Our credit is mostly in my name. How can I help my wife’s credit score?

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Q. I have a question about credit when retired. My spouse applied for a gas credit card and was denied due to lack of credit. I applied and was approved. We realized that our banking and existing credit cards are in my name only with my spouse as an authorized user and/or joint owner on brokerage and savings. We are concerned about what would happen should I pass away. Shouldn’t credit companies look at dual income and dual credit accounts when married?
— Husband

A. We’re so glad you’re asking.

Each person’s credit belongs to them individually.

You have a credit score, and your spouse would as well if they have ever had credit in the past such as a credit card, car loan or joint mortgage payment, said Jody D’Agostini, a certified financial planner with Equitable Advisors/The Falcon Financial Group in Morristown.

This is a protection for you in the event that you married someone that had a low credit score, she said.

As an authorized user on your credit card, your spouse should be building credit.

“You would have to use the card and pay it off in a timely fashion and try to keep the debt-to-income level low,” D’Agostini said. “If you have a great history of paying on time and keeping a low debt to income balance, this should help.”

If you haven’t been using the card, you likely aren’t building any credit for her, she said.

Also, be sure that the credit card lender reports her as an authorized user on your card, she said.

Another option is for your wife to apply for a secured credit card.

“This would be a credit card that is backed by a cash deposit for at least the amount of the credit limit,” she said. “Again, she should use the card and make on-time payments to establish better credit.”

Another tip? D’Agostini said store credit cards are often easier to secure. If your wife frequents some store, have her apply for credit there. Again, she should use the card and pay back by the due date, she said.

“You could also consider taking out some type of short-term credit jointly. Perhaps you could open a home equity line of credit against your home and withdraw a small amount and pay it back over a short period of time,” she said.

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This story was originally published on July 29, 2022.

NJMoneyHelp.com presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.