Does Getting Married Affect Your Credit Score?
Updated: November 19, 2023 Author: Paul Gillooly
Quick Answer: Getting married will not affect your credit score. If you have joint accounts with your partner, this can and will likely affect your credit score.
While we usually don’t base a decision of whether to get married on things like credit scores, it’s natural to want to understand the finer points. To make sure you have all the information and background details you’ll ever need in one place, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide that will cover all things related to marriage and credit scores.
What changes when you get married?
Other than making a lifetime commitment to the one you love, your financial and tax situation can change markedly. There are a range of tax benefits and inheritance benefits that come from being married that are in place for largely historical reasons. There is also the issue of combining your assets and finances, having and raising children together and creating a joint pension pot.
For now we’ll put all of these to one side and focus solely on what happens to your credit score when you get married. To make sure we get off to the clearest possible start, we first need to define what a credit score is.
What is a credit score and why does it matter?
A credit score is a measure of how risky it is for a lender to lend you money. The lower your score the more likely you’re deemed to default on a payment, which will then typically result in you paying more interest.
Credit scores take into account many of the basics of personal finance to create an at-a-glance overview of your creditworthiness. Key components of your credit score include:
- Whether or not you have any outstanding debt because you owe money on loans or personal credit cards.
- If you’re currently paying maintenance for children or if you have other forms of financial dependents who utilise a portion of your income.
- How much, if any, bad credit you have built up in the past and what steps you have taken to clearing what you owe.
- The percentage of your credit limit you have left and how much you have historically been able to pay off each month.
This is all done so that lenders can judge how much interest to charge you so they can often the risk of lending to you. With this in mind, it makes sense to ask whether getting married will affect your credit score because your finances and living arrangements will become deeply intertwined with your partner.
Will getting married change my credit score?
No, getting married to your partner will have no impact on your credit score. Because marriage is not something that the credit bureaus and ratings agencies who compile your score are aware of, it will have no affect on how they rate you. The reasons for this go further than simple administration issues and bureaucracy between the party who married you and the ratings agencies.
Our legal system is set up to incentivise marriage in a variety of ways — tax breaks being one of them — so it’s not surprising that you cannot be penalised for marrying someone with a lower credit score. The law takes the view that what happened before the two of you got married is very much an individual matter for each of you. After all, would it be fair if your partner had built up bad credit before you met, only for your ability to borrow money to be impacted many years later purely because of who you fell in love with?
There are however choices you can make once married that will certainly impact your credit score, so it’s important we go further and look at the fine details.
Do married couples have separate credit scores?
Whether you’re married or not, your credit score is your credit score. It’s personal to you and covers only the financial choices you have made over the course of your life. Whether or not your partner has a lower credit score, or a much higher one, your own individual score will not change by one single point from the moment you tie the knot.
The same goes for any debt the two of you may have built up prior to your wedding day. Imagine for a minute that your partner took out a loan and couldn’t afford to pay it back, and that they did this before you met. It would be unfair if you became liable for repaying this debt the day you got married. The debt remains their own personal debt and only they are responsible for making sure it is repaid in full in a timely fashion.
This school of thought also applies to personal debt built up while you were together but before the day you got married. While the two of you will have an anniversary you celebrate every year as the day you first got together, it’s not recognised by UK law. As a result, any personal debt built up by one of you before you were legally married is not transferred to you as a married couple — it remains the personal debt of the person who initially built it up.
While this may sound a little abstract at this point, it matters for reasons beyond your credit score. Because you won’t be liable for any personal debt your partner has fallen into before you were married, your assets are automatically protected from lenders looking to reclaim what they’re rightfully owed.
Now that you know where you stand in terms of your personal credit score and any outstanding debts, it’s time to look to the future. With many couples wanting to start families as they build a life together, there are likely to be extra expenses that warrant borrowing money. As a couple in life, you want to be able to do it together.
Can a married couple borrow money together?
Yes, you can borrow money together and lenders are quite fair in how they balance the personal credit scores of you and your partner.
