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Should You Join Your Credit Accounts When You Marry?

Jun 13, 2008
Marriage is quite the adventure. Everything you do suddenly impacts someone else, even more so than when you were dating. And this is particularly true of financial matters.

People can go back and forth about whether or not joint bank accounts are the best things for a couple. And there are good points on both sides. Joint accounts take care of the question of whose account pays for which bills, for example. But other people like to keep things separate, either because that's just how they like to run things or because their spouse doesn't have the same money spending or saving habits they do.

There are similar issues for credit cards.

A joint account can be a good idea, as either of you can use it and most purchases will probably be for both of you, but it can also have some bad points.

The Good Point

For the one with the lesser credit score, getting a card together is a chance to get better credit. The card will still need to be paid properly. But if you can both keep from making mistakes you can bring the lower score up over time.

The Bad Points

The flip side of someone with a good credit score getting credit with someone who has a lesser credit score is that if they continue to make mistakes your credit score can go down too. Any combined accounts will impact both of your scores.

This also means that if one of you starts having trouble with money or starts abusing credit, it's going to impact both scores. While most people trust their spouse, things happen. It's not always about being unreliable. Sometimes it's just a bit of bad luck.

Many couples will be able to rely upon each other's credit with no problems whatsoever. Whether or not you combine or get new joint accounts, the most important thing is to keep each person's credit score in good shape.

Why?

Let's assume you come to a time where you can buy a home. Odds are both of your names will be going on that mortgage. You're buying a home together, after all. If one of you has a poor credit score you will both be stuck with a higher interest rate on your mortgage.

Remember that the only way your credit scores interact with each other is on your joint accounts. If you have trouble keeping up with a joint account, it will impact both scores. But if you keep all your credit accounts separate, problems for one will not mean problems for the other. The credit bureaus do not care if you're married. Their only interest is how you treat your credit.
About the Author
Stephanie Foster blogs at http://credit-blog.findcreditonline.com/ about using credit wisely. Consider some of the 0% APR credit cards available at her site if you're looking for a new credit card.
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