“Will combining finances after marriage affect my credit score?” | Molly’s Money: Reader Question

May 30, 2013·

 

Hi Molly,

I was reading your article “HOW TO COMBINE FINANCES AFTER MARRIAGE” and I have a question about merging accounts without ruining my credit score. My fiance and I will be merging ALL our finances and accounts once we are married in October. My concern is that I have a healthy credit score and his is very low. I have had my accounts and credit cards for about 11 years and I don’t want to close them for fear it will ruin my score. He has a low score that he is working hard to rebuild and I don’t necessarily want him to close his accounts in case it makes his score worse. How do we merge our accounts and close our current ones without affecting our credit scores? (My checking accounts have credit cards attached to them). Also, what do we do with the other random credit cards we have?

Sincerely,

Concerned

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Dear Concerned,

This is a GREAT question – and probably one I should have addressed in my first article that you read originally.

First of all, I am SO glad to know that you are combining your finances after you get married. I am still such a HUGE proponent of this. Marriage doesn’t mean “mine” and “yours” – it means “OURS” – and this is the first step to REALLY making everything “ours” in marriage.

Secondly, the short answer is “NO” – your credit score will not be affected by getting married and combining your finances. Now, what do I mean by “combining finances” exactly? I mean, getting a joint checking and savings account (or having him come on to yours or yours on to his, whatever you decide).

This is a common myth that the second you walk down the aisle, your credit score is suddenly changed. This is just not the case. Your spouse’s poor credit history will NOT affect your score.

Now, there are other factors that CAN affect your credit score – which I will address.

My husband and I were in a similar situation that you are except the roles were reversed. My husband has a nearly perfect credit score while mine is still in the rebuilding process. Now, my credit score has DRASTICALLY improved since I became debt free and while I don’t have perfect credit, I do have good credit (click here for details).

But, because my husband has perfect credit and I had less than perfect credit, here is what we did to protect him (and me):

  1. FIRST, we combined our accounts. It was easier for me to close all my accounts with Bank of America and then join him with his BB&T accounts – so that’s what we did. So, we simply added me on to his checking and savings accounts with BB&T, thus making them joint accounts.
  2. SECOND, I became an “authorized user” on his credit card. This is what I would recommend if your fiance’s credit is less than stellar. If you were to have a JOINT credit card, you would BOTH be responsible, ultimately, for the bill etc… so if something were to happen and one of you were to suddenly not pay it, then yes, BOTH of your credit scores would be affected. BUT, by adding him on to your credit card as an “authorized user” – you maintain power / authority over the card, but he is allowed to use it. And your score is only affected by how you both use it together – it wouldn’t be negatively affected by his current credit score situation.
  3. THIRD, my name is NOT on the mortgage loan of our house. When we recently refinanced, we realized that my score WOULD affect the interest rate on our mortgage, so we left my name off the loan. Now, my name is still on the papers because we are married and that’s how the state of North Carolina works, but my name and the bank have no association. So, we got a much better rate on our mortgage by just having the loan under my husband’s name. We looked over all of the best short term loans to decide which one would be best for us. Now, obviously since we have JOINT checking and savings accounts and since we do our budget together every single month, our credit card and mortgage is paid every month with OUR money. So, while my name is not officially “on” the mortgage or the credit card, WE are still paying those things as a couple.

    Does that make sense?

    Also, addressing the second part of your question – closing his accounts and coming onto yours will NOT hurt his credit score rebuilding process. If anything, it could start to help.

    Now, this is something I am obviously working on myself – just continuing to rebuild my credit. The next step I plan on taking is getting a credit card in my name only to make small purchases and pay it off right away… but that’s a topic for another day.

    And as far as other “random credit cards” – I am not a huge proponent of these unless they really serve a purpose. My general recommendation for credit cards is to have ONE (if you MUST), make sure it’s a reputable one, and make sure it’s one that you can pay off EVERY SINGLE MONTH. Do NOT let any of the balance roll over to the next month.

    For example, my husband and I have ONE credit card together that we put our budgeted expenses on and we pay it off, in full, EVERY SINGLE MONTH. That is the ONLY credit card either one of us have.

    So, my recommendation would be to examine all of these cards that you have and figure out which ones are actually necessary (READ: I bet most of them aren’t) and close the ones that aren’t necessary and stick with one, maybe two at most, for budgeted expenses.

    I hope that helps! And just know that you are absolutely setting yourselves up for financial success in marriage by addressing this stuff early!

    Congratulations and good luck!

    -Molly

    Now, what would YOU say to Concerned? Are any of you in similar situations? Have you experienced anything that Concerned is going through?