6 Ways to Boost Your Partner's Bad Credit Without Risking Your Own


You can't help with whom you fall in love — and that's never more annoying than when the object of your affection has royally effed up their credit. Nobody's calling it quits over a few past financial mistakes, but the situation will need to improve if you two are planning a future together that includes buying a home, starting a business, or other major money-based life decisions.

Since you're now in this together, you have a responsibility to do what you can to make sure you start your joint life on the right foot credit-wise. Here's how.

1. Help your partner review their credit report to flag and report errors

If your partner has terrible credit, it's likely that they don't know how to pull their credit report, flag errors, and report them to the appropriate authority to have them removed or updated. That's where your expertise (or even elementary knowledge) of how credit reports work comes in. Flagging and reporting credit errors is the first step in getting their situation back on track and under control. Once that's squared away, you can move on to the bigger issues. (See also: How to Read a Credit Report)

2. Provide positive reinforcement instead of bailing them out

It's easy to throw money at a problem to make it go away — especially if you have extra cash to spare and the person you love will benefit immensely from your generosity (at least in the short term). But I urge you to avoid opening your wallet to deal with your partner's bad credit. Instead, provide encouragement that they can manage their debt on their own.

They created this situation, after all, and the only acceptable solution is that they work it out without your financial assistance. Help them in other areas, like navigating their credit report, but don't shill out dough to dig them out. The only thing they'll take away from that scenario is that you'll always be the sucker who pays for their poor judgment.

3. Establish a cash allowance that you'll both adhere to

You can't take your adult partner's credit cards from them (even though you might like to), so an easier-to-swallow solution is to jointly stop using credit and instead switch over to an all-cash budget. If they feel like you're both in this together, they'll be more willing to comply. You might have to make a few sacrifices along the way with your cards not available, sure. But if it helps condition your partner to spend and save smarter, forgoing the treat-yo'-self impulse buys you're used to will be worth it. (See also: How to Put Your Spouse on a Budget Without Ruining Your Marriage)

4. Brainstorm actionable ways they can start chipping away at their debt

Sit down together and come up with ideas about how your partner can start paying down their debt faster. That may involve asking for a raise at work; picking up a part-time job; working a few side gigs, like driving for a ride-sharing service and pet sitting; selling off unwanted or unused valuables; downsizing their lifestyle (maybe it's time to move in together so both of you can save?); and canceling all frivolous monthly expenses, like subscription services and memberships. (See also: 5-Day Debt Reduction Plan: Pay It Off)

5. Schedule autopays on pay days

Help your partner set up auto-payments that coincide with their paydays so the money goes straight from their checking account to their debt accounts, leaving them little time to start a spending spree before handling their financial responsibilities. (See also: 5 Ways to Automate Your Finances)

If your partner doesn't like the idea of auto-paying bills, maybe they could get on board with a regular money meeting where you both sit down each week or month to discuss your budget and bills and make payments in each other's presence. It's a way to keep each other accountable, build trust, and establish good money behaviors. Either of these options will make sure the bills are getting paid on time.

6. Discuss secured credit card options

If your partner's credit score is weak, you can help improve it by encouraging them to open a secured credit card. Secured cards are fairly easy for anyone to get because the risk to the bank is low. That's because the cardholder puts down a deposit that's typically the same size as the credit limit (which will be low to begin with). If the cardholder defaults on the payments, the bank keeps their deposit.

Secured cards are great for building credit because your payment activity is reported to the credit bureaus, just like any other credit card. "After demonstrating consistent payment history, your credit score will steadily improve," says certified financial adviser Lou Haverty. "You could consider applying for a regular credit card when your score is in the high 600 to low 700 range."

I took my boyfriend to the bank to get a secured card after he moved in with me because I wanted him to start rebuilding his weak (but not necessarily bad) credit. This was an important step for us to take early on because I want him to have decent credit if we decide to buy a house together a few years down the road. Sometimes that's how long it takes, so there's no time like the present to start working the system. (See also: The Best Secured Cards)

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