Myths vs. Facts: Marriage and Credit

Reading time: 4 minutes

Highlights:

  • Getting married and changing your name won't affect your credit reports, credit history or credit scores
  • One spouse's poor credit history won't impact the other spouse's credit history -- unless they jointly apply for a loan or open a joint account
  • Married couples do not have to apply for credit together

Getting married means merging your lives – and may also mean merging your finances. But there are some misconceptions about tying the knot and how it may, or may not, impact credit reports and credit scores. 

"No one said that talking about credit habits, credit card debt, budgets, retirement accounts, and savings is romantic. But it is important," said Nancy Bistritz-Balkan, vice president of consumer education at Equifax.

"If you and your partner decide to merge your finances, understanding his or her philosophy when it comes to credit, contributing to savings, setting financial goals, and creating regular budgets is not a conversation to shy away from. It is simply an important part of establishing a united approach for how you as a couple will handle these things in the future."

See how much you know about marriage and credit.

1.    Your credit reports merge with your spouse’s when you get married. 
FALSE. Your credit reports are linked to your personal information, which typically includes your Social Insurance number, so your credit reports and credit histories remain separate when you say “I do.” However, if you and your spouse open a joint account, or one of you adds the other as an authorized user on a credit card account, the history of that account will be reflected on both of your credit reports. 

2.    Changing my name won’t affect my credit reports and credit history. 
TRUE.  If you change your name after marriage, your credit reports will be updated with the new information when you update your accounts with your lenders and creditors. But your credit history and credit reports will not otherwise change. 

If you do want to contact the credit bureaus, you can fill out a request to change your name with Equifax. Visit our web site and search for a Consumer Update form. Print that form and request a name change. You’ll need to provide a photocopy of your marriage certificate as well as photocopies of two forms of identification. You can then mail the form and copies of your documents to:

Equifax Canada Co.
National Consumer Relations
Box 190
Montreal, Quebec H1S 2Z2   

Be sure to include your name, address and Social Insurance number in your letter.

You can contact TransUnion online to find out the proper procedures for updating your TransUnion credit report.

3.    Getting married impacts credit scores. 
FALSE. Credit scores aren’t impacted in any way just from tying the knot.

4.    Getting married automatically makes all your accounts joint accounts. 
FALSE. Unless you add your spouse as an authorized user on a credit card account or the two of you jointly apply for a loan or open a joint credit card account, your individual accounts will not merge. 

5.    My poor credit won’t impact my spouse’s credit reports and credit scores. 
TRUE. If one partner has had credit problems, the good news is that won’t affect the other partner’s credit reports or credit scores. 

If the two of you open a joint account, however, that information will appear on both your credit reports (if the lender reports to the nationwide credit bureaus). And if you jointly apply for financing for a large purchase, such as a home or a car, lenders and creditors usually check both spouses’ credit information.

6.    My spouse’s previous bankruptcy won’t impact my credit reports or credit scores if we keep our finances separate. 
TRUE. Your credit histories always remain separate, unless the history includes a joint account or an account where one person is an authorized user. But it might be difficult for your spouse to be approved for credit as long as the bankruptcy remains on his or her credit reports – at least 6 years, depending on the circumstances.

7.    My spouse and I are still each entitled to free copies of our credit reports. 
TRUE. You and your spouse are each entitled to free copies of your credit reports from Equifax and TransUnion. Requesting a free copy of your credit reports  has no impact on your spouse, and vice versa.  

8.    If I file a dispute over information I think is inaccurate or incomplete on my credit report regarding a joint account with my spouse, the information is automatically disputed on my spouse’s credit report. 
FALSE. Because you both have separate credit reports, filing a dispute with the nationwide credit bureaus over information on your credit reports won’t trigger a dispute on your spouse’s behalf. He or she would need to file their own dispute.

9.    This is my second marriage. Having my maiden name and both my married names on my credit reports may impact my credit scores. 
FALSE. Personal identifiable information such as your name does not impact credit scores. 

10.    Now that we’re married, we have to apply for everything together. 
FALSE. Married couples are not required to apply for credit jointly. You can still apply for individual accounts without your spouse co-signing or being otherwise involved. If one partner has higher credit scores, applying individually – not jointly – for an account may be one option.

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