Living with credit

Do you know your spouse’s credit score?

Kelly Dilworth

I’ve never asked my husband for his credit score, but I do keep tabs on his payments: Has he paid all his credit card bills on time? How much is he charging?

Occasionally, I’ll even glance at the credit card offers he receives in order to get a feel for his perceived creditworthiness. Is he being offered lower rates? How lengthy are the card offers’ promotions?

It’s not that I don’t trust him. My husband is better at handling money than anyone I know. (He also typically receives much better credit card offers than I do.)

Should you know your spouse's credit score?

But even the most financially scrupulous borrower can occasionally slip and forget a credit card payment, and our finances are so deeply intertwined that a significant dip in his credit score would hurt me, too.

Because our finances are merged, I feel as if I should have a right to know his credit history, and I think he would agree. According to a new study from J.P. Morgan Chase, however, a surprising number of Americans are hiding their credit scores from their partners.

After polling 1,000 U.S. adults, the study found that almost half of respondents — 44 percent — are uncomfortable sharing their credit scores with their love interests. Among those who are married or in a serious relationship, 37 percent don’t know their partner’s score.

That surprised me. Do the respondents not know their partner’s credit score because, like me, they already have a general idea of how their partner’s credit is doing? Or are they avoiding the topic of credit entirely and keeping their scores secret? It’s not clear from Chase’s study.

The poll did find that older people are more likely to keep their partners in the dark about their credit scores, particularly compared to those in their 20s and early 30s.

For example, 41 percent of married baby boomers don’t know their spouse’s credit score. Just 26 percent of millennials, by contrast, say the same. The so-called slacker generation fell somewhere in the middle: 39 percent of married generation Xers say they don’t know their partner’s credit score.

The study’s findings jibe with previous research that’s found that millennials tend to be more open about their personal and financial information than their parents’ generation. According to a March 2014 study by the market research firm Mintel Comperemedia, millennials are significantly more likely to divulge their credit score than their baby boomer counterparts. They’re also more comfortable sharing personal details, such as cellphone numbers and social media handles.

As a millennial myself, I tend to be more privacy-conscious than others and try to keep at least some of my personal details under wraps. But I don’t mind sharing my financial details with my spouse because it seems as if my credit score matters as much to him as it does to me. If I’m charged a higher APR, he’ll also have to pay.

If we kept our finances separate, I’d care less about his credit history. But as long as our financial lives are merged — and we continue to borrow jointly — I want to know how he’s doing. If his money habits are going to affect my rates and the amount of cash I have on hand, then checking out his credit feels just as important to me as monitoring my own.

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