If you are planning on marrying someone with bad credit, you’re probably wondering how it’s going to affect you. Will you still be able to get approved for credit lines? Will your credit score become the average of both scores? Nobody wants their hard-earned credit to be lost.
Well, don’t throw engagement ring out the window yet. The good news is, the credit scores and reports of spouses stay separate. However, you may experience some other drawbacks. Here’s everything you need to know to survive marrying someone with bad credit.
What happens when a spouse has bad credit
If your spouse has bad credit and you don’t, how will it affect you?re
Can your spouse’s debt hurt your credit?
Thankfully, it can’t! Marrying someone with bad credit will not cause your score to drop. Married couples still have separate credit scores and credit reports.
Even if the person has a bankruptcy or derogatory account, it remains their problem. Your positive credit lines will also remain on your account and will not positively impact your spouse’s report.
Further, if you change your name (or if your spouse changes their name), the new name will show up on your existing reports as a name variation.
The only way that their credit will affect yours (or vice versa) is if you share joint credit accounts.
If your spouse adds your name to one of their credit accounts (or you add them to one of yours), it will affect your credit. Of course, you shouldn’t add yourself to any accounts that are in poor standing. But your spouse may benefit from being added onto your accounts that are in good standing.
For example, say that you have a credit card that you pay on time each month and keep at 30% credit utilization or less. Adding your spouse would create a positive credit line on their report, which could help to lift their score.
While your spouse’s credit score won’t affect yours, it will affect your odds of getting approved for new credit accounts when applying jointly. For example, if you apply together for a mortgage, an auto loan, etc., lenders will have to consider both credit scores.
Can I buy a house with a spouse that has bad credit?
You can, but if you apply jointly, your spouse’s bad credit will affect your rates and terms. Usually, a joint application will get you approved for a larger loan. But in this case, your spouse’s lousy credit may reduce your odds of getting approved.
If you trust your spouse 100%, you may get better rates and terms by applying for a mortgage in your name alone. However, be cautious. If anything happens to your marriage, you will be solely responsible for paying off the mortgage alone. For such a long-term commitment, it may be wiser to dedicate a few years to lifting your partner’s credit score instead of applying alone.
Will I have a problem renting an apartment with a spouse who has bad credit?
Your spouse’s bad credit may also come into play when you try to rent a house, get a phone plan, get an insurance policy, get a job, and more. Credit is a factor that many service providers and companies consider to assess the risk of a particular applicant.
Your spouse’s bad credit might not hurt your credit score, but it can still affect your life. That’s why if your spouse has terrible credit, the best thing you can do is help them raise their credit score.
How to survive marrying someone with bad credit
How can you best manage a situation where your new spouse has bad credit? Well, the goal should be to help them get their score up as soon as possible while minimizing the score’s impact on your life together.
Here’s how to get started.
Address the problem
First, get to the bottom of the problem so it won’t persist in the future. Sit down with your spouse and review their credit reports together. Discuss any ongoing debts, and have an honest discussion about how they came about.
Also, look at the longevity of each negative mark. Bankruptcies can take up to 10 years to fall off credit reports, while bad debts can take up to seven years, and hard inquiries linger for two years. Is there anything you can do to improve the situation sooner? Can you contact a creditor to pay off a balance or try to negotiate down a balance?
Establish new positive credit lines
Next, start building positive lines of credit to counter the negative ones. As we touched on above, adding your spouse to an account that is in good standing is a great way to start. Your spouse should also work to manage their own lines of credit more responsibly.
Secured credit cards are a great, low-risk credit-building tool. With a secured credit card, you add money to the account upfront and then receive a credit line. Over time, most credit card companies let you earn access to a higher credit line without an additional deposit. Just be sure to choose a credit card company that makes reports to the credit bureaus. Otherwise, all that responsible credit behavior will be for nothing.
Keep credit reports up-to-date
As you move forward, it’s important to keep an eye on your credit. Consider using a credit monitoring service that notifies you of any changes in your report. Ensure that old debts and marks are removed in a timely fashion, that any additions to your report are accurate, and that your positive new credit lines are properly reported.
Rely on your credit when possible
Lastly, if you have good credit, the two of you may need to lean on your credit until your spouse’s score improves. This might mean getting a rental lease or electricity bill in your name. However, in the long term, it’s smart to improve both your credit scores.
What happens if you marry someone with bad credit?
In summary, while your spouse’s credit won’t hurt your credit score, it also won’t help you get approved for a mortgage or an apartment lease. While it is not a reason to call off wedding plans, it is an issue that requires attention and a plan for improvement.
Jessica Walrack is a personal finance writer at SuperMoney, The Simple Dollar, Interest.com, Commonbond, Bankrate, NextAdvisor, Guardian, Personalloans.org and many others. She specializes in taking personal finance topics like loans, credit cards, and budgeting, and making them accessible and fun.