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Couples and credit scores: How your partner’s credit can affect yours

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Should I get a joint credit card with my partner?

While your partner’s credit score won’t directly impact your credit score, joint accounts or adding the other as a co-applicant will. The one exception is adding your partner as an authorized user to your credit cards and banking accounts. 

When added as an authorized user, your partner is able to use the credit card but cannot make any changes to the account. Their credit will also not be impacted in any way. However, when a partner is added as a co-applicant, they have to go through the required credit checks and both partners’ credit is impacted based on usage of the account.

Joint accounts can be beneficial when both partners are on the same page with money. For example, a joint account can give you access to a larger borrowing limit. It also can simplify your finances and foster feelings of partnership. However, depending on your partner’s money habits, sharing a joint credit card could be a real risk to your money and your credit score.

If either of you miss a payment on a joint account or run up a large balance, each of your credit scores can take a hit. On the other hand, if you and your partner always make your payments on time, both of you will see improvement in your credit scores as the joint account will show up on both of your credit reports. 

Getting extra credit through a joint credit card might seem like a good idea, be sure to assess each of your financial situations before doing so as gaining new credit can influence financial behaviours. Be critical about how having more or less credit affects your ability to live within your means and pay off your debt in full each month. If you or your partner have any debt, the focus should be on paying it down. Only consider a new, joint credit card if you have paid off your individual debts first.

How to maintain healthy credit history (and prevent debt) as a couple

Before combining finances in any way, such as joint credit cards or loans, it is imperative that you and your partner are in agreement and have the same expectations. To maintain healthy credit and prevent debt, consider the following five things: 

  1. Make sure your partner is someone you can trust to properly budget by having open and transparent conversations about money. 
  2. Set boundaries on how the joint account or loan will be used, as well as spending limits. Some couples ensure they both agree on a purchase beforehand, whereas others may check in at the end of the month to ensure all spends are accounted for—it’s good for catching credit card fraud, too, since you never assume it was the other person.
  3. Agree on who will make payments to ensure they’re made on time.
  4. Decide the amount you each will contribute to shared expenses. Will it be 50/50 or a percentage based on your incomes?
  5. Discuss what happens if one of you can’t make a payment due to income loss or illness. What’s your backup plan?

Money isn’t worth fighting about—but it’s worth talking about

Discussions about finances aren’t always easy. They might cause stress, tension and arguments with your partner. But, the more you practice communicating with honesty and intention, it does become easier. 

None of this is to say your partner having a sub-par credit score should be a deal breaker. In fact, it’s fairly simple to start rebuilding credit. As professionally certified credit counsellors with Credit Canada, we often help couples understand their credit and address debt. If you need additional support, contact us today to book a free credit-building counselling session.



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