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Even though you can save your marriage with credit cards, you can just as easily wreck your romance with help from your latest account statement. Avoid these five common ways that spouses get into money trouble:
#1: Hiding Credit Card Debt from Your Spouse
If some financial advisors had their way, we'd all be getting credit checks in addition to blood tests before getting our marriage licenses. How can your spouse really trust you if you're not honest about that extra $7,000 in debt you've been keeping secret?
#2: Forcing Your Spouse to Suffer Under Your Pre-Wedding Credit Card Habits
Even if you were totally up front with your spouse about your debt before you got married, you might still need to talk about how your credit report got in that condition. It might have been easy to rationalize a missed credit card payment or an over-the-limit charge when you were single. Now that your credit scores are intertwined, it's time to play by the rules.
#3: Making Secret Credit Card Purchases
It's harder than you think to bury a questionable credit card purchase. Bank Web sites, credit monitoring services, and online budgeting tools make it very easy for spouses to uncover visits to stores, restaurants, or hotels. Unless it's an anniversary gift, don't keep it a secret.
#4: Shifting Gears with Credit Card Balances
Some folks love to cycle large credit card balances, just to get cash back rebates or other rewards. Other people prefer never to touch their credit cards, except in the most dire emergency. Wherever you fall in that spectrum, it's important to agree on your household strategy and make some compromises.
#5: Failing to Use Credit Cards Responsibly
Stress in other parts of your marriage can trickle into your credit card habits. Is missing your monthly payment just forgetfulness or something worse? Talk to your spouse early if you've got some unexpected money trouble that could impact your credit score.
Most of all, don't attempt to use credit cards to hide behind any of the real issues causing friction in your relationship. If you're overspending because your spouse isn't spending enough time with you, budget issues could drive you apart for good. If you're hiding new lines of credit to assert power in your relationship, expect to lose it all when your spouse finds out. Seeing any of these signs should spur you to see a marriage counselor before things really get out of hand.