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Saying "I do" won't affect your credit on its own. You and your spouse will maintain separate credit files based on your individual financial behavior, and you won't automatically take on each other's debts or payment histories—for better or for worse.
If you borrow money together, though, the accounts will appear on both credit reports. Also, if you live in a community property state and one of you takes on debt during the marriage, you both could be responsible for it. Here's what you need to know about the financial factors of getting hitched.
Will Getting Married Hurt My Credit?
Getting married won't directly affect your credit. You'll continue to have your own credit report that lists accounts open only in your name and accounts you cosigned. Your spouse's accounts won't show up, and your credit reports won't be consolidated.
Once you and your spouse apply for credit together, the activity on the account could start affecting each of your credit. Say you jointly apply for a car loan or mortgage. If your spouse is responsible for paying the bill and misses a payment, both your credit scores will suffer.
Or, say you add your spouse to your credit card account as an authorized user and they charge more on the card than either of you can afford. That could result in a higher credit utilization rate, or the amount owed on your card relative to its limit, negatively affecting your credit score. You also could accrue interest charges if you can't pay the full balance each month.
Your credit could be hurt if your spouse has late payments in their credit history and you're added as a joint account holder to one of those accounts. It's best to take a close look at each other's credit reports to avoid making decisions with unintended consequences.
What if My Spouse Has Bad Credit?
A spouse's poor credit score won't immediately affect your own. It could be an indicator that they struggle to stick to a budget or manage their own finances. On the other hand, it could be a result of past mistakes that they learned from and haven't repeated. To find out, have a candid conversation about what contributed to their score and how they're addressing it before tying the knot.
In the meantime, if you want to get a loan with a spouse who has bad credit, it could lead to disappointment. When you apply for a mortgage as co-borrowers, for instance, lenders typically use the lowest credit score between you two when assessing the application, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You could apply as an individual borrower, but only your income would be considered, and you might not qualify for as large a mortgage. You also could run into trouble if you're looking to rent an apartment together, since landlords often check credit as part of the rental application process.
Do I Get a New Credit Report if I Change My Name?
You will not automatically get a new credit report if you change your name after marriage. Your new name will be added to your existing credit report once you make the change with each creditor. That means alerting each credit card company, lender and bank that you have financial accounts about the change. Your new last name will also appear on the credit report when you use it to apply for credit.
Will I Be Responsible for My Spouse's Debt After We Get Married?
Debt each of you took on before getting married will stay the sole responsibility of the individual. If your spouse has student loans in their name from before the marriage, those loans stay theirs. If you help them pay off the loans, that arrangement is between the two of you, but you're not on the hook for them.
Once you're married, though, the game changes. You're both responsible for repaying money you borrow together. If you live in a community property state—Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington or Wisconsin—a spouse could share in the responsibility for repaying any debts taken on by a partner during the marriage. If you get legally separated or divorced, you may not be required to pay off a spouse's debt, depending on why your spouse borrowed the money.
The Bottom Line
Getting married is a weighty—and exhilarating—decision for many reasons, but don't ignore the financial aspects of your new life. Your spouse's credit score won't necessarily affect yours right away, but their actions will affect your ability to jointly qualify for credit and what you might be obligated to repay, depending on where you live.
Communication is key in all aspects of a relationship, but considering how much credit history can influence your future together, it's crucial when it comes to finances too.