A mobile phone showing a person’s credit score sits on a bed of love hearts. If you’re looking for long-term love, a high credit score could be a proxy for stability and reliability
If you’re looking for long-term love, a high credit score could be a proxy for stability and reliability © FT Montage/Dreamstime

This article is the latest part of the FT’s Financial Literacy and Inclusion Campaign

If you’re looking for a date, what would your minimum credit score requirement be? Unless you’re taking the unadvisable step of lending this person some money, it’s a fairly arbitrary question. But in the world of online dating, it turns out a healthy credit score has real pulling power.

The trend started last year when an accountant in Boston added a screenshot of her excellent credit score to her Hinge profile. “All I needed to see — drinks next Thursday?” replied one potential suitor. One TikTok post and a million views later, other Gen Z and millennial daters followed her lead. It became a thing.

On Valentine’s Day, it is set to become an even bigger thing with the launch of Score, a new US dating app for those who can prove they have a good to excellent credit rating. If you once forgot to pay your gas bill, prepare to be benched. But what — other than your ability to borrow at competitive rates — does a good credit score actually signify?

Much depends on the kind of relationship you seek. You’re not going to insist on sight of a gold Amex card if a quick fling is all you desire. But if you’re looking for long-term love, a high credit score could be a proxy for stability (you’re able to pay your bills) and reliability (you pay them on time). In a week where US consumer debt hit record levels, it’s also a sign of responsibility (you haven’t taken on more debt than you can handle).

It is not a proxy for wealth — though I suspect many people will incorrectly surmise that a high credit score equals a high bank balance. A spendthrift with a bunch of cards who manages them carefully could score highly, yet a multimillionaire living an entirely debt-free existence could have what’s known as a “thin file” and hence, a low score. The same goes for prudent folks still living with their parents who lack utility bills in their own name.

Could a high score signify that your date is ready to settle down? Intriguingly, a Federal Reserve study in 2015 recognised that individuals with high credit scores were more inclined to establish committed relationships. “Who knows, maybe they’ll take the trash out on a regular basis too,” says Luke Bailey, chief executive of the US fintech Neon Money Club behind the dating app. He describes it as a social experiment, albeit one with financial education at its heart. You, however, may think it sounds more like an episode of Black Mirror.

My only knowledge of dating apps is gleaned from single friends. I’m aware people routinely lie about their age, height and weight — so why should debts or credit scores be any different? Singles will have to pass an Equifax credit check to sign up for Score, and only those scoring above 675 will be accepted (in the US, the highest score is 850, whereas in the UK it’s typically 999). The precise number won’t be displayed on your profile, but anyone who swipes right will have passed the same test. If you are rejected, you won’t be dumped entirely — the app will serve up all kinds of tips to help get your credit together.

There are no plans to launch in Britain, where many regard talking about money as a turn-off. Bailey believes a generation schooled by #FinTok videos think being interested in finance is a good quality in a partner, but adds: “Obviously, all of the other boxes have to be checked too.”

When I met my partner in a London pub 20 years ago, “good credit score” or even “high earnings potential” were not boxes I was looking to tick. He made me laugh, he was kind and I fancied the pants off of him, which was enough. But this was an entirely different financial era. Back then, you did not need a six-figure salary to buy a one-bedroomed hovel located an inconvenient distance away from a Tube station.

People dating in their twenties and thirties are painfully aware of the difficulty of achieving the relationship milestones that my generation took for granted. Credit scores are a crucial financial passport to adult life. Never mind getting a mortgage to buy a home — nowadays you can’t even rent one without passing increasingly onerous credit checks.

And while Score is aimed at the mass market, the trend of greater financial disclosure is filtering down from elite dating apps. Blame The Tinder Swindler, but many services now insist on wealth verification checks including sight of tax returns to prove annual income above a certain level.

As any singleton will know, the great irony is that the cost of dating is guaranteed to fry your finances. Nearly one-third of UK singles are using credit cards to fund their dates, according to a recent study by Experian.

Even if your income levels and credit scores are a good match, would a cheap date saving for a house deposit be a turn-off or a turn-on? Either way, it makes sense to check you share the same financial values before you start sharing the same address.

Claer Barrett is the FT’s consumer editor and author of the FT’s Sort Your Financial Life Out newsletter series; claer.barrett@ft.com; Instagram @ClaerB.

Join Claer Barrett and guests for a free FT FLIC webinar on The True Cost of Childcare on Fri 8 March 12.30-13.30 UK time. Register here now.

Letter in response to this article:

Dating by credit score reflects deep-seated fears/ From Felicity Hawksley, York, North Yorkshire, UK

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