Are you liable for your spouse’s debt?

Whether you are liable for your spouse’s debts depends on factors such as;  if you live in a common-law state or a community property state and what kind of debt it is. 

Common-Law State or a Community Property State

The IRS says most states operate under what is called common law. If a married couple opens a joint account or gets a shared credit card, they will both be responsible for paying back the debt.

In common law states, you’re usually only liable for credit card debt if the obligation is in your name. So, if the credit card is only in your spouse’s name, you’re typically not liable for that debt. Additionally, assets acquired by one member of a married couple are typically deemed to belong to that person, unless they were put in the names of both.

The laws are very different in America’s nine community property states, where the laws require that any property acquired, debt accumulated, and income earned during the marriage is the property or debt of each spouse.

What Kind of Debt is It?

In most states, you are not legally responsible for bills racked up before getting married. However, if you and your spouse open a joint account or get a shared credit card, you both will be responsible for paying back the debt.  Even if the spending was done solely by your spouse. 

Similarly, If you’re the cosigner on a loan for your spouse, your credit score will be hurt if your partner misses a payment. That’s because when you cosign for a loan, you’re signing on to be equally responsible for the debt. If they miss payments, the debtor could come after you for payments. The same situation applies if you and your spouse use a joint credit card.

In Common law states, property can be individually owned unless both names are on the contract. However, in community property states, assets and liabilities that either person acquires during the marriage become the joint property of both spouses. 

There are some exceptions for necessary joint household expenses. Debt that was racked up for things like child care, housing or food must be shared by both parties, even if a joint account was not created.

If you have any questions at all please call us at (800) 822-7120.

-Erik Kaplan

What happens if I can’t pay my credit cards?

When you’re faced with a sudden disruption in your income – something millions of people are experiencing because of the COVID-19 pandemic – credit cards often become a necessity for survival.

 

When plastic is your only option make sure you investigate if and how your credit card company is offering some leniency to those in a financial crisis. Such support could include flexible bill payments and waived late fees.  Your options will vary based on the credit card company and your history as a customer.

 

Many card issuers do offer forbearance programs, which act as temporary relief during financial hardships. While each forbearance program is different, you can typically expect to receive assistance with monthly payments and possibly lowered interest. If you do go this route, your account may continue to accrue interest, but the lender won’t report the late payments to the credit bureaus. Which means there won’t be a negative effect to your credit score.

 

Keep in mind that you have to opt-in to a forbearance program. If you simply skip payments without speaking to your card issuer, your credit score will be affected.

 

Another option to help protect your credit score is to request that your lender includes a statement on your account that indicates you have been affected by a natural or declared disaster. Experian has stated this can help protect your credit history and scores.

 

If you need help during this time, please email me at erik@thdcreditconsulting.com with any questions you may have.

-Erik Kaplan

When Should I Ask for a Credit Limit Increase?

It is not always in your best interest to request a higher credit limit, or credit line increase, mostly because there are consequences. A credit line increase request can trigger a hard inquiry on your credit report, which can have a negative impact on your credit score by a few points.

On the other hand, there are situations where it can be quite helpful to request an increase. 

Here are guidelines:

  • Your credit score is strong: If you have a higher credit score than when you first got the line of credit and you’ve been repaying it on time each month, it is a good time to ask for a credit limit increase.
  • You have good repayment history with the issuer: When you have shown the ability to repay debt and payments are on time you are demonstrating responsible behavior with the card issuer.
  • When your income increases: Showing an increase in income can help get approved when requesting a credit limit increase. 

The best reason to increase your credit limit on your credit card is so you can maintain a low credit utilization rate, which can help increase your credit score. If you can be purposeful with the increase, another good reason is to have a higher credit limit for unexpected expenses such as an emergency.

If you have questions about when to increase your credit line or how to improve your credit score then reach out to our team of experts at asktheexpert@thdcreditconsulting.com.

-Erik Kaplan

How Credit Cards Impact Your Credit Score

Staying on top of your credit card bills is a key part of building and maintaining strong credit.  Here are a few things you need to know:

 

Credit Utilization
 
You’ve probably heard at some point that you should keep your credit card utilization under 30 percent. 
 
What does this mean exactly? 
Credit Utilization is the total amount of credit you’re currently using divided by the total amount of credit you have available and is one of the most important factors in determining your credit score.
Managing your credit utilization rate can be a simple way to help improve and maintain your credit. Focus on both parts of the equation – your balance and your credit limit.

 

Payment History
 
Payment history is an important component of your credit score and one of the most damaging habits you can have is failing to pay your bills on time.
Understandably, life can get busy and it can be challenging to keep up with your payment due dates. So how can you make sure you don’t miss a payment?
  • Consider a mobile app to manage your credit card and bank accounts you’re your smart phone.  You can track and pay bills with Dudatez – Just set it up and the app goes to work for you.
  • Alternatively, set up text or email alerts to be notified when your payment due date is coming up.
  • If you have multiple credit cards, consider requesting the same payment date for all your accounts.
Consider The Credit Score Affect
 
Paying off money you owe is always a good idea, as is knowing what kind of debt your dealing with and prioritizing what will give you the biggest boost. Money you borrow for a home or student loan is considered ‘good debt’ because it can help boost your financial position.  
The ‘other’ debt is usually in the form of credit card debt or a personal bank loans. You should always tackle these debts first. It will lower your utilization ratio, having a positive impact on your credit score and make you more attractive financially.
Have questions about your debt or credit score?  Reach out to our team of experts at asktheexpert@thdcreditconsulting.com.
 
– Erik Kaplan

How to Build Credit in Your 20’s

 Your school years might be over, but there is one grade you still want to work hard for… your credit score.
 
If you are just starting to build credit, you may find yourself at one of two extremes: struggling to get past an almost non-existent credit history or using your credit card excessively thinking you will worry about it later. While opposite ends of the spectrum both can hinder your credit score.
 
Building a solid credit history is essential to qualifying for a mortgage, auto loan and credit scores may be used by landlords and even potential employers.  In addition, without credit it will be very hard to qualify for a decent credit card.
 
Here are 4 ways to build your credit:
 

1) Don’t spend too much

You landed your first job and might even have money deposited into your account twice a month…but go slow spending it.  You want to start building up a cash reserve, so figure out how much you can live on and save the rest. 

2) Pay your students loans but don’t worry about paying them off
Typically, student loans have low interest rates so paying them off quickly won’t save you a ton of money.  Stay current on your payments but focus on putting money aside for an emergency fund or retirement.
 

3) Think about the future (yes, retirement is a long ways away)

Saving even a little in your 20’s can make a big difference later on in life.  If your company has a 401k plan, make sure to participate. Try to place a minimum of 10% of your pre-tax salary into this account.

4) Create a healthy credit score

Do your homework and find a starter credit card account to start establishing a credit history. Spend a little each month and pay your balance in full. By making payments on-time you are proving yourself to lenders. 

 
The decisions you make in your 20’s about money could pave the way to a lifetime of financial health.
 
Have questions?  
 
Reach out to our team of experts at asktheexpert@thdcreditconsulting.com.