Marriage & Your Credit Score

When you marry, do you inherit your spouse's bad credit score or history?

Do you inherit bad credit from a partner who has bad credit before you marry them?

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Bill's Answer
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  • There is no 'marital credit score.'
  • Spouses do not inherit each other's scores upon marriage.
  • Piggy-backing allows one spouse to benefit from the other's strong score.

The quick answer is: No! You will not inherit your spouse’s credit rating. There is no "marital credit score." One spouse's score can be high, and the other's score may be low, and both will remain that way if they continue their behavior. What you might get however, is that if you jointly apply for a mortgage or a loan, both of your credit ratings will be analyzed if you both apply together.

If you have a high credit score and you spouse has a low score, do not add yourself to your spouse’s cards as an authorized user because your credit score will suffer. If you have low credit and your spouse has excellent credit, ask your spouse to add you as an authorized user, which will pull up your credit score. This is called piggy-backing in the credit report trade.

Practice good credit hygiene. Pay your bills on time. Pay off any delinquent cards or accounts as quickly as possible to improve your credit rating. Do not max-out your credit cards.

It might be important to understand how your credit score is calculated. FICO, VantageScore, and PLUS Score use five variables to calculate a consumer's credit score, including:

  1. Payment history (any delinquencies, charge-offs, etc.)
  2. Amount and type of debt owed
  3. Any maxed-out tradelines (accounts)
  4. Credit history length
  5. Number of recent inquiries (so-called "hard-pulls") to the consumer's credit profile

Paying off delinquent or maxed out trade-lines will almost always help your credit score. To learn more, see the credit score resource page.

We hope this helped you to Find, Learn, & Save!

Best,

Bill

Bills.com

22 Comments

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  • 35x35
    Aug, 2011
    Jacquline
    I had credit card debt in Louisiana and am moving to the UK to live with my husband he is a UK citizen so since I got this debt in the US will it effect him there as well I only signed and got this debt before we married.
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Aug, 2011
      Bill
      In theory, if you co-mingle assets overseas and the creditor went to the effort of suing you and attempting to domesticate the judgment in the UK, some of his assets may be at risk. I think this unlikely. I am unaware of any ability to come after his income, but you should speak with someone licensed to give legal advice in the UK, to get an authoritative answer.

      You may also want to consult with an attorney in LA, to see if the fact that Louisiana is a community property state will make your spouse liable for the debt, even if it was incurred prior to marriage.

      Your best course of action may be to look into debt settlement.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Aug, 2011
    Jacquline
    Hi, I just got married and I have some credit card debt. I got this before my husband and I got married. Will he get my debt since we married or is it still just mine? I do not want him being held responsible for my debt. I also do not want his wages to be touched by companies for my debt.
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Aug, 2011
      Bill
      See the Bills.com resource Responsibility for Spouse's Debt for a discussion of the issues you raise in your question. Please ask any follow-up questions you may have regarding these issues on that page.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jun, 2011
    lady
    i found out that my husband had debts before we got married, and now we have a joint checking account, will i be liable or inherit his past debts? from Georgia
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Jun, 2011
      Bill
      Premarital debt is fact and state law dependent. Marital property and debt may or may not be separate depending on its nature and how it was acquired.

