Thousands of people change their names each year, often as a result of marriage or divorce, and less frequently, just for fun. In fact, one man, armed with $50 and a written deed poll application, secured the moniker Bacon Double Cheeseburger in the United Kingdom last year.
Although Mr. Cheeseburger may be perfectly satisfied with his colorful designation, he and others can experience some bumps after a name change. And while you won’t “lose” your credit history if you change your name due to marriage, divorce or even just for fun, there can sometimes be confusion about your identity if your information isn’t being accurately reported.
In general, your new name is added to your credit reports after you notify your mortgage lender, credit card issuers and other businesses of the change. They report the change, be it a first or surname change, to the three main credit bureaus and your new name replaces the old, which then remains on your credit history similar to old addresses and employers.
How to Smooth Your Name Change Process
Keep in mind that changing your name isn’t an automatic process. It requires lots of paperwork and contacting the necessary businesses to ensure a successful shift. Personal participation is key.
The best way to ensure that your name change is reflected on your credit report is to contact government agencies and credit issuers who provide personal data and account information to the credit bureaus. These include:
- The Social Security Administration: Applying for a new Social Security card is a good place to begin your name change because it can be used to help verify your identity as you move forward. While your Social Security number (SSN) won’t change, your name will be updated.
- The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV): If your name change is the result of marriage or divorce, you may need an original or certified decree before a change is allowed (rules vary by state). Visit the DMV to update your license.
- Bank & Credit Accounts: Contact your lenders and credit card issuers to order new checks, debit and credit cards, and be sure any business accounts are updated as well.
- Your Employer: In addition to updating their own records, your employer needs your new name in order to pay Social Security, unemployment and other taxes on your behalf.
- Medical Providers: Medical bills rarely appear on your credit report unless you fail to pay it, but it’s a good idea to provide your doctors and dentists with your new name.
- Insurance Companies: Insurance coverage is essential to protecting your home, car, business and other valuables. Make sure your providers have current information.
When you’re finished, it’s also a good idea to contact each of the three credit reporting agencies (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) to alert them of your name change and ensure it is accurately reflected.
Credit reporting isn’t a perfect system, and while changing your name shouldn’t erase or negatively impact your credit history, it’s a good idea to check your reports and scores in the months that follow. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to order free copies of your TransUnion, Experian and Equifax reports. You can also view two of your credit scores for free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.