I Saw My Spouse’s Credit Report … and I Freaked Out


What's Hot


2 Types of Black Marks Might Vanish From Your Credit File SoonBorrow

6 Ways the Obamacare Overhaul Might Impact Your WalletInsurance

7 Dumb and Costly Moves Homebuyers MakeBorrow

This Free Software Brings Old Laptops Back to LifeMore

Obamacare Replacement Plan Gets ‘F’ Rating from Consumer ReportsFamily

Beware These 12 Common Money MistakesCredit & Debt

21 Restaurants Offering Free Food Right NowSaving Money

17 Ways to Have More Fun for Less MoneySave

House Hunters: Beware of These 6 Mortgage MistakesBorrow

30 Household Uses for Baby OilSave

25 Ways to Spend Less on FoodMore

Nearly Half of Heart-Related Deaths Linked to These 10 Foods and IngredientsFamily

5 Surprising Benefits of Exercising Outdoors in WinterFamily

10 Ways to Save When You’re Making Minimum WageSave

Boost Your Credit Score Fast With These 7 MovesCredit & Debt

7 Painless Ways to Pay Off Your Mortgage Years EarlierBorrow

The Most Sinful City in the U.S. Is … (Hint: It’s Not Vegas)Family

The True Cost of Bad CreditCredit & Debt

10 Companies With the Best 401(k) PlansGrow

This Scam Now Tops ID Theft as the No. 2 Consumer ComplaintFamily

6 Stores With Awesome Reward ProgramsFamily

6 Ways to Save More at Lowe’s and The Home DepotSave

6 Healthful Treats for Your DogFamily

New Study Ranks the Best States in the U.S.Family

Thousands of Millionaires Moving to 1 Country — and Leaving AnotherGrow

Strapped for College Costs? How to Get the Most From FAFSABorrow

6 Overlooked Ways to Save at Chick-fil-AFamily

Ask Stacy: What’s the Fastest Way to Pay Off My Mortgage?Borrow

Where to Sell Your Stuff for Top DollarAround The House

8 Ways to Get a Good Price on a Shiny New AutoCars

Ask Stacy: How Do I Start Over?Credit & Debt

Secret Cell Plans: Savings Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint Don’t Want You to Know AboutFamily

30 Awesome Things to Do in RetirementCollege

14 Super Smart Ways to Save on TravelSave

The Rich Prefer Modest Cars — Should You Join Them?Cars

You’ll Soon Pay More to Shop at CostcoSave

10 Ways to Save When Your Teen Starts DrivingFamily

You and your spouse can work together to improve his or her bad credit scores.

This post comes from Shelby Bremer at partner site Credit.com.

It’s any spouse’s nightmare. Whether you’re newlyweds or have been married for years, that first glimpse at your spouse’s credit report can seriously put a strain on your happily-ever-after if their credit is a mess.

Your partner’s poor credit history may make it more difficult to qualify for a loan (like a mortgage), and becoming a joint holder on their accounts with debt may knock your credit.

But if you find out that your spouse has a low credit score after you said, “I do,” there still are steps you can take to improve your financial future.

Before you do anything else, you need to get — and stay — in the habit of looking at your credit reports and credit scores regularly. It may not be pleasant if you’re dealing with bad credit, but it’s important to stay informed on all of the details of your credit so you can work toward a better credit score. You can pull your credit reports from each of the three major credit reporting agencies for free once a year using AnnualCreditReport.com, and can monitor your credit scores for free once a month using Credit.com’s Credit Report Card.

Credit report support

It’s important to remember that your individual credit reports are maintained separately, and getting married in and of itself doesn’t factor into your credit score. However, if you decide to become a joint account holder on your spouse’s account, any late or missed payments, even if they’re from before you were together, show up on your credit history as well. When you are joint account holders, you agree to share full responsibility of any debt.

This is why Credit.com’s director of consumer education, Gerri Detweiler, recommends that you “consider whether you are better off getting credit on your own while your spouse rebuilds his or her credit.”

One way to help lift them to financial health is by adding them to one of your pre-existing accounts as an authorized user. That way, Detweiler says, “the account will likely appear on their credit reports and they should benefit from the entire account history.”

She recommends that you “choose a credit card with no revolving balance, a perfect payment history (no late payments) and one that has been open for a long time in order to get the maximum benefit from this strategy.”

Dealing with bad credit

When it comes time to apply for a joint account together, according to Experian, lenders “take both credit histories into account when reviewing joint applications, so those late payments could affect your ability to qualify.”

With mortgages, for example, Detweiler reveals that “the lender is likely to use the lower of the two middle scores when determining the program and rate for which you qualify” — middle score being the middle of your scores from all three credit reporting agencies. Even if you do qualify together, your fees and interest rates may be considerably higher.

Many experts recommend that for couples with significant debt, delaying joint home buying until the debts are more manageable and both credit scores are at a stable level is a smart choice. Another option is to apply individually, but keep in mind that adding your spouse later on typically requires refinancing.

Regardless of the steps you choose to take, it is always beneficial to budget your household and keep each other accountable for paying bills on time. Having open and honest communication to build strong financial habits is crucial. Marriage truly is a partnership in so many ways, and you need to work together to ensure that both your credit histories are as impeccable as can be.

More on Credit.com:

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

I know... every site you visit wants you to subscribe to their newsletter. But our news and advice is actually worth reading! For 25 years, I've been making people richer without making their eyes glaze over. You'll be glad you did. I guarantee it!

💰🗣📰

Read Next: Lookin’ Good! How to Get a Killer Deal on Eyeglasses

Check Out Our Hottest Deals!

We're always adding new deals and coupons that'll save you big bucks. See the deals to the right and hundreds more in our Deals section.

Click here to explore 1,958 more deals!