Sep 03, 2019

Question of the Day: When a couple takes out a loan, which credit score does the lender use?

Answer: The partner with the lower score


  • How do you think having different credit scores can affect a relationship? 
  • How would you feel…
    • being the only spouse listed on the mortgage (the home loan) because of a high credit score
    • being the spouse left off the mortgage because of a low credit score

Click here for the ready-to-go slides for this Question of the Day that you can use in your classroom.

Behind the numbers (Zillow): 

When applying jointly, lenders use the lowest credit score of the two borrowers. So, if your median score is a 780 but your partner’s is a 620, lenders will base interest rates off that lower score. This is when it might make more sense to apply on your own.

The downside in applying alone, however, limits you to just your income and not the combined amount from you and your partner. While your credit score might be better, having a lender evaluate you on only your income could lower the total loan amount you qualify for.

If having your name on the home is a big deal, don’t worry. You can still be on the title of the home, just not on the mortgage.


Want to hear some interesting conversations in your classroom? Play the Bean Game (in our new Behavioral Finance lesson) in PAIRS and watch students struggle with how to make money decisions in a relationship.

About the Author

Tim Ranzetta

Tim's saving habits started at seven when a neighbor with a broken hip gave him a dog walking job. Her recovery, which took almost a year, resulted in Tim getting to know the bank tellers quite well (and accumulating a savings account balance of over $300!). His recent entrepreneurial adventures have included driving a shredding truck, analyzing executive compensation packages for Fortune 500 companies and helping families make better college financing decisions. After volunteering in 2010 to create and teach a personal finance program at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, Tim saw firsthand the impact of an engaging and activity-based curriculum, which inspired him to start a new non-profit, Next Gen Personal Finance.

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