What Happens to Your Credit Score When You Get Married?

Written by Steven PorrelloOctober 17th, 20223 minute read

Marriage and credit scores | Marriage and mortgage applications | Couples can improve their credit scores together | Summary | FAQs

Lenders evaluate you and your spouse's credit reports and scores separately. While marriage alone doesn’t affect your credit score, it can influence your ability to get a home loan. One spouse’s low score or previous foreclosure could pull down the other’s creditworthiness.

When you apply for a mortgage, lenders will do a hard inquiry on both your credit history and your spouse’s. If one score is significantly lower than the other, lenders may set higher fees or interest rates.

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⚭ Marriage and credit scores: What you need to know

  • When you first get married, you and your spouse’s credit scores themselves are not directly impacted — but you'll share responsibility for any credit accounts opened jointly.
  • Your credit score is attached to your Social Security number and reflects your personal credit history.
  • Even if your name changes, your credit report and score will remain unchanged.

How marriage affects home loan applications

When a married couple submits a mortgage application, the lender evaluates each applicant's credit reports, using the lowest median credit score between them to determine eligibility.

Example

Let's say you and your spouse are applying for an FHA loan, which requires a credit score of 580. Here’s how a lender might evaluate your credit scores.


Your credit score
Your spouse's credit score
Equifax
580
757
Experian
586
755
TransUnion
593
765
Median score
586
757

The lowest median score (yours) is the determining number. In this case, you and your spouse will be eligible for an FHA loan, but you may not get the most favorable loan terms — even if your spouse has a higher median score.

» LEARN: What Credit Score Do You Need to Buy a House?

Can you apply for a home loan under one name?

Yes, you can leave your or your spouse's name off the mortgage application. Your lender will then look at the history of the person with the strongest credit background. If one of you has a low credit score, this could help you both qualify for a home loan.

Before applying for a loan under one name, you should know that:

  • Only the applicant’s income will be considered. This could lead you to qualify for a smaller loan amount, even if you’re in a two-income household.
  • Lenders might still look at shared debts. If you live in a community property state, FHA and VA lenders will look at the debts you’ve taken out with your spouse, even if their name isn’t on the mortgage. This could greatly increase your debt-to-income ratio, which could disqualify you altogether.

🤝 Community property states: AZ, CA, ID, LA, NV, NM, TX, WA, WI
In a community property state, all debts taken out during marriage are the responsibility of both partners, regardless of whose name is on the account.

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How married couples can build their credit scores

To help you or spouse build credit, you can become an authorized user on a credit card, build credit slowly with a secured card, or co-sign a personal loan.

Add an authorized user on a credit card with a good credit history. So if the account has a long history of making payments on time, it can give you or your spouse’s credit score a major boost.

An authorized user can use a credit account but isn’t responsible for paying the bill. Authorized users inherit the full history of a credit account.

Build your score with a secured credit card. Secured credit cards are backed by an initial deposit, which makes them available for those with bad credit. As long as you or your spouse make payments on-time, and have a low credit utilization, secured credit cards could help you build back your credit score.

» MORE: How to Fix My Credit Score to Buy a House: 5 Steps

Cosign a small personal loan. Having a personal loan can diversify your credit mix, which makes up 10% of your credit score. As long as you make payments on time, you and your spouse’s credit scores will improve over time.

Summary

  • Marriage alone doesn’t impact your credit score directly. But it can impact your ability to get a home loan.
  • Lenders will look at the credit scores of both spouses and use the lowest median credit score to determine eligibility for a loan.
  • If your spouse has a bad credit score, you can leave their name off the mortgage application. Their income won’t be considered, however, and you may have a higher debt-to-income ratio because of it.

FAQs

No, not directly, but their bad credit profile can still hurt your ability to get a mortgage.

Just getting married won't lower your credit score, even if your spouse has a poor score. But if you have a joint credit account and one spouse makes a late payment, it can hurt both your credit scores.