Knowing your spouse or partner’s credit history is as important as knowing your own. When in a relationship, your partner’s credit can become a source of stress and may affect your ability to secure a home or auto loan. Establishing regular times for couples to check and review their credit reports together is an important part of sharing finances.
Federal law gives everyone the right to request three free credit reports each year. You can request the reports from AnnualCreditReport.com—one each from the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. There are three options for order your free credit report: through the mail, toll free by phone, or at the official website AnnualCreditReport.com. While you can order all three reports at the same time anytime during the year, ordering one free report every four months provides the benefit of assuring that the information is up-to-date and accurate year round.
When you and your partner order and share your individual credit reports, you might have both shared lines of credit and individual credit accounts in your reports. It’s a common myth that credit reports automatically merge when a couple gets married. Instead, each individual’s credit history continues to appear separately in their credit reports. If one person had a car loan and student loans before they got married, for example, these loans will only show up in that that person’s credit report and not in their new spouse’s credit report.
The only time a credit account shows up in both individual’s reports is when the couple, whether married or not, applies for credit together. Wisconsin is also a community property state, which makes the combining of finances a bit more complicated. In Wisconsin, if a married person opens up a credit card in just their name, that credit card will not appear on their spouse’s credit report. It’s also important to note that their spouse will still be held responsible for paying off that credit card debt even though they didn’t open the credit card personally.
It’s important for couples to talk about their financial goals and how to manage their money together. Having the money conversation in a relationship may be hard, and yet if you don’t have the conversation, it could get harder. Planning regular meetings to talk about money can ease some of the stress around joint money decisions and managing credit as a couple.