouse has a less than optimal credit history. Sometimes the spouse with better credit will opt to take out loans individually and you can do this as long as you are prepared to be completely responsible for the loan in the eyes of the lender.

You can also work with your spouse to improve his or her credit score over time, seek the help of a Fee-Only financial advisor, and perhaps delaying large purchases until you are both in good financial shape.