What Happens to My Credit Report When I Get Married?

This is one of my favorite topics to write about.  Why?  It’s a favorite because I can answer the above question with one word…”nothing.”  Read on…

Credit, credit reports and credit scores aren’t the first things couples are concerned about when they decide to get married.  However, it’s just as important as your other attitudes toward finances. First things first, I want to dispel some misconceptions about credit reports; when you get married they don’t merge, your credit reports are not erased, and your credit scores do not go down.

Don’t Combine

Your credit reports are maintained at the individual consumer level, always.  Your credit report is usually located using your first and last name, address and Social Security number.  If you apply for credit cards or loans jointly, that credit information will be reported on both of your credit reports.  If either person includes the other as an authorized user on their credit card, this will be reported on both credit reports also. If none of your accounts are shared, this information will not be on both credit reports.

Aren’t Erased

Your credit file is not deleted when you get married and/or change your name.  At best the credit report will be changed to reflect the new name and the combination of names that you have used when you applied for credit, which will be included in the AKA section – Also Known As.  For example if Mary Jane Smith is now married to John Jones, she could have AKA such as Mary J Smith, Mary Smith, Mary J. Jones, Mary S. Jones, etc.

Scores Don’t Go Down

Your credit score doesn’t change as a result of your marriage. Your credit score can change based on your payment and purchasing behavior, opening new accounts, etc.  In addition, your credit score can decrease if you become an authorized user on your spouse’s account that has a poor payment history.  Likewise, your score could improve if you are an authorized user on an account that has good credit history.  Opening a joint account can impact your score by adding another new account to your credit reports.

Whenever you apply for a loan jointly such as a car loan or mortgage, both credit reports are reviewed by the lender to make the credit decision.  If one spouse has less than perfect credit, this can impact the interest rate you pay, amount of down payment and whether you qualifying for the loan.  If one has bad credit, it can be advantageous to apply for a loan based on the other person’s credit prior to getting married.

Before you get married, it would be a good idea to discuss your past credit history so you are not surprised. Less than perfect credit can impact future joint purchases. You can work together to improve your credit if needed. You don’t need to get into a new marriage with credit issues.

John Ulzheimer is the President of Consumer Education at SmartCredit.com, the credit blogger for Mint.com, and a Contributor for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.  He is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft. Formerly of FICO, Equifax and Credit.com, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry.  Follow him on Twitter here.


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