Busted! 4 Common Credit Myths: Couples Edition

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Busted! 4 Common Credit Myths: Couples Edition


The happiest day of your life has come and gone. Both of you have said "I do" and now you're excited to begin the rest of your lives together. But then come the questions you knew you'd have to address sooner or later: "Are we sharing our accounts? How are we going to buy a house? How does this all even work?"

With so much information out there, we've set out to bust four credit myths that couples often mistakenly believe.

Myth #1: My credit report and score will be combined with my partner's.

The three major credit bureaus -- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion-- provide credit reports for individuals. After getting married, you may change your name or get joint accounts with your partner, but these changes to your credit report won't result in the creation of joint reports. Likewise, you won't share a credit score with your significant other -- it's yours and yours alone.

Myth #2: Our credit cards and loans are now joint accounts.

Any accounts you have before your marriage are still your responsibility. Just like credit reports, your individual accounts don't automatically become joint accounts as a result of your marriage. Nonetheless, you may choose to add your partner as a joint account holder to your credit cards or a co-signer to your loans.

A joint account holder or co-signer generally has the same responsibilities and access to your line of credit as you. He or she is typically able to make purchases or cash advances, transfer balances, redeem any rewards or perks and access your credit card or loan.

A joint account or co-signed loan may also be listed on each person's credit report, which could affect both of your credit scores.

Myth #3: Adding my partner to my accounts can only help his or her credit -- never hurt it.

Banks typically treat joint account holders as full account holders with equal responsibilities, so it's important for you and your partner to use that line of credit responsibly. Joint accounts are often listed on both credit reports, so both of you need to try your best not to miss payments or have the account sent to collections, as these situations could cause both of your credit scores to drop.

Being a joint account holder is different from signing your spouse on as an authorized user. In both cases your spouse can use the account but authorized users usually aren't responsible for the debt.

However, the account may be listed on the authorized user's credit report, which may affect his or her credit score depending on the scoring model. VantageScore 3.0, for example, only includes positive information from authorized user accounts.

Myth #4: Your spouse or partner has to co-sign a mortgage or car loan.

You aren't required to co-sign a mortgage or a car loan with your spouse. In fact, if you have good credit and your partner has a low credit score, you may want to apply for the loan on your own, as your partner's score could prevent you from getting the best possible rates and terms.

However, note that this means the lender will take only your income into consideration when approving the loan, which may affect the size of the loan you can qualify for.

Bottom Line

While it may not be the most romantic topic in the world, talking to your partner about credit can be incredibly helpful. Regardless of whether you have an individual or joint account or are an authorized user or a co-signer, it's important to manage your credit responsibly. Your partner will thank you for it, happily ever after.

About the Author: Korrena Bailie is Credit Karma's Managing Editor. She's been writing and editing personal finance content since 2012. When she's not scanning personal finance-related Google Alerts, she's climbing, traveling to countries where it rains all the time (ahem, Ireland) or talking to her cats as if they're people.

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