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What to Do When Your Spouse Has Bad Credit

Couple looking at financial paperwork

You’ve met “the one” and are ready to tie the knot, but are you prepared to merge your finances? Managing money together is a big step for any couple, and it should be approached with care so you set yourself up for financial success. It’s a good idea to have open and honest conversations about money before you exchange vows. You and your partner should also map out a plan for spending and saving, which is especially crucial if either of you has less than stellar credit.

Understanding Bad Credit

Your credit score tells you whether you’ll have an easier or harder time borrowing money. Credit scores run from 300 to 850, and lenders may use them as a factor to determine how risky it is for them to lend money to someone and on what terms. The lower your score, the less likely you are to get a new line of credit, while a higher score means you have good credit and is favored by banks and lenders.

The good news is that if your spouse has a poor credit score, it doesn't always mean he or she is financially irresponsible. Someone who has never borrowed money can have a low score because he or she doesn’t have a credit card or other loan payment history. This is an excellent opportunity for you two to work as a team to help build his or her credit score, so you can buy the house of your dreams one day. It will also help you both communicate better and be on the same page about your financial goals.

Combining Your Money

It’s common to think that when a couple marries, their two individual credit scores turn into one “married” score. This isn’t true, which can be a good thing. Your score links to your Social Security Number, and both you and your spouse maintain your own individual scores after marriage.

If you open accounts for joint credit, these shared accounts will show up on both of your credit reports. This means that if you and your spouse establish a good credit history on a joint account, his or her credit score can increase. The bank, landlord or cell phone provider will review both of your credit histories and make decisions based on your credit scores and your available income.

Building Better Credit

According to Navy Federal Credit Union experts, one step that may improve your credit is getting a credit card with features you like. The next step is holding on to that card for years. The length of your credit history is a factor in credit scores.

If your spouse gets a new card, makes payments on time and keeps the balance low, his or her credit score will get better in time. Prepaid cards don’t help credit, so look for a secured card if your spouse doesn’t qualify for a standard credit card on his or her own. With this type of “secured” arrangement, you work with the card provider and make a deposit into a bank account that acts as security for whatever is charged on the card.

You can also add your spouse to your card as an authorized user. Your positive credit record may help his or her scores, but it won't lower your own. Make sure neither of you drive the balance up too high, because your credit scores may also depend on how much money you owe in relation to your available credit.

To make borrowing easier in your future together, start talking about credit scores with your spouse now. Your future family will thank you. Click here for more information on Navy Federal’s credit cards and build your credit with your spouse.

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