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Select a topic from our most recent column – November 1, 2006

Wife’s bad pre-marriage credit history will not affect husband’s good credit

Dear Max,

My wife has bad credit that she accrued before we were married, and I have good credit. About a year ago, in an attempt to increase her credit score, we opened our first joint account at a jewelry store and paid it off a month later. I am sure this joint account will affect her account in a positive way, but will this negatively affect my credit?


Dear BRE,

Having a joint account does not cause your wife’s previous credit history to be linked to yours, so there will be no negative impact on your credit report.

In fact, because the joint account appears on both your credit history and your wife’s credit history, the on-time repayment record likely will have a positive impact on both.

Your wife’s negative accounts would appear on your credit history only if you were added to them as a joint account holder. As a joint account holder, you would share equal responsibility for the debts and as a result the accounts could be reported as part of your credit history.

Any future joint accounts you share will appear on both credit reports, but your credit lives before your marriage should remain separate.

However, that doesn’t mean her past bad credit history won’t affect your ability to get credit together. When you apply for joint accounts, both credit histories likely will be reviewed and taken into consideration as part of the approval process.

Her bad credit history could cause your joint application to be declined or for you to not qualify for the best terms as joint account holders.

It’s great that you are now both aware of how important it is to keep all of your accounts current and to make all of your payments on time. If you continue to do so, your wife’s previous credit issues will soon pose no problems for your credit needs as a couple.

Thanks for asking.

Photograph of Maxine Sweet
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