When my wife decided to stay at home full time with our kids, we combined our finances to make things easier to manage.  Since we were living on one paycheque, it didn’t make sense to keep multiple bank accounts open under both our names.

However it’s a good idea for stay at home parents to continue building credit history, even if he or she is unlikely to return to work.

Here are three tips to keep credit history for stay at home parents:

Keep One Credit Card In Your Name:  Even if you prefer to use one credit card for the majority of your household spending, keeping a different credit card in your name will continue to build your credit history.

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My wife still has a credit card in her name from before we got married and we have it set up to pay for a small monthly subscription to keep the account active.

It’s easier to keep an existing credit card account active under your name than to try and re-apply for one down the road when you have no income.

Keep Building Your Credit Rating:  In addition to keeping one credit card in your name, stay at home parents should look at other ways to build their credit rating.  In my wife’s case, she also has a cell phone account under her name.

In order to keep building your credit rating, you need to make sure to pay your bills on time.  The longer your history of on time payments, the better your credit rating will be.  One missed payment can hurt your score if you aren’t careful.  If your working spouse pays all of the bills, make sure they don’t forget about the accounts under your name.

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Consider a Separate Bank Account:  Single income families are more likely to combine finances and move to a joint bank account.  When my wife stopped working we closed her chequing account and opened a joint account.  We were paying bank fees at the time, so it made sense to merge our accounts into one.

After using a joint account for a many years I can see the advantages of keeping separate bank accounts.  Just because your spouse isn’t working, doesn’t mean he or she shouldn’t have their own spending money.

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Having your own bank account will at least give your spouse some financial independence and allow them to pay bills and access cash if needed.

For stay at home parents, maintaining your credit history may seem like an afterthought, but it is important.

Consider this the next time you apply jointly for a mortgage or a car loan.  If your working spouse passes away, their credit history will go with them and you will no longer be able to get by on their good credit alone.

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