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Does your spouse have a credit report?
Old 12-28-2013, 04:25 PM   #1
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Does your spouse have a credit report?

Something that has been niggling at me for a while is the fact that DW has never had a CC based on her own record. What will happen should I die first? Will our existing CC's have to be turned in and will she then have to apply for her own, starting from scratch. Not something else she really needs to have on her plate when I die.

Shortly before Christmas I went onto Amazon, using her account which is signed up for Amazon Prime, to buy a 2014 calendar (as usual I was late buying gift(s) for her). An invitation to apply for an Amazon CC popped up and I looked into it. No annual fee, points earned can be spent on Amazon, and if she applies now she'll get a $79 credit added to her account.

So without telling her I applied, using her SSN and for income put down her half of the VG joint account dividends and capital gains this year.

The screen soon showed "approved", confirming that the credit freeze in place is only on me, not her, and said the card would arrive shortly, and would have a credit limit of $5,000.

It arrived on Christmas Eve so I stuck it in a Christmas bag and put it under the tree. When she went online to Chase to set up her account, validate the card and set up alerts, she saw that her credit limit had already been increased to $6,500. She also has a credit of ~$70 on her Amazon account. (The gift I bought her had cost $9 which had been deducted from her credit).
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Old 12-28-2013, 04:32 PM   #2
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The same question had occurred to me since DW hasn't had any earned income for over a decade. When we bought the car as part of that they gave us our credit scores. Mine was 810 and hers was 790. I haven't the foggiest idea why the difference. Perhaps because I had a job six months ago?

But apparently she'd be fine, especially since we have an equal aversion to debt.
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Old 12-28-2013, 04:35 PM   #3
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DW has 2 cards in her name and credit for that reason. We use them every couple of months.
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Old 12-28-2013, 04:51 PM   #4
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The same question had occurred to me since DW hasn't had any earned income for over a decade. When we bought the car as part of that they gave us our credit scores. Mine was 810 and hers was 790. I haven't the foggiest idea why the difference. Perhaps because I had a job six months ago?

But apparently she'd be fine, especially since we have an equal aversion to debt.
Do you know if the cards she currently uses will have to be turned in should you die first? Or will they automatically transfer to her name even though they may be in an account under your name? That is really what I am aiming to avoid - that extra hassle on top of everything else.

I was listening to a BBC Moneybox podcast a couple of weeks ago and a caller said that it had happened to him and it was such a pain, at age 72, to lose your credit cards and have to start applying for new ones. Might be different with US banks, I don't really know.
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Old 12-28-2013, 04:53 PM   #5
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Good for you! That was a smart move.

In an earlier time, DW's mother had drummed it into her that she should always have a piece of property (home or land) in her name alone, no matter what. I guess that was the old fashioned equivalent of the credit you're talking about.

Fortunately, DW was smart enough to take her mom's advice.
Even though all our accounts are JTWROS (except for IRAs), she has always had at least a small bank account in her name alone. She has always recognized that this could be an important factor in keeping her stress level down after I get hit by the beer truck.
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Old 12-28-2013, 04:55 PM   #6
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...after I get hit by the beer truck.
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Old 12-28-2013, 04:59 PM   #7
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Do you know if the cards she currently uses will have to be turned in should you die first? Or will they automatically transfer to her name even though they may be in an account under your name?
That's a good question. I don't know. She has one tied to an account that is joint but I don't know what happens to it if I predecease her. She also has a department store cc that is in her name alone but it's only good at that one store.

Sounds like it'd be a good idea to have her get a Visa or M/C in her name alone.
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Old 12-28-2013, 05:08 PM   #8
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DW has had CC's in her own name for more than 40 years. We always had it that way just to have her establish her credit (on her own) early on, to cover the "what if" situation.

We also have our cars titled/registered in our separate names, regardless of who actually makes the payments or pays the insurance/upkeep.
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Old 12-28-2013, 05:19 PM   #9
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We also have our cars titled/registered in our separate names, regardless of who actually makes the payments or pays the insurance/upkeep.
We've always had vehicles titled jointly just to avoid the hassle of retitling them at a difficult time. In both MD (where we lived before) and in WV if one owner dies full title automatically goes to the other. In WV the title reads "Walt34 and/or DW" so even if one is comatose the other can still sell the vehicle if needed.
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Old 12-28-2013, 06:43 PM   #10
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What will happen should I die first? Will our existing CC's have to be turned in and will she then have to apply for her own, starting from scratch.
I don't know...

Perhaps you could contact each credit card company and ask if there is anything in writing regarding your question.

Our credit cards (except Visa) are automatically deducted from our checking account. I don't know how they would find out if a spouse/cardholder has died as long as the payments are being made on time.

