You know the saying that when you marry your spouse (or commit to your partner) you also marry your spouse’s family? Yeah, so the same holds true about your spouse’s bad credit. While your spouse’s bad credit does not directly affect you or your credit, it can make it difficult when you’re applying for joint credit—like a mortgage to buy a home, for example.
It can even cause you to pay higher premium rates on things like auto insurance and can lead to denial if you’re trying to rent a home together. Your partner’s bad credit does not, however, transfer to your credit. Unfortunately, your good credit doesn’t transfer to your partner’s credit either.
If your partner does have bad credit, you don’t have to throw up your hands and scream uncle. Instead, here are some things you can do to make the situation better.
1. Joint Up
Opening some types of joint accounts, such as checking accounts, can help your partner’s credit if you have good credit. In a way, adding your spouse to a checking or savings account can help to give them a boost in their credit score—especially over time.
This is not true of all types of accounts, but it is true of something like a checking or savings account—a banking account.
2. Make Them an Authorized User
In other circumstances, you want to go it alone—meaning you don’t want to apply for joint credit when it comes to credit cards. If you apply for joint credit accounts, then your partner’s bad credit can cause you to pay higher interest rates or deal with less favorable terms.
What you can do, however, is add your partner as an authorized user on your credit card account. This gives them access to a credit card to use responsibly, which also allows them to piggyback on your good credit. Since the credit card company reports to the three credit bureaus, if you’re making your payments and making your payments on time, this is reported on their credit report too, since they are an authorized user.
3. Apply for Secured Credit
Have your partner apply for a secured credit card or secured line of credit. This is another great way for them to build their credit score and credit history.
It’s especially helpful if you have them apply for a secured credit card that allows them to upgrade to a regular credit card once their credit improves or once a certain period of time has passed where they have used the card responsibly.
Your partner can apply for and maintain this credit card account on their own, so that it directly helps their credit and you don’t have to be on the account with them as well.
4. Pay Down/Off Debt
Sometimes what drags your partner’s credit score down is a large amount of debt. Rather than go around closing a bunch of credit accounts, work on paying down and paying off this debt.