A Major Online Dating Turn On (Or Turn Off)? Your Credit Score

Photographed by Alice Gao.
Although I don't date much myself, my friends and acquaintances who are putting in the work to find their next short- or long-term boo often say they have their routines down pat.
There's the intro line — some pithy version of Dev's "Going to Whole Foods, want me to pick you up anything?" pitch in Master of None. Then, once a meet-up happens, people often go with a combination of asking pointed questions and sharing particular information.
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But even though money rules most of our lives, finances rarely — if understandably — come up early on in our love lives. That might not be so surprising, given how uncomfortable and stressful it can be to talk about finances even with our closest friends.
To gain insight into how people navigate money and romantic relationships, Discover and Match Media Group recently commissioned a survey of 2,000 Americans, ages 18 and up. All the respondents maintained an active online dating profile, or met their partner through a dating app or platform. The findings revealed that money is an awkward topic to discuss — although the ins and outs of prospective partners' finances is a source of intense interest.
In the survey, less than 7% of online daters said they'd be willing to disclose financial details — such as how much debt they are in, their credit score, income, and spending habits — before meeting someone in person. Thirty-five percent of respondents said they wouldn't want their partner to know about their credit score until a year or later into a relationship.
At the same time, 77% of women and 61% of men said financial responsibility is a very or extremely important quality in a potential partner — and credit scores were particularly alluring: 58% of online daters deemed having a good credit score more attractive than driving a nice car; 50% found a good credit score more attractive than an impressive job title; and 40% favored a good score over a "physically fit body." (Whatever way "fit" was defined by each individual.)
"A credit score is a measure of financial responsibility, which 69% of survey respondents say is a very or extremely important quality when looking for a person to date," the survey report states. "Financial responsibility rated higher than several other important qualities: 67% say a sense of humor is very or extremely important, 51% say attractiveness, 50% say ambition, 42% say courage and 39% say modesty."
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And that largely seems to be due to the fact that a good credit score signals an important quality people are looking for in their partners. For those credit admirers, having good credit most often suggested that another person was responsible (73% used that adjective). Forty percent believed a good credit score-haver to be trustworthy, and 38% judged the same group to be smart.
Dr. Helen Fisher, the chief scientific advisor to Match.com, says the financial concerns people have about those they date are "pretty historical," as few people want to raise the topic of money or talk about their own spending habits. She suggests, though, that millennials may be changing things up and moving toward greater transparency. For one thing, this study also indicated that millennials are more likely than other age groups to ask to split the bill on a first date, and to discuss financial topics via text and online chat.
"There are two major trends that I think are going to make people more and more interested in somebody's credit score," Dr. Fisher says. "The first is women piling into the job market in cultures around the world, and the second thing is something I've written about called slow love."
In the first case, Fisher argues that the rise of women in the workforce and dual-income households has meant that more men can expect to be "financial co-partners, rather than one totally dependent on the other." And, when it comes to "slow love"people delaying marriage and parenthood in greater numbers (if they choose to get married at all) — young adults are coming into their own as independent people more often than they did in the past. That means they want the nitty-gritty details of what mashing their lives together might mean — before they make an emotional or legal commitment.
"On these profiles, you see people standing in front of their fancy car or talking about their fancy vacation. That says who you are, but it doesn't say where you've been and it doesn't say where you're going," Dr. Fisher says. "A credit score says how you've handled your money from day one. Because singles think that people who handle their money properly are also trustworthy, smart, responsible, it's a genuine signal of your mate value."
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Of course, for all those daters out there who value credit scores so highly, it's extremely important to remember that credit scores aren't always accurate reflections of how responsible a person is: Credit agencies often get things wrong, and sometimes as simple as an administrative error can have detrimental effects.
So, if you're worried about how tacky it would look share your impressive credit score on your dating profile, or being judged for hiding yours if it needs some work, Fisher says the caveat to everyone's concerns about financial compatibility is that most people are still invested in determining compatibility along other lines.
"I do so many studies with Match and we ask: What are you looking for in a partner? Over 98% of both men and women say, I want someone who respects me. Someone I can trust and confide in, someone who gives me enough time, and makes me laugh, and someone I find physically attractive," she says. "You have to pick the right moment for any kind of financial discussion — or any kind of sexual discussion, or any discussion of children. There's a right time for everything."
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