First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes many discussions about how you should manage your finances as a couple. Getting married is a big life milestone and a great chance to take stock of your financial situation — that includes your credit cards.
Below, CNBC Select answers some common questions about what happens to your credit when you get married.
Will my credit report be merged with my spouse?
No, your credit report isn’t merged with your spouse after marriage.
“The credit bureaus don’t have a so-called ‘married credit report’ or anything like that,” John Ulzheimer, formerly of FICO and Equifax, tells CNBC Select. Your credit report is unique to you and will remain that way.
Will I lose my credit history if I change my last name?
No, changing your last name doesn’t erase your credit history.
“When someone changes their last name, it is automatically added to their credit report after they notify their creditors of the new name. When the creditor updates their records, they report the new name to [the credit bureaus],” according to Experian’s website. “Applying for new credit using the new last name will also result in the name being added to the report.”
After you officially change your name, inform your current creditors and make sure you use the new last name on future credit applications. Expect to still see your old last name on your credit report (in addition to your new last name), which is normal.
Will my spouse’s bad credit affect me?
It depends. It’s not likely your spouse’s bad credit score will have direct negative effects on your credit score (except in extreme circumstances, like if they rack up debt on your credit cards).
“Because credit reports are stored and maintained at the individual consumer level, your spouse’s bad credit does not have influence over your credit reports and credit scores,” Ulzheimer says.
But their score can affect your approval odds when you fill out joint applications for credit, such as a mortgage. Lenders review all applicants’ credit scores when they make their decision.
“If you have good credit and your spouse has poor credit and you apply jointly, that can certainly have an impact on the application. The lender is going to consider your spouse’s poor credit which means your [interest] rates could be higher,” Ulzheimer explains.
“The vice versa is true as well. If you have poor credit but your spouse has good credit, and you apply jointly, the result could be better terms than you would receive on your own.”
Once you open a joint credit card (or any other shared financial product, such as a car loan), the positive and negative actions you and your spouse take will be reflected on both of your reports. As a good rule of thumb, have open conversations about how you’re both managing your money, so you can avoid negative consequences.
Will I automatically be added to my spouse’s accounts?
No, getting married doesn’t automatically add you to their financial accounts.
If you want to become an authorized user on their credit card(s), you’ll need to initiate the process.
Be aware that some credit cards charge a fee for authorized users. The Platinum Card® from American Express charges $175 annually for up to three additional Platinum Cards, $175 for each additional Platinum Card after the first three and $0 for additional American Express® Gold Cards. (See rates and fees.)
Do I have to apply for new credit with my spouse?
No, after you’re married there is no need to apply for credit with your spouse unless you want to.
Ulzheimer advocates for keeping your credit as independent as possible, even after you’re married. While you may be in a honeymoon phase after marriage, he points out that some percentage of marriages fail, and it can be hard to separate finances during a divorce.
“You don’t need two applicants to qualify for a credit card. And if you need two incomes to qualify for an auto loan then I’d suggest you’re buying too much car,” Ulzheimer says.
Situations where it can make sense to submit a joint application include those that need two incomes to qualify, such as a mortgage.
Information about the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card and Bank of America® Cash Rewards has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the cards prior to publication.
Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the CNBC Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.