A survey done recently by the website Bankrate revealed that nearly 40% of us say that how willing we are to date a person will depend a lot on his or her credit score. And maybe not surprising, this is more important to women than men. In fact, 43% of the ladies surveyed said that knowing a person’s credit score would have either a minor or major impact on their interest in dating that person. In comparison, this was true for just 32% of the men.
What you’re really trying to determine
According to one expert when you ask about a person’s credit score what you’re really trying to learn is how they manage their money. If your partner has a high credit score of, say, 750 or above you can just about bet that he or she is a pretty good money manager. But unfortunately, that little three-digit number doesn’t tell the entire story. If your partner has a low credit score this may mean that he or she is irresponsible about money but not necessarily so. Your significant other could have a really big medical bill that’s dragging down their credit score while they’re current on all of their other bills. In addition to knowing someone’s credit score it’s just as important to know their attitude towards money.
You probably won’t want to have “the talk” on your first date
Looking at that person on the other side of the table on that first date and asking, “So what’s your credit score” might not be a really good idea. In fact, asking this question could bring the date to an abrupt halt.
April Masini, a New York City-based etiquette and relationship expert, says you should trade credit scores within the first three months of dating while you are in the process of learning about the other person and trying to determine whether to continue the relationship. However, there are other financial experts who believe that it’s not necessary to discuss credit scores until you’re considering marriage or buying property together.
Before you ask that person you’re dating about his or her credit history you need to be ready to discuss your own as there’s the old saying, turnabout is fair play. This means you will need to have checked your credit score at least within the past month. It’s become so easy to get credit scores on websites like CreditKarma and CreditSesame or from one of the three credit reporting bureaus there’s actually no reason why you couldn’t get your credit score the day before the “big talk”. For that matter, the credit card company Discover now says it will provide the credit scores of anyone that asks whether or not they are Discover Cardholders. Of course, if you have a low credit score you will need to be prepared to explain why.
Not the whole picture
Of course, just knowing your credit score or that of your partner won’t give you the complete picture. You also need to check your credit reports from the three credit-reporting bureaus – Experian, TransUnion and Equifax –looking for errors and evidence of fraud. A whopping 34% of Americans queried say they have never seen their credit reports. While it’s not necessary to check your credit reports every other month, you should check it at least once a year. Federal law requires the credit bureaus to provide you with your reports free once a year or you can get them altogether on the website www.annualcreditreport.com. If you really want to stay on top of your credit reports you might request one every four months, which would allow you to sort of monitor your credit year-round.
How to have that “talk”
It’s probably not a good idea to be blunt when asking your partner about his or her credit score. Instead of being direct and saying, “How’s that coffee and by the way, what’s your credit score,” it would be better to approach it from the side. For example, you might ask, “If you had to do things again, are there things you would differently in how you handled your money?” This could lead into a discussion where you would eventually get around to the issue of credit scores. It’s important how you ask the question because if your partner feels he or she is being grilled like it was a job interview, this could be a big turn off.
If you have opposite credit scores
What do you do if you find the person you’re dating has a credit score that’s wildly different from yours? This doesn’t mean that the relationship won’t necessarily work but if one of you has a high credit score and the other has a low one you will need to have an honest discussion as to why this is the case. If you’re the person that has the lower credit score you will be in a better position and have a better chance of preserving the relationship if you can explain why this is the case and what it is you’re doing to improve it. If the other person has the low credit score, then he or she should also be prepared to explain why this is true and not just offer a bunch of crazy excuses.
Credit scores are not a be all and end all
As you have, read credit scores all by themselves are not enough to know how that other person handles his or her money. When you have “the talk” you need to be totally honest about your credit history and you should expect the same from your partner. Credit scoring is a complicated issue and just because a person has a low credit score doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she is a bad money manager. In some cases, the reason why a person has a low credit score may not even be their fault. It could be due to identity theft or because they made just one serious mistake in how they handled their credit when they were very young. The important thing isn’t just the credit score alone but also the why.