3 Ways You Can Help a Spouse Build Better Credit

by Maurie Backman | Updated July 21, 2021 - First published on Jan. 28, 2021

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Have a spouse whose credit needs work? Here's your game plan.

There are certain qualities you probably know to look for in a life partner -- respectfulness, a sense of humor, kindness, and generosity. But what about a decent credit score? While your spouse's poor credit may not have been such an issue while you were dating or engaged, now that you're a family, it could impact you in more ways than one. For example, if you and your spouse want to buy a home together, you may not qualify for a mortgage if your spouse's credit is really poor (even if your score is outstanding).

The good news, however, is that there are things you can do to help your spouse's credit improve. Here are a few to start with.

1. Add your spouse as an authorized user on one of your credit cards

Many factors go into calculating a credit score, but payment history carries the most weight. Payment history speaks to how well you pay bills on time. If you add your spouse as an authorized user on a credit card and pay your balance on time, that positive activity will count toward your spouse's credit. And that will help his or her score rise. If you can add your spouse to a credit card you've had open for a long time, even better. That's because length of credit history also plays a role in determining credit scores, and long-standing accounts can help a score go up.

2. Get on a strict household budget

Your spouse is apt to have an easier time managing incoming expenses and paying bills on time if you're collectively able to keep your spending in check. That's why it pays to get on a budget. Comb through your bank and credit card statements, see what your bills look like, and make sure you're not overspending given your income. You may find that cutting back in a few areas will make managing your money easier, both individually and jointly.

Plus, If your spouse's poor credit is partly due to a large amount of credit card debt, following a budget could make it easier to save money each month to chip away at that balance. And the less credit card debt your spouse carries, the higher his or her score is apt to be.

3. Have your spouse open a secured credit card

A secured credit card isn't the same as a regular credit card. With a secured card, you put down a deposit that becomes your spending limit. For example, if you deposit $500, that's how much you can spend. However, if you charge expenses on a secured credit card and pay your bills on time, that will count as positive activity for credit score purposes. If your spouse's credit is poor, you can help by loaning your partner some money to put down as a secured card deposit. Then, have your spouse put a small recurring expense on that card (for example, your $15 monthly streaming service) and pay the bill on time and in full every month.

You may not have married your partner for his or her credit score, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't work together to improve it. Better credit will give you and your spouse more borrowing opportunities, so do your part to help your partner increase that number as much as possible.

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