      In non-community property states, pre-marital property and debt are considered separate property. If the spouses now live in a community property state, or lived in one at the time the consumer debt account (such as a credit card account) was opened, the non-signing spouse may have incurred liability without signing a credit contract as co-debtor.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    May, 2010
    Bill
    Joint accounts are irrelevant. You will qualify for a mortgage if you have an attractive debt-to-income ratio, you have a down payment for the new house, and you have a positive credit history. The fact that you have great credit is helpful, but meaningless if your DTI is too high or you have nothing to put down.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    May, 2010
    Joseph
    We currently own a home in California that is $150K under. We can still pay the mortgage but due to a job we want to move to Texas. Our current home is only in my wife's name - I have good/excellent credit and we don't have any joint debt. So, what I'm understanding is that I'll be able to get a loan even if we short sell our current home. Is that right? We do have joint bank accounts, but no real debt other than the mortgage. Do join bank accounts have an effect on loans? And do different states have different laws regarding checking your spouse's credit? Thanks!
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    May, 2010
    Bill
    There is no state law involved in your question. Credit reporting is controlled by federal law. More to the point, there is no merged, marital credit score. Spouse A can have an 800 score, and Spouse B can have a 500, and two will never meld or combine if the two spouses maintain separate debt accounts. In this situation I suggest you do just that -- keep all of your accounts separate especially if he is facing $500K in debt.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    May, 2010
    Heather
    I live in VA my husband to be in NC. His previous wife gave him nearly half a million in debt. He is worried if we get married he will ruin my credit. Considering our states, is there any other rules to go by to keep our scores seperate besides avoiding joint anythings and making sure during our marriage he doesn't accrue more debt?
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Mar, 2010
    Bill
    It depends on if you are in a community property state, but most likely you will get a straight answer from a trusted Loan Officer. I'd suggest applying and talking to a few LOs and see what and who has the best deal for your situation. I can tell you that if you don't include him, because of his bad credit, on the application you will not be able to include his income on the debt to income calculation. Good luck and let us know how it goes. Bill
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Mar, 2010
    Julie
    My husband has horrible credit. My credit is amazing. I would like to obtain a mortgage as a first home owner. Our checking and savings account is joint. We have multiple savings in our joint account. If we want to use only my credit as well as only my income to purchase a home will the banks allow me to claim the savings in our joint account as my savings or do I have to get an account of my own not linked with my husband.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jan, 2010
    Bill
    When applying for a short sale the homeowner must make a complete disclosure of the household income and expenses. If the disclosure is/was complete and accurate, there is no fraud. If the application was incomplete with the intention of misleading the mortgage holder, then there may be fraud. A person needs more than good credit to qualify for a mortgage. Here, wife should download a Uniform Residential Loan Application (Form 1003), complete it for herself and leave off her partner's information, and start shopping. Get no-cost mortgage quotes from up to four pre-screened lenders from Bills.com.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jan, 2010
    sherry
    advice please.....Married couple, husband had townhome before marriage, once married wife was on Title but not on mortage. They want to sell home (short,most likely) and will buy new house on wifes credit alone, which is still decent. Will short sale affect her credit? They want to buy using her credit PRIOR to selling thier current home. I am afraid if they do this, that it will undercut thier ability to do a short sale on thier current home. The bank may see this as fraud?? Wouldnt they be better just waiting for short sale to go through on present home??
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Oct, 2009
    Bill
    Each person has their own credit report and resulting credit score. That does not change for married individuals. Creating joint checking or savings accounts does not affect credit scores because activity on those accounts is not reported to the credit bureaus, generally speaking. Therefore, a person (married or not) with an excellent credit score can have a joint checking or savings account with a person with terrible credit and there will be no affect on either person's score. What I am about to say is not responsive to your question, but my unsolicited advice is to consider the advantages and disadvantages of creating joint accounts in general. People never plan to divorce, but if you do, maintaining separate accounts makes the division of assets much easier.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Oct, 2009
    Jill
    My fiance and I are getting married in November. He is currently going through a short sale on a condo he purchased with a friend. If I am interpreting the above correctly, when we get married, the negative on his credit from the short sale will not affect my credit, as long as we keep our accounts separate? Does this also include checking/savings accounts or just credit accounts?
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Oct, 2009
    Bill
    Nobody's credit score merges with another when you marry. You can have a spotless credit report and marry a person with disastrous credit report and it will not affect your credit score one bit unless you co-sign on a loan, credit card, or debt of some other kind. If you keep your accounts separate, which I strongly recommend, you will retain your strong credit score. The name you choose to call yourself does not matter to the credit reporting agencies. The key index is your social security number, which does not change when you change your name.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Oct, 2009
    Debra
    I read the answer above and want to make sure. I live in CALIFORNIA. Is it true I have excellent credit and have my own debt. As long as I don't merge with my husband to be, I will not accumualate HIS BAD CREDIT, due to medical bills mostly......... Or if I don't change my last name or joint credit cards with him... True? What about lease on a apartment? How does this work. I don't want a merge with ......his bad credit...........keep names separate and use are own credit cards in our names, is OK?
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Sep, 2009
    Bill
    No. Each spouse has a separate credit score. The only time where credit scores would be in lock-step with each other would be where both spouses are joint account holders on all of their accounts and had similar employment longevities. If your spouse is not on the mortgage, then he can do whatever he wants that affects his credit score and it will not affect your separate mortgage application. However, if he is a co-applicant on the mortgage, then he should delay his separate credit application if possible, as it may lower his credit score.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Sep, 2009
    iesha
    If I am in the process of closing on a home. Will it affect my credit if my husband opens a new account?
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Aug, 2009
    Bill
    Generally speaking, premarital debt is not automatically assumed by both spouses, but the liability for the collection of the debt is. Family law varies from state to state. For a definitive answer you should ask this question to an attorney in your state who will analyze the nature of the debt (mortgage? credit card? judgment? taxes?) and offer an opinion based on the facts and your state's laws.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Aug, 2009
    Elizabeth
    Does my future husband acquire my debts after we are married?
    0 Votes