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Does Marrying Someone With Bad Credit Affect Your Credit Score?

Rohini Mohan Jan 9, 2019
There are a lot of things that must be taken into consideration before saying the "I Dos", and that includes knowing the state of each others financial stability and credit score.

Did You Know?

It is a common myth that the credit reports of couples are merged as soon as they get married!
You have finally found that special someone, who you would like to marry and settle down with. Everything seems alright, until you realize that your better half is worse-off than you in his/her credit score.
So, does that mar your future prospects and make your special someone, not-so-special anymore? Does credit score of a to-be-spouse have anything to do with your own credit rating, and would you gain from marrying someone with a better credit history?
These are some of the many questions that can make or break a relationship that could have resulted in a happy marriage. There are several misconceptions about credit scores and how a low or high score of a partner can impact our own credit rating.
There is also a general feeling of anxiety pertaining to the fluctuation in credit scores and the consequences of a partner's score plummeting. Here we have tried to clarify whether marrying someone with bad credit affects your credit score or not.

When Credit Scores Do Not Affect Couples

The credit bureaus apply specific algorithms in order to rate a person's credit performance and give an appropriate credit or FICO score.
The higher the score the more legible the individual is for being sanctioned a loan by lenders and banks. The lower the score, the lower is the creditworthiness of that individual. An individual's low credit rating poses a risk for credit card companies and banks, who would naturally be skeptical of lending their money to a financially unstable consumer.
An individual's FICO score is taken into consideration along with other factors such income, job stability, duration of employment, existing loans, past loan repayment history, law suits, criminal background, whether the individual owns his/her own house or is living in a rented apartment, and the number of months or years spent in a certain residence.
A credit score is based on an individual's creditworthiness, and does not have anything to do with the credit record and rating of anyone else, and that includes your present or future partner.
Since we all have our own individual credit records, the assessment is done on individual basis alone. The credit bureaus consider individual credit histories and do not tally or mix the credit histories of two people, even if they are married or choose to get hitched in the future.
Thus, merely marrying someone with bad credit does not automatically lower your credit score and nor does it raise the score if you marry someone with a higher credit rating.

Exceptions to the Rule

However, in case the couple wish to apply for a huge loan for buying a house or investing in a start-up company, the loan may get hard to come by if one of the spouse's credit scores have been consistently low.
On the other hand, if one spouse's credit score is high and is used single-handedly to get a loan approved, the lenders may still choose to deny the loan, because one income may not be sufficient to repay the loan in itself.
If the loan is approved, the couple may be required to pay higher fees and interest, as compared to the amount they would have paid, had they applied for the loan separately.

When Joint Accounts Affect Your Credit Score

For couples who have or are planning to go in for a joint account, the scenario will become different. In this case, the bad credit of one spouse will definitely affect the credit score of the other.
This is because, the credit report containing the history of payments made, pending loans, and history of credit card payments are shared on the credit reports of both the parties of a joint account.
Therefore, if one spouse fails to make the monthly payments on the accounts held by both the spouses, it will automatically affect the credit score of both parties.

Furthermore, if the joint account is declared delinquent, the creditors will collect the pending debts from both the spouses.
In order to avoid such an uncomfortable situation, the ideal thing to do is to either pay the bills on time or to maintain separate checking accounts and credit cards, so that the credit scoring is done separately.

This way, even if one spouse's credit scores are low or on the way to progress, the credit score of the other spouse shall remain unaffected.
In case of authorized user accounts, only the primary holder of the account is required by law to pay the debts to the creditor or lender. Therefore, even though the other spouse can use the credit as an authorized account user, he/she cannot be made liable for a debt.
Such a debt may or may not affect their individual credit score of the authorized spouse either. In which case, the credit score of the primary account holder will go down whenever the payment of debt is delayed or not paid regularly.
It is always better to inquire your to-be-spouse about his/her credit history, so that all your fears are laid to rest. Credit scores that dropped due to unemployment or repaying of past loans can be improved within a few months. However, if the scores have always shown dismal ratings, it could well be a telltale sign of longstanding financial instability.