You know your credit score gets checked when you apply for a credit card, a job, an apartment, insurance or a loan. But these days, even potential dates may be asking about your fiscal health when they're checking you out.
While not every prospective date will come right out ask you for your FICO digits, some singles we talked to say they want to know a potential partner's financial status.
Websites such as Creditscoredating.com and Datemycreditscore.com have received plenty of attention in the media. Both are based on the idea that singles want to date others with an excellent credit score. In fact, the motto of CreditScoredating.com is "Good Credit is Sexy."
The concept may sound a little mercenary, but since a low credit score can keep you from doing everything from buying a house to landing a job, singles interested in a finding a life partner may have a point.
"I've never been asked about my credit score, but I wouldn't mind it," says Kathy (not her real name), a single woman from Maryland. "I think financial compatibility is critical at this stage in life, especially if there is even the flicker of a thought that the relationship could lead to something long term."
Kathy says a friend of hers rushed into the arms of a man who, despite his $100,000-plus salary, had a bleak financial picture. "She didn't want to believe his finances were as disastrous as they were, and he ended up costing her thousands and a hard lesson in protecting her assets," she says.
Credit counselors say many of their customers come to them because their romantic partners refuse to get married before they eliminate their debt. Some debt-laden clients have simply made pacts with themselves to get rid of debt before they wed.
We polled a group of five accountants and asked whether they would like to check a potential date's credit score. Most of them said yes, because "a responsible individual makes a better partner."
Naturally, not everyone is buying it.
You're More Than Just a Number to Me
One naysayer among the accountants asked "What do you want, a good person or a good credit score?"
"As much of a stalker as I am, I think it'd be creepy to know someone's credit score before a date," says J., a Washington, D.C.-area single. "There could be many contributing factors to a poor credit score, and I wouldn't want to rule someone out. In fact, if someone had a poor credit score because he's in over his head for, say, helping out a family member, I may want to hear that story, not rule out the candidate. And what about the person who's working really hard to improve their credit score? They may be more appealing to me than someone who grew up with everything handed to him."
Four Ways to Pretty-Up Your Credit
If you think your poor credit score is holding you back on the relationship front, you should be aware that there are no quick fixes. However, with time and attention to these four crucial financial steps, your credit can improve.
1. Start paying your bills on time. Your payment history is extremely important to your FICO score. Your creditors want you to show up on time as much as your date does.
2. Reduce your credit card use to 30 percent or less on each line of credit. Your overall income and debt doesn't matter nearly as much as making sure each credit card shows that you handle credit responsibly and not max out your credit cards. New relationships need a little air, and so do your credit card limits.
3. Don't open new credit accounts unless absolutely necessary. Just like dating around indiscriminately can earn you a bad reputation, opening several accounts will lower your credit score and so will numerous credit inquiries.
4. Check your credit report for mistakes. Accurate negative information will linger on your credit report like the memory of your worst date, but if there are mistakes that are lowering your score you should take steps to fix them.
While there's no guarantee that taking these steps will get you a dinner date, they will improve your financial appeal.