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If you're newly married (or soon to be wed) and considering taking your spouse's name, you may wonder how changing your name will affect your credit score. If your credit score is much higher than your spouse's, you may be worried that their bad credit will hurt your score.
Relax: Changing your last name will not have any effect on your credit report. The accounts you had as a single person won't be added to your spouse's credit history, nor will theirs be added to yours. Your credit score will be affected only if you open joint credit accounts with your spouse.
Does Getting Married Affect Credit?
The act of getting married has no effect on your credit. Even after marriage, your credit report remains separate from your spouse's—they don't get merged into one "couple's" credit report. Your credit report is based on your individual financial behavior; it includes any accounts that are in your name only, as well as any you cosigned.
Your spouse's financial habits will affect your credit, however, if you open credit accounts or take out loans together. For example, if you take out a car loan or mortgage in both of your names, or get joint credit cards, those loans and credit cards will be included in each of your credit reports. As long as you both manage them responsibly, joint accounts can help the spouse with poorer credit increase their credit score.
Will My Credit Score Change After Changing My Name?
Does a new name mean you get a new credit score? Unfortunately for anyone who's hoping for a do-over, changing your name doesn't reset a poor credit score or wipe out your existing credit report to let you start anew. Your new name simply gets added to your existing credit report.
Whether you're married or single, and no matter what your name is, the key factors that affect your credit score are:
- Payment history: Making on-time payments accounts for 35% of your FICO® Score* , the credit score most commonly used by lenders.
- Credit utilization: Your credit utilization ratio measures how much of your available revolving credit you are using compared to the total amount you have available. In the FICO model, it accounts for 30% of your credit score.
- Length of your credit history: How long you have had credit makes up 15% of your FICO® Score; typically, a longer history means a better score.
- Credit mix: Having a diverse mix of installment credit (such as car loans and mortgages) and revolving credit (such as credit cards and lines of credit) can improve your credit score. Credit mix accounts for 10% of your FICO® Score.
- New credit: The number of recently opened credit accounts and the number of hard inquiries lenders have made on your credit score accounts for 10% of your FICO® Score. Too many new accounts or hard inquiries can hurt your score.
Do I Need to Report My New Name to the Credit Bureaus?
There's no need to contact the major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) to tell them your new name. Instead, start by changing your name with the Social Security Administration. Next, change the name on your driver's license or other government ID, as well as your passport, if you have one.
Once these official changes are made, make sure every credit card company, bank and lender where you have an account knows your new name. After the Social Security Administration and your creditors are made aware of your name change, your credit reports will automatically update to reflect your new name. Because each creditor has its own schedule for how frequently it reports to the credit bureaus, it may take a few months for all the accounts on your credit report to update.
Credit by Any Other Name
A few months after your name change, once all the dust has settled, it's a good idea to review your credit report to make sure your new name has been added to all of your accounts. If for some reason it hasn't, check with your creditors to make sure they're reporting your new name. (Keep in mind that your old name will remain on the credit report as a former name.) If you open any joint credit accounts after getting married, checking your credit score regularly can keep you up to date on how the new accounts are affecting your credit either positively or negatively.