Dating Someone with Bad Credit? Here’s How to Protect Your Score

These tips can help ensure their bad credit doesn't indirectly affect yours.

Building a strong credit score can take years of paying your bills on time, spending wisely and avoiding too much debt. If you’ve spent a lot of time and effort building a great credit score, you may be very protective of your credit.

But if you’re in a relationship with someone who has poor credit and you’re at a point that you’re moving in together or otherwise sharing expenses, your credit score could be in jeopardy. Not because your Valentine’s bad credit will directly impact yours: Credit reports don’t get merged, even after you’re married. But a person’s poor money habits can have an indirect effect of your financial standing and any joint accounts you decide to sign up for will appear on your credit file.

In other words, if your beloved has bad credit, you’ll want to take steps to avoid damaging your own. Here’s how you can safeguard your credit score from your partner’s bad credit.

1. Consider Keeping Your Funds Separate …

There are a number of reasons your partner could have poor credit, including unexpected financial hardship or identity theft.

“Someone with a low credit score could still be responsible with money and pay all the bills on time, but may just have some unexpected medical debt,” says Matt Gulbransen, owner of Callahan Financial Planning Corporation. But your partner could also have poor money-management skills. And, if that’s the reason for their credit score woes, you may want to keep your bank accounts separate for awhile. You can still split expenses while restricting access to your personal bank account.

2. … the Same Goes for Other Accounts

You can apply the same strategy to other accounts, including credit cards, loans and any accounts with monthly payments. Missed payments on shared accounts will inflict mutual damage to both of your credit scores. Your partner’s poor credit could be due to a history of late payments or accounts in collections, so think twice before sharing. (And, if you do decide to share, keep a close eye on those accounts.)

“I suggest you don’t join credit cards until you build the credit of the other party,” says Gulbransen.

It’s also risky to co-sign a loan, which can have the same impact on your credit as sharing a joint account.

3. Avoid Applying for Credit Together

If you want to apply for a credit card or loan, you may be better off doing so independently. If you apply together, your partner’s poor credit could result in higher interest rates, poor loan terms or even an outright rejection. You should use your own good credit to negotiate the best terms.

“Banks remain wary of making loans to borrowers with tarnished scores,” says Gulbransen. “And low scores can deny one access to a mortgage.”

Even adding your partner as an authorized user on your credit cards can be risky if your partner runs up your credit card balances. That’s because the amount of debt you owe can directly impact your credit scores. (Plus, the primary accountholder is the one responsible for actually paying the bills.)

4. Work on a Credit Improvement Plan

Poor credit doesn’t have to doom a relationship. It can be challenging, but you can help your partner by understanding their situation and working together to create a credit improvement plan.

If you’re both committed to the relationship, you may want to merge finances and share financial decisions in the future. The best way forward is to openly discuss what led to your partner’s poor credit, and come up with a plan to improve it together.

The details of the plan will depend on the factors contributing to your partner’s poor credit score. Improving their credit score for your partner could require monitoring his or her credit report, building a solid history of timely payments and paying down debt. There are also a number of tools, such as secured credit cards that are ideal for people who have struggled with managing their credit. And, if your beloved discovers their credit is being affected by a boatload of errors, credit repair could be an option.

Bottomline: By working to improve your partner’s credit, you can both move toward a greater financial future together.

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How I Dated on a Dime After My Divorce

dating-after-divorce

Welcome to the club, freshly single man, you are now officially divorced. We don’t hold any secret initiation rituals. Why? Because we can’t afford it!

Divorce isn’t cheap and, at this point, a big chunk of your salary has likely has gone to pay for an attorney while what’s left over is for essentials like rent, electricity and your favorite streaming service.

That leaves very little for a whale of a time living on peanut butter crackers and crashing poker games to pick up stray chips on the floor. Yet as much as you can’t fathom the thought of dating again, eventually you will realize that is futile and it’s time to hit the scene.

Take notes, fellow club member, you have to get real creative at times, juggling reading by candlelight and showing a potential lady friend a good time.

There are many books and articles on dating after divorce. Read them if you must, but you can throw a lot of that advice out the window. It’s not 1975, and unless you’re Adonis or have the confidence of Leonardo DiCaprio, meeting potential suitors at the grocery store or gas station is rarer and rarer these days. Hitting the club sounds good in theory, but paying $15 for a round of drinks is going to suck your dating money dry quickly.

An online dating subscription may be the more affordable way to go. Online dating isn’t exactly cheap either, but take my advice and it can be worth it. It’s a new thing for you, and you can go at your own pace until you finally get the confidence to actually ask someone out.

My Dating Experiences

My first date after my divorce was a combination of excitement, nerves and thoughts like, “How in the world can I afford this and still text her the next day when they shut off my phone?” I’m old school and believe chivalry isn’t dead, so in my world, as long as we aren’t eating truffle oil–infused brownies for dessert and putting away bottles of Hennessy like water, I’m paying and it’s not even up for debate. Of course, sushi dinners and a few drinks will get expensive, and are not something you can afford all the time.

Luckily, I knew how to operate a stovetop for more than scrambled eggs, and you, new club member, should figure that out as well.

I would always suggest a first date be somewhere in public, so there is no getting around a hit in the wallet then. But if there is some chemistry, you can have a much cheaper second or third date with dinner and a movie at home. Pick up the dirty clothes and stuff them under the bed, get the weeks’ worth of dishes out of the sink and tidy up your place. Make a nice dinner, go for a walk at a nearby park and then watch a movie. It’s much cheaper than a night out, and there is a good chance your date hasn’t had a home-cooked meal in eons.

Be wary of wooing with fancy dinners all the time, though. Instead, hook potential SOs on the first date by being yourself, and then let your character do the rest. Research free and low-budget activities in your part of the world. I can’t stress enough, you learn more about a person walking in a park or treating a department store as an air-conditioned exercise track than by listening to loud music and sweating how much you have in your checking account.

You’re part of the Divorced Club now, and while you may not have chosen entry, mentally you will embrace it — and then wear it like a boss. Dating doesn’t have to be expensive if you don’t want it to be. Bone up on your kitchen skills and realize that popcorn and a HDTV are much cheaper at home than a movie theater.

[Editor’s Note: As your finances recover from your divorce, you can keep track of your goals, like building a good credit score, each month on Credit.com.]

This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.

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