Money is often at the heart of marital disagreements – who makes it, how to spend it, and especially how to save it. But can it cause divorce? Absolutely.
One Kansas State University study of 4,500 couples found that fighting over money, especially early on, is a significant predictor of divorce. Adding potential fuel to that fire: Credit cards. Plastic is great when used smartly; potentially devastating when abused.
Here are 10 clues you’re heading down the wrong credit path with your spouse or partner:
#1 You Overspend in Stressful Times
Money stress is never fun or welcome, but tough economic times are unavoidable for many hard-working families. The trouble here is when one spouse reaches for the plastic and overspends, making it that much harder to dig out from under.
#2 You Forget to Pay on Time
Late charges on credit cards can cost you big bucks. Don’t put your family’s finances in peril by racking up late charges, which hit you on two fronts: They can run as high as $35 per occurrence, but can also raise your interest rate. Don’t lie about it either. If you can’t remember to pay a bill, pass those statements and passwords over to the more responsible spouse now and thank them by taking on some other, equally important, part of being a couple.
#3 You Make Questionable Charges
Two words here: Ashley Madison. If you feel like a search of the hacker email database for this affair-enabling site will 99% turn up your spouse’s email and credit card, it’s time to talk. This can also emerge in less headline-grabbing forms, such as using credit cards to hide a shopping addiction or taking cash from a card to buy drugs or to gamble.
#4 Your Credit Score, Well, it’s Not Great
If your poor credit is dragging down – or worse preventing – your ability to borrow money as a couple, it’s time to take action before it’s too late. Vows for better or worse don’t mean “for better or a 540 FICO score.” If your credit is a mess, don’t be surprised if your spouse starts to distance their finances from yours. Who can blame them?
#5 You Are a Rewards Hog
No one likes a selfish person in any scenario and certainly not when you share a credit card. Don’t rush to your account every month to spend the latest rewards. Share and share alike.
#6 Roll Tide!
If you chant this University of Alabama cheer more often than you say “I love you” it’s probably best you marry on the right side of your team rivalry zone. Nothing will sink this relationship faster than one side of this relationship whipping out an Auburn University-branded credit card.
#7 You Keep Secret Cards
OK, so maybe finances don’t have to be a 100% open book as long as a couple is in agreement about how, when and how much to spend and, of course, IF you have the slack in your budget. After all, who doesn’t love being a little spendthrifty now and again and splurging on $25 lipstick? The risk for your relationship here is that you have credit cards hidden completely from your spouse. If this is you, consider coming clean.
#8 Your Card Gets Declined
Imagine if this happens in front of the Joneses or worse, your boss or client. Good credit isn’t about status, but you can’t build a life together if dinner with friends leads to deep embarrassment.
#9 Transactions Never Match the Story
One could debate if this is worse than not telling at all, but if you are openly lying about purchases, something is off.
#10 Credit Controls You
Stashing an expensive dress in the closet for a few weeks before wearing it – “Oh this? Hmm, I’ve had this for a while!” – perhaps isn’t that major a deal (maybe?). But addiction in all its forms wrecks families. If you feel you are addicted to credit cards there is help available. Reach out to a non-profit credit counselor in your area or connect with a reputable source of therapy.
The good news is that there are ways responsible use of credit can strengthen your relationship. Here are a few to consider:
· Leveraging rewards for vacation destinations or gifts. Here's a list of the best cards for foreign transactions.
· Working together can teach a spouse good credit habits.
· Transferring high-interest credit card debt to relieve some stress.
· Special events given by credit card access, including major concerts and sporting events.