People have lots of questions about how marriage can impact your credit score. The biggest one we get may be whether marrying a spouse with bad credit can torpedo a person’s credit score. The second biggest one we get is whether it is possible for a spouse with a lower credit score to leverage their spouse’s higher credit score. The good news for both partners is that a partner’s good credit can help the partner with bad credit, while a partner’s bad credit cannot damage a person’s good credit.
In order to explain, you need to understand the concept of piggybacking. Piggybacking means adding a user to an already established account. They can be added as a user or as a joint owner; both have the same consequences in terms of immediate credit score, but a joint account holder becomes equally responsible for balances. A person with bad credit who is added to an existing account in good standing gets the benefits of that account added to their credit. Marriage does not automatically attach you to your spouse’s credit, so the spouse with good credit would not want to be added as a user or owner to accounts in poor standing held by the spouse with bad credit.
However, many people look to improve their credit right before major purchases, such as homes or vehicles. If there is a tremendous discrepancy between spousal credit scores, simply adding you as a user to accounts in good standing may not be enough to improve credit scores for big purchases in a short period of time. In those circumstances, it may be necessary for the spouse with better credit to be the sole purchaser, and that can have different legal consequences depending on the laws in your state. To protect the interests of both spouses, if a major purchase like a family home needs to be made by one partner, it may be advisable to seek legal advice to ensure both spouses are protected.