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by on February 5, 2014

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NerdWallet study reveals what your credit card will say about you on Valentine’s Day.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, analysts at the financial transparency website NerdWallet.com have found that your credit card and credit score can have a significant impact on your dating life. While a fancy candlelit dinner is how most people go, our survey found that how you pay for dinner may well matter more than your choice of restaurant. Moreover, you might be a better dating prospect if you pay down your debt than if you run up a balance buying a new outfit.

Among the most significant takeaways:

  • Women tend to value good credit scores—and shy away from bad ones—much more than men do.
  • Using a high-end credit card might get you a second date, but a declined card definitely won’t.
  • Millennial and boomer couples tend to put a higher value on discussing money than other age groups.

On the first date, credit cards are cachet.

All right, you have a date for Valentine’s Day. Ambience and the activity are important, but do you know that there’s a wrong and a right way to pay?

  • Don’t get declined. 50% of singles—and a full 63% of single women—say they are “somewhat” or “much less likely” to date someone whose credit card is declined on a date.
  • Financial savvy can be attractive. From a slate of 13 rewards credit cards, the survey asked respondents to name the cards they’d find “impressive” if used to pay for a date. While the high-end American Express Platinum (28%) and Visa Black (29%) ranked third and second, respectively, a full 39% of people found “a local credit union card” to be impressive—the most of any card. Frugality, in this case, can be just as much of a draw as paying with a premium card.
  • Women value high-end cards more than men. 24% of single women say they are “somewhat” or “much more likely” to date someone who uses a premium credit card like the American Express Platinum, compared to just 13% of men.

“As unromantic as it sounds, how you advertise your creditworthiness will affect whether you score that second date, so be mindful of how you pay for dinner,” says Jelena Ewart, credit and debit analyst at NerdWallet. “Some see a date’s high-end credit card as an accessory, but most are on the lookout for financial responsibility.”

High FICO scores lead to more dates.

You’ve scored a second date! While this is unlikely to come up so soon in a relationship, you should know that women tend to value high FICO scores more than men do—and are more likely to look askance at dates with less-than-stellar credit.

  • Women want excellent credit. 40% of singles say they are “somewhat more likely” or “much more likely” to date someone with excellent credit. Women value high FICO scores more: the figure rises to 52% among single women, compared to just 29% among single men.
  • Bad credit can hurt dating life. 53% of singles say they are “somewhat less likely” or “much less likely” to date someone with bad credit.
  • More money, better credit. Good credit becomes more important among higher income brackets: the percentage rises to 65% among singles with annual incomes over $100,000.

“Couples, particularly young adults, are planning ahead,” Ewart says. “They understand that a long-term relationship involves sharing money, so they’re looking for financially responsible partners.”

When do couples have “the talk”? It depends on age.

You’ve been going out a while now, and it’s time to start thinking about the future. Younger and older couples alike know that money matters are important, but middle-aged ones were less enthusiastic about discussing each other’s financial state. Among respondents whose current relationship has lasted a year or more:

  • Millennials make a point of talking money: 98% of respondents age 25-29 say they’ve discussed finances at some point, the highest of any age group.
  • Middle-aged couples are the most likely to punt… On the other side of the scale, 13% of respondents age 30-44 say they’ve never discussed money, compared to an average of 4% in other age groups.
  • … but that hasn’t stopped them from snooping. A full 9% of couples age 30-44 have tried to find information about their partner’s finances without them knowing, the most of any age group.
  • Millennials put “the talk” before other life events. Alone among the age groups, those age 25-59 say they discussed their finances with their partners before moving in together.

“The emphasis on money varies with age and circumstances,” says Anisha Sekar, credit card analyst at NerdWallet. “Millennials may want to have the ‘debt talk’ out of the way, while an unmarried 40-year-old couple might feel more secure in each individual’s stability.”

So, how can consumers build their credit?

We’ve seen that having less-than-perfect credit can impact your dating life as well as your finances. Here are a few tips for fixing up bad credit and maintaining a good score:

  • Don’t close your oldest credit cards. A high average account age will boost your score. Rather than closing the account, keep the accounts open and stick the cards in a drawer. This helps the average account age portion of your FICO score. If your card has an annual fee, switch to a no-fee version of the card to keep your account alive without paying extra.
  • Always make the minimum. If you’re strapped for cash, try to budget in at least the minimum payment. It might not help you get debt-free, but at least you’ll avoid a dinged credit score and higher finance charges.
  • Don’t overuse your credit. When a lender looks at your credit score, it usually takes into account your credit utilization ratio—how much you’re borrowing compared to how much you can borrow. Unfortunately, this ratio often refers to the amount you’re borrowing at that moment, whether or not you eventually pay it off at the end of the month and avoid interest charges. Try to pay off your credit card balance entirely before applying for new loans.

Methodology

NerdWallet conducted a survey of 544 never-married adults age 25 or older on Feb. 1-2, 2014.

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