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Of all the many questions you may have about someone when entering into a new relationship, the first to come to mind is probably not: "How is their credit rating?" In the first flush of romance, you may have other things on your mind. Yet, knowing something about your dating partner's credit score may be more important than you realize, especially as the romance progresses.
That is because a credit score can suggest certain things about someone that can have as much to do with their attitude and personality as it does about money. For that reason, employers, banks, landlords, security personnel and others who perform background checks consider credit ratings to be valuable indicators of the type of person they are dealing with. In the same way, there are good reasons why you should consider your partner's credit scores as a useful guide in your dating life.
Surveys have indicated that nearly two thirds of couples argue over money. Therefore, if one member of a couple is fiscally irresponsible, that may prove to be a repetitive cause of friction in the relationship. Unless your partner's poor credit rating is the result of some calamity such as medical expenses or unemployment, it could be an indication that the person just doesn't care very much about paying their bills on time. And if they are irresponsible in that category, what other important areas of life do they also show the same irresponsible attitude?
Another, more subtle indication of possible problems is when your romantic partner doesn't seem to be aware of what their credit rating is. This is a red flag, since it can indicate either an alarming indifference to credit issues, or that they may be lying in order to avoid telling you their credit status. Neither possibility is much of a positive indicator for the relationship. If you are dealing with someone who is genuinely clueless about credit, inform them of how every person is entitled to a credit report for free each year from the credit bureaus. A credit monitoring service can also keep your partner up to date and help keep them safe from identity fraud. If your partner shows no interest in either finding out about or monitoring their credit, this again should be perceived as a major red flag.
Your Problem Too?
A partner with bad credit can end up having a negative effect on your credit rating as well. As a relationship progresses, people's financial activities become increasingly entwined. If you and your partner are spending a lot of time together, then you are probably spending a lot of money together as well. That is when their credit problems can slowly be transformed into becoming your credit difficulties as well. Looking ahead, if you get married you will probably want to open joint accounts, which is when your partner's irresponsibility will have a direct impact on your scores as well. Try to convince your dating partner of the importance of having reminders or automatic payment programs in place to prevent allowing bills to become overdue. Hopefully, in time your partner will then become better at tracking and meeting their financial obligations.
In recent years it has become increasingly common for property owners to ask to see the credit ratings of prospective tenants. Banks also are very interested in the credit scores of people they are considering offering a mortgage to. For obvious reasons, it is not helpful if one party in the rental or mortgage agreement has bad credit. That is because landlords and banks will assume that if your credit rating indicates you are having trouble meeting your routine bills, why will you have any less trouble when it comes to your rent or mortgage? This is especially important if your dating leads to marriage, because then landlords and banks will automatically consider both of your credit histories equally. In other words, a serious relationship with a person with bad credit that leads to marriage can really undermine your opportunities in the housing market.
Asking the Question
Knowing your partner's credit score can give you valuable insights into who they are and what the prospects are for financial harmony in the future. However, too often we are nervous and hesitant about asking someone about their credit score. Marriage counselors generally agree that a full, frank and serious discussion about each partner's financial status, including credit scores, is essential before getting married. Such a discussion is wisely designed to prevent unpleasant fiscal surprises from coming up that can derail the marriage in the future. Awkward as it can be to bring up a discussion of credit, commonsense demands that it simply has to be done. If you really don't have a close enough relationship with your partner to discuss credit, then maybe the marriage plans need to be delayed until you do.
None of the preceding is meant to suggest that you should never consider a long term relationship with a person with less than stellar credit scores. What matters more than the scores themselves is the attitude going forward. People with bad fiscal pasts can and do change their ways and successfully raise their credit ratings. Even the worst scores can be repaired by such means as getting secured credit cards or otherwise taking steps to avoid future fiscal fiascoes. Professional credit counseling can work wonders in identifying the specific steps that can be taken to repair credit. These solutions can be tailored to match the precise fiscal circumstances of your partner's finances. The question is whether or not they are willing take such measures, and if not, whether you want to make a long term commitment to such a person.
Take It Slow
Don't let concerns about possible future problems with money keep you from enjoying the dating scene. In more casual, short term relationships, the issue of bad credit need never present itself. However, if you feel you are getting serious with someone, then you may need to slow things down until you know where your potential future husband or wife stands in the field of fiscal responsibility. Remember that your own long term credit ratings and financial security could depend on it.
- AT&T: A credit check is required for all AT&T products. AT&T pulls your credit score for all major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). If you do have bad credit, you can speak to a customer representative to determine your options. In some cases, you may be able to receive service, but others may turn you away due to your credit.
- Comcast: Only certain products or services require a credit check, and Comcast will notify customers before requesting their credit. Comcast uses Experian and Equifax to screen these customers.
- Cox Communications: According to Cox Communication’s website, “a credit check and/or deposit may be required.” So, consumers with bad credit should be aware that they may be turned down from obtaining services.
- Time Warner Cable: Time Warner Cable has just started requiring credit checks for all new customers. Although the inquiry is a “soft inquiry,” meaning it will not lower your credit score, it is used to determine what amount of deposit is appropriate. Time Warner uses Experian to check potential customers.
- Verizon: A credit check is required for all new Verizon customers. Verizon looks at each of the 3 major credit bureaus, and it is a hard inquiry into their credit report. Consumers will not be turned away based on these credit checks, but the amount of the deposit is affected.