The process works like this:
- You each have a personal credit score that your lender will consider — you will not be given any form of credit score that covers the fact you’re a married couple.
- A lender will typically use the big three credit bureaus and ask them to rate your credit worthiness. They will do this for both of you.
- While the numbers will be largely similar, different agencies and bureaus may assess key parts of your overall financial picture based on subtly different criteria.
- To minimise risk while maximising the loan options they can give you, your lender will typically take the middle score out of the three for each of you. They will then factor any large differences between these middle scores for each person in the couple and come to a final judgement.
The idea here is to be as fair as possible by judging you as two individuals who are working together, rather than as a single entity. While you might feel worried or concerned about this if one of you has bad credit, understanding how the system works will allow you to make an informed decision you’re both comfortable with.
Can you help a partner with a low credit score?
Just because a personal credit score doesn’t change the day you’re married doesn’t mean that you can’t take proactive steps to help your partner with their score. You might want to do this so it’s easier to borrow larger amounts of money against both of your salaries, as well as to reduce the amount of interest you will have to pay back on a joint loan.
As with all things surrounding credit and personal finances, the key is to understand the big picture before taking clear action in a timely fashion. Here are some proven ways you can help your partner with their low credit score:
- Encourage them to register to vote — being easily traceable to a permanent UK address will show lenders you are relatively easy to track down.
- Help them set up direct debits for any bills or regular payments that are in their name. Direct debits will also automatically change in line with the amount they owe each month, making sure small discrepancies which can have a significant impact on credit scores never arise.
- Work through their finances with them and put a plan in place for contacting lenders, credit card companies and other debtors. This may be stressful for the two of you, but taking action early and putting repayment plans in place is always the best approach.
- You can also apply for a shared credit card where you each have a plastic card in your wallet that gives you access to the same joint source of credit. You may find that the card you can get, and the terms you’ll be offered by the lender, are not as good as on your own personal card, but that can change in time.
Interestingly, there are actually two different ways you go about that last point. To make sure you understand your options, we need to look at them in a little more detail.
What’s the difference between having joint cards and having an authorised user?
A joint card is a simple concept where you’re both treated as equals with a clone of the card in your wallets. You have simultaneous access to the same line of credit and are jointly responsible for making sure you meet the repayments.
The other option you may want to consider is having whichever one of you has the lower credit score becoming named as an authorised user on the other’s card. This gives the authorised user all the same primary benefits as the primary card holder — they can spend and withdraw money — but their credit score isn’t a factor because they’re not responsible for making repayments.
Which option you choose is a matter for discussion between the two of you, so keep this guide open so you can quickly refresh your memory of the key points.
What should you do if the two of you get stuck on an unsuitable credit card?
A joint card credit card has the potential to impact the credit score of both of you because you are each liable for repaying the amount that has been spent. One of the issues that can happen is poor communication and stress resulting in money worries that compound. If you both feel like it is the responsibility of your partner to cover the repayments, you can quickly run into issues.
To make sure you can navigate any issues and avoid becoming stuck on an unsuitable credit card, we’d highly recommend doing each of the following:
- Communicate regularly: Making sure you’re both aware of any big purchases or upcoming sources of expenditure is the best way to make sure you don’t exceed your agreed credit limit.
- Take relevant precautions: Ensuring you each take an active role in protecting log-in details, PINs and replacing lost or damaged cards will help safeguard your identity and protect your source of credit.
- Ask for help early: Reaching out and communicating with your lender will ensure you can access any and all help that is available to you at the earliest opportunity. In many cases a gentler repayment plan can be agreed that will give you time to get things in order.
Getting married will not affect your credit score because the law states that any personal debt you have built up prior to getting married is still the sole concern of the individual.
You can help improve your partner’s credit score gradually by taking out a joint card together. Alternatively, you can name them as an authorised user on your existing personal card. You can also take a number of steps together that will help them work through the issues causing their low credit score.
To make sure you understand all your options, our experts are always on hand to help you find more suitable credit cards, car financing solutions and loans. By reaching out without delay, you can make an informed decision that will make sound financial sense for the two of you.