If your partner brings poor credit to the relationship, it can be an issue you should probably fix together.
A spouseâ€™s poor credit score wonâ€™t hurt yours, and credit reports for both people donâ€™t merge when they get married, but continued poor credit habits by a partner can affect each personâ€™s credit score if they have joint accounts together, such as a shared credit card.
Here are some ways to help your partner improve their credit score without jeopardizing yours:
Check Credit Reports
You first need to know how big the problem is before you can fix it. Start by helping your partner pull their credit report, check for errors and report them so they can be fixed.
Youâ€™re entitled to a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three credit reporting companies. Free reports can be ordered at annualcreditreport.com or you can call 1-877-322-8228. Your name, address, Social Security number and date of birth will be needed to verify your identity.
Paying off student loans, credit cards and other forms of debt can improve a credit score, especially if your partner has made late payments in the past. Paying bills on time is one of the best ways to improve a credit score.
Create a family budget and look for ways that both of you can cut expenses. Reducing debt and not taking on more can give your financial lives some breathing room and will ultimately make it easier to buy a home or meet other financial goals together.
Get a Secured Credit Card
For someone with middling credit, a secured credit card can help them improve their credit score without going into debt.
Secured credit cards only allow the user to spend as much money as they deposit in the account. The cardholder puts down a deposit thatâ€™s usually as big as the credit limit. If they default on payments, the bank keeps their deposit.
Like a regular credit card, payment activity on secured credit cards is reported to the credit bureaus. A consistent payment history will steadily improve a credit score.
There are a few ways to add your spouse to your credit card without hurting your credit score.
One is to apply for a credit card together. The card issuer will review both of your credit histories. Each person will be required to have their own income, so donâ€™t expect a large income from one person to be enough for approval.
Another option is to add your spouse as an authorized user on a credit card you already have. Then, the accountâ€™s history will appear on your spouseâ€™s credit report, so make sure the card you have has a good credit history.
Whichever way you share credit, discuss with your partner how theyâ€™ll use the card, payment limits and payment habits so that problems donâ€™t crop up.