What happens to your credit score when you get married?

Husband and wife

The joy of marriage provides countless financial opportunities to couples who are able to join their resources. As you prepare for your wedding day, take some time to plan repair, maintain, or establish your credit score together.

If a spouse has trouble obtaining credit alone, couples should establish a joint credit account to build on their joint income and/or the spouse's stronger credit history and credit score. As the joint account history grows after marriage, couples should be able to acquire credit accounts on their own and build a good credit score. Ask the credit card company for an increase on the credit limit if you make a large purchase with one of your credit cards.

If you intend to change your name, you should inform all of your credit agencies and creditors of the name change. Women should keep some credit in their personal name in addition to joint accounts. (i.e. "Jane Smith" rather than "Mrs. James Smith").

Building A Great Credit Score

The lender will definitely examine your credit report and credit score when you make a loan application. The your credit score determines the maximum loan amount and interest rate the lender will extend to you. A good credit rating means you will qualify for the lowest interest rate on credit cards, mortgages, and installment loans.

Pay Your Bills When Due

Creditors look for good credit risk. A history of timely payments suggests that you're deserving of credit. A perfect credit report is not necessary to qualify for a loan or credit. A credit report can contain a few insignificant blemishes. However, there should not be any outstanding judgments, collection accounts, or liens; and no payment of any type should be more than 60 days late. A minimum credit score of 680 is usually acceptable to most lenders.

Keep Your Monthly Bills Reasonable

Creditors evaluate the total amount of debt of the applicant. Lender are careful approving a new loan if the applicant has a large percentage of his or her's income each month committed to paying off existing debt. Financial experts point out that non-mortgage debt payments should not exceed 10% to 15% of your take home pay each month. If your monthly payments are too high, look for ways to pay down some of your debt before you apply for new credit.

Avoid Unnecessary Credit Inquiries

Anytime you authorize a creditor, employer, or any other business to examine your credit report, an "inquiry" is posted to the credit report that someone has examined your credit history. Credit inquiries typically remain on your credit report for two years. Creditors will look at the number of inquiries on your credit report and when they took place. A high number of inquiries that occur in a short period of time may be viewed as a sign that you are either applying for a lot of credit due to financial difficulty or overextending yourself by taking on more debt than you are able to repay. Checking your own credit report, however, does not impact your credit score. Consequently, it's definitely worthwhile to minimize any credit inquires. If you're shopping for a mortgage, don't let every lender you are speaking to, run a credit check.

Payoff Excess And Unused Credit

Many people believe having several high limit credit cards as a sign of good credit, but, in reality, too much credit can make a borrower a credit risk. The lender must be reasonably certain that you will continue repay your existing debt in the future. If you have, thousands of dollars of unused credit available, the lender might be concerned that if spend it all after your loan goes through and be unable to meet all the loan payments. To prevent a credit denial for excess credit availability, you should close unused credit accounts before applying for a large loan. If you decide to close rarely used credit cards or other credit lines, make sure to ask the lender to state on your credit report that the account was changed or closed at the consumer's request, because you do not want anybody to believe that the account was closed due to problems with your payment(s).

Building good credit together calls for a lasting commitment. So establish your credit for your new life together and you will reap the rewards of that commitment for a long time to come.

Frequently asked questions about marriage and credit scores

Will my credit score merge with my spouse?

No. Credit reports are identified by each person’s unique Social Security number. Marriage does not merge each partners credit report or credit score.

Will marriage lower my credit score?

No, marriage will not lower your credit score

Will my credit history be lost if I change my last name?

Your credit history follows the social security number. It is important to notify your creditors of the name change. Your new name will appear on your credit report as an alias, or "also known as"

Will my credit score be hurt by my spouse's bad credit?

A spouse's credit history will not impact your credit report or credit score. However, information will be shared on both credit reports when a joint account is opened. A spouse’s undesirable credit report could impact a mortgage application and result in a higher mortgage rate.

Building good credit together calls for a lasting commitment. So establish your credit for your new life together and you will reap the rewards of that commitment for a long time to come.

If my spouse has a bad credit score, does it affect my credit score?

Credit scores are calculated on a specific individual's credit history. If your spouse has a bad credit score, it will not affect your credit score. However, when you apply for loans together, like mortgages, lenders will look at both your scores. If one of you has a poor credit score, it counts against you both. You may not qualify for the best interest rates or the loan could be denied. For the time being, until your spouse's credit score improves, you may be able to get good terms on loans as long as you apply individually.
SOURCE: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)