Editorial Policy

Before tying knot, couple should share credit reports

Erica Sandberg

October 22, 2015

QHi Erica,

You’re going to think I’m paranoid and nosy but here goes: Can I pull my boyfriend’s credit reports? We are due to be married in February and I just want to make sure he is what he says he is. I have his Social Security number and we live together. Is that all I need? Thank you very much. — Leah

ADear Leah,

I have no idea whether you’re justified in feeling anxious about your fiancé’s financials. Maybe you do have cause for concern. Certainly plenty of people hide their unattractive qualities – including problems handling money and credit – from their loved ones. Reasons are often fear of reproach or rejection, embarrassment over making stupid mistakes, or simply wanting to avoid confronting their own failures.

Whatever the case, you have the right to know about his credit history before entering into a marriage. If you suspect something is amiss, it may be. I assume that you’ve tried to talk about your worries and have not been satisfied with his response. And it’s true that consumer credit reports will provide you with valuable insight into this man’s past.Ask Erica

For example, you may have the following questions:

  • Does he have any credit cards you don’t know about?
  • Is he responsible with loans and credit cards?
  • Is his overall debt load low or high?
  • Does he owe collection agencies?
  • Has he been sued for a debt?
  • Did he file for bankruptcy?
  • Does he owe parking tickets, child support payments or any other delinquent legal fines?

The good news is that if you read his current credit reports, you’ll have immediate answers. The bad is that you can’t check them behind his back.

As per federal law (the Fair Credit Reporting Act), you are prohibited from accessing your boyfriend’s reports without his permission. The only way you can see his reports without his permission is if you have power of attorney or are granted that ability by a court of law.

Even if you have all the information to check (and you might, since all it takes is a name, address, Social Security number, date of birth, and a few personal details that you may know because you’re in a close relationship), the result could be disastrous. You will have committed a crime, and if your boyfriend finds out, he could sue you. Then you might be hit with a $1,000 fine, as well as the cost of his attorney.

Plus it’s sneaky. Don’t go down this road.

Do listen to your gut, though, and press the matter. Ask him to pull his credit reports (free from AnnualCreditReport.com) and show them to you. You’ll do the same with your credit reports, showing them to him. This way both of you will be transparent. If you’re in love enough to get hitched, this conversation should be comfortable. If he has reservations because he is afraid of what you might think, express your commitment and openness. Millions of people have made mistakes that end up on a credit report, and most can be resolved by taking specific actions.

Refusal to show you his credit reports is a major warning sign.

You have every right to know what you’re getting into, no matter what he may say about privacy and trust. A pattern of missed payments, owing huge balances, collection action and trouble with the law doesn’t just call his skills and character into question, it could pose trouble for you.

Eventually you may want to buy a home or car together and if his credit rating is ruined, it will reflect poorly on you. Are you prepared to take that on? And let’s not forget about saving for the future. He may not have the capacity to build up a nest egg, which will be a problem when you want to take a vacation or retire.

Get all of this out in the open now. A mutual credit report viewing will help you to decide if you really want to tie the knot.

Got a question for Erica? Send her an email.

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