The Visa card is considered mine even though DH can make purchases as well. Each year I get a free credit report for both of us.
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Old 12-28-2013, 07:03 PM   #11
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She sure does - normally with a score 10-20 points higher than mine. Credit that to all our property being owned jointly. My score takes hits because I keep signing up for credit cards to collect free bonus bucks - as a result I have more credit inquiries and a shorter average credit history since I dump the bonus cards before any annual fees. Still up in the excellent range, and I don't expect any difficulties getting a loan if we needed one.
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Old 12-28-2013, 07:27 PM   #12
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We recently purchased our retirement home. We needed a few things for the house, and when we picked out the new refrigerator from Sears, I had her apply for a credit account to purchase it, in her name. We could have just paid cash, but instead we charged it to her new account, then paid $1000 towards it, leaving the balance to pay monthly in installments. I know we'll pay some interest, but it'll help get her credit history going. Plus...we'll pay it off in just a few months. Not so much interest will be paid. We also bought some furniture on credit from Ashley Furniture, on a 12 months, no interest deal. Definitely will pay it off by the end of the 12 month period.

Since she's a co-borrower on the mortgage, I assume that helps her credit score too.
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Old 12-28-2013, 07:46 PM   #13
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Having a credit report and having a credit card in your own name are not the same thing. For example, if someone was jointly on a mortgage or a car loan that person would have a credit report even without having a credit card.

In any event, I would suggest that your spouse should get her free credit report from all 3 bureaus and see what is reported to each one. (Usually it is optimal to space these apart, but you can get all 3 all at once).

Also, sometimes people have a credit card that is reported on their credit report without actually being the account holder. For example, in our household the American Express is in my name and DH is an authorized user. He has some accounts where he is the account holder and I'm an authorized user. You can also have a card where the spouses are both liable on the account and are joint account holders.

My guess (just a guess) would be that if an authorized user, the credit card company basically would have the survivor apply for their own account which might or might not be granted. If a joint account, there might also be an application. This suggests that:

Credit Matters After the Death of a Spouse | Credit.com

I do think it is a good idea for each spouse to have one or two cards that are individual cards of that spouse and that are not joint cards. DH and I both have those as well.
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Old 12-28-2013, 07:49 PM   #14
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We recently purchased our retirement home. We needed a few things for the house, and when we picked out the new refrigerator from Sears, I had her apply for a credit account to purchase it, in her name. We could have just paid cash, but instead we charged it to her new account, then paid $1000 towards it, leaving the balance to pay monthly in installments. I know we'll pay some interest, but it'll help get her credit history going. Plus...we'll pay it off in just a few months. Not so much interest will be paid. We also bought some furniture on credit from Ashley Furniture, on a 12 months, no interest deal. Definitely will pay it off by the end of the 12 month period.
Why pay it off monthly in installments with interest. It will get positively reported even if it is all paid off without any interest being charged.

Did she get a Sears mastercard which can be used anywhere? If so, just have her use it periodically to buy something and then pay the bill in full when it comes. Again, it is not necessary to carry a balance to build credit.
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Old 12-28-2013, 08:03 PM   #15
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Why pay it off monthly in installments with interest. It will get positively reported even if it is all paid off without any interest being charged.

Did she get a Sears mastercard which can be used anywhere? If so, just have her use it periodically to buy something and then pay the bill in full when it comes. Again, it is not necessary to carry a balance to build credit.
I've read (someplace) that it's more beneficial for your credit score to make regular monthly payments on an account, rather than paying it off early. Of course, this means you pay more interest. In the case of the refrigerator I mentioned, the total price was $1500. We opened the new account for her, paid $1000 on it immediately, then when the first bill came, paid another $200. The next bill came & we paid $50. Now...the outstanding balance is just $250. So we're not talking about much interest here. Most likely we'll pay $50 each time till it's paid out. We'll pay just a little interest, but not really very much. Yes, she did get the Sears MasterCard, in her name. If/when we/she use it, it will be sparingly & will always be paid off PDQ. I HATE paying interest!
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Old 12-28-2013, 08:11 PM   #16
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Well, perhaps what you are thinking is that a pattern of say 10 timely payments is better for your credit score than, say, 1 timely payment.

However, you can achieve that by paying no interest whatsoever. That is, pay off the refrigerator in month one. Then use the Sears MasterCard once each month for however long you want to. Pay the full balance each month. This has the same benefit to the credit score of paying out the refrigerator over time, but doesn't cost you any interest.
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Old 12-28-2013, 08:19 PM   #17
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I can only wish I had this problem. DW probably has 20 CCs. Most of them are store cards that were only used for the original purchase to get the discount for applying. But she also has some majors. We put everything we buy and as many bills as we can on our CCs, so both of our credit scores are pretty high (high 700s, low 800s). We pay them all off every month. But whenever I get a credit report for her there's a really long list of accounts.
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Old 12-28-2013, 10:45 PM   #18
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DW always had her own credit cards, is on the mortgage, and currently has the only job between us. Her credit score was roughly the same as mine the last time we refied about a year ago.
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Old 12-29-2013, 06:59 AM   #19
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Spouse has her own name, credit cards, credit score, etc. This was decided at the beginning, many years ago.

One time, before marriage, she carried a balance forward, and I cut up her card. That probably was extreme, but it is something she retells in conversation, almost as a badge of sorts.
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