How Important Is Credit Compatibility to A Relationship?

Blog Post02/09/2016
Credit Advice

Couple compatibility is about more than whether or not you laugh at the same jokes. Being on the same page with your significant other regarding financial issues can help you focus more on the laughter and less on the stress that money problems can bring.  Being a compatible couple means sharing important parts of each other’s lives, including financial responsibilities. Discussing things like credit usage, past credit history and financial management skills early on in a relationship can pay long-term dividends when it comes to staying together.

Credit Usage

Credit is a convenient tool for managing your cash flow. However, if you can’t handle it responsibly, it can cause problems, both in terms of added interest and in possibly lowering your credit scores. If you’re applying for a joint loan — whether you’re married or not — your partner’s bad credit might hurt your chances of getting a loan, or at least getting one with a good interest rate.

One of the best ways to get on the same page with your significant other is to take advantage of your free annual credit report from each of the three credit bureaus, including TransUnion. Your credit report will list your open and closed credit accounts, along with payment history and balances, and will give you an honest look at each other’s credit history and habits.

Credit Score

Your credit score doesn’t tell the whole story, but it is a numerical interpretation of your credit history. Something many people don’t know is that there are a number of different types of credit scores available. For starters, each of the three main credit agencies may have slightly different data, resulting in the possibility of varying scores. You can make meaningful comparisons if you use the same scoring system for both partners.

Why are compatible credit scores important?  A recent study from the Federal Reserve suggests that couples with similar credit scores are more likely to stay together. While you don’t have to share the same credit score as your partner in order to be credit compatible, you might need to have a talk if the scores vary by a few hundred points.

Credit Attitudes

If you and your partner view credit differently, it can be a roadblock to credit compatibility. For example, in some relationships both partners carry student loan debt; if one partner prioritizes paying off the debt more than the other, incompatibility can become a problem. Disproportionate debts can also be problematic, with a National Foundation for Credit Behavior study indicating that 57 percent of respondents were concerned about entering relationships with high-debt partners9. Behaviors can certainly change, and partners can adapt to new ways of doing things, but it’s important to discuss credit attitudes.

Credit scores have become such a significant factor that they are changing the dating landscape. According to a New York Times collection of interviews with more than 50 daters under the age of 40, credit scores are often considered more important than even traditional markers like physical chemistry and similar interests.

Spending Habits

How you individually spend money is an important precursor to credit compatibility. If you’re with a free spender, you might not face any immediate credit problems, but you could be setting yourself up for problems down the road. Overspending may quickly turn into reliance on credit to pay the bills, and tension between frugal and spendthrift partners can cause harm to a relationship. On the plus side, a frugal partner may be able to help balance out a free spender to the point where credit problems are avoided altogether.

If you find that you and your partner are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to credit compatibility, don’t panic. With open communication, partners of any background can work towards credit compatibility.

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