Consumer Law

Changing Names or Adding a Spouse to a Credit Card

Once the wedding's over and you're back from your honeymoon, it's time to get some affairs in order. For example, you may need to move to a new or bigger home, change telephone numbers and make sure everyone knows your new address.

You also may need to work with your credit card accounts, such as:

  • Changing your name on your credit card accounts
  • Adding your spouse's name to your credit cards, or adding your name to your spouse's cards

Doing this can save you some headaches and maybe even some money.

Changing Names

If you choose to take your spouse's name, you should change your credit card accounts to reflect your married name. If you don't, you may have trouble using it, since the name on the card may not match the name on your ID, like your driver's license.

It should be a fairly easy process. Here are some tips:

  • Call your credit card company and tell them about your name change. Follow up the call with a letter - any request to change a name has to be in writing
  • See if there's a name change form on the company's web site
  • Ask that the name on your account be changed and ask for a new card
  • Have a copy of your marriage license handy in case the company asks for it as proof of the name change and your identity

Adding Your Spouse to Credit Card Accounts

There are two ways to add a spouse to your credit card account. You can become joint card holders. This means you both are responsible for paying the bill. The second way is where one spouse is added to the other spouse's credit card as an authorized user. This means the authorized user may use the card but isn't responsible for paying the bill.

Joint Accounts: Pros and Cons

When you become joint card holders, you both become 100 percent responsible for any debt on the credit card. Adding your spouse as a co-borrower will not impact your credit score. That's because your credit score shows only your credit history. However, the new account will be included on your spouse's credit history.

Going forward of course, if you misuse your account, such as making late payments, both of your credit scores could take a negative hit.

Increasing one spouse's credit score - or establishing a credit history for a spouse who doesn't have one at all - are the main reasons for creating a joint account. If your spouse has a lower credit score than you, his or her score could go up since your positive history on the credit card account will now be a part of your spouse's credit history.

If you decide to change any of your individual credit card accounts to joint accounts, the credit card company will check your spouse's credit report. Your interest rate and credit limit may go up or down, depending on your combined credit histories.

Authorized Users: Pros and Cons

When you add your spouse to your credit account as an authorized user, you're allowing your spouse to use your credit card but not making your spouse responsible for paying the bill. One "benefit" is the convenience of increasing your spouse's spending power.

Your account information, and your spouse's status as an authorized user, will show up on your spouse's credit reports. However, your credit score or rating won't have any impact on your spouse's. This could be good or bad, depending on both of your credit scores.

In the end, if you want to protect your good credit score, making your spouse an authorized user may be the way to go. If increasing a credit score or establishing a credit history is the goal, you may want to create a joint account.

Credit History, Rating and Score Basics

Basically, a credit score is a number that banks, credit card companies and others use to figure out your credit risk: The likelihood you'll make on-time payments if you're loaned money or given a line of credit. The lower the risk, the better your chances of getting the loan or credit card.

The scores are based on information in your credit reports, such as how much credit you have, how much you owe and your payment history, just to name a few items.

Your credit history is a record of how you've maintained any accounts in your name. Your credit history is compiled and maintained by companies called credit bureaus or consumer reporting agencies. The three major bureaus are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.


Usually, when a bank or credit card company talks about your credit score, they mean the score generated for you by the Fair Isaac Corporation - your FICO score. Your score may range between 300-850. Most consumers fall within the 600 to 700 range. A perfect score is possible, but rare.

A high FICO score (over 700) means you're a low credit risk; vice versa if your score is below 600.

Creating a joint account or making a spouse an authorized user on a card can impact both of your credit scores. Consider the pros and cons carefully when making the decision.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • Can my spouse's credit score and rating affect mine even if we don't create a joint credit card account or name one another as authorized users on our individual accounts?
  • Can my credit card issuer refuse to add my spouse's name to my account?
  • My soon-to-be spouse is thinking about filing for bankruptcy. Is it better to file before or after we're married?
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