It’s one of the most common credit reporting and scoring myths…the one that suggests spouses have joint credit reports and share a credit score. This is, of course, untrue. Unless both you and your spouse’s names are listed on all of your accounts, your credit will not be the same. If either of your established credit separately, then you credit will differ. It is not uncommon for spouses to have an account that the other does not. For example, the wife may have a retail account that the husband does not. The husband may have an account at a home improvement store that the wife doesn’t.
When you get married, the accounts you had when you were single are not automatically listed under your spouse’s name. You have to add the spouse to your credit card accounts as an authorized user. Your loans are only listed in your name. When you apply for a new loan or credit card under both of your names, then the account is reported on both credit reports and is a joint account.
Types of accounts
There are three types of accounts individual, joint and authorized user. An individual account is under one name and that person is responsible for the account. This account is reported on the credit report under that individual’s name only. A joint account is one in which the credit of both were reviewed to approve the account and both are responsible to pay the account. This account is reported on the credit report under both parties. An authorized user can use the card, but isn’t responsible for paying for the account. This account is reported on the credit report under both the responsible party and the authorized user.
For accounts that are listed under both names, failure to pay bills on time will impact the credit of both spouses. I know this is terrible to say, but the only way to have real control over your own credit is to have individual accounts – no joint or authorized user accounts. This avoids any problems in the future, if the marriage ends up in divorce. Neither spouse is impacted by the other’s failure to pay the bills or by disputes on who is responsible for the bills.
Credit Reporting Expert, 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.