News & Politics

Are People Really Asking for Credit Scores on their First Dates?

"Scoring on the first date" takes on a whole new meaning.

American dating culture just reached a new, almost inconceivable low. According to the New York Times, young singles have a new number they are using to evaluate potential partners: their credit scores.

Apparently, a host of Web sites have sprung up catering to singles looking for a good-credit-wielding mate, including Creditscoredating.comand; while an increasing number of young people have confessed to asking a potential partner’s score on the first date. A bad score, some say, can tank a fledgling relationship. A high score, on the other hand, can fast-track one’s dating application—I mean, er, insert phrase that makes young daters sound less like a mortgage lending company.

First things first: For anyone who has been living under the rock of delusion for the last five years, a credit score is a numerical analysis of a person’s debt history that is supposed to predict how likely he or she will be to pay back a loan. Under the most popular measure, FICO, the magic number ranges from 300-850 -- with 850 being the Moby Dick of all credit scores, and anything below 400 being analogous to scoring 200 on the SATs simply for writing one’s name.

So, in other words, more and more young people are choosing potential partners not because of shared interests or values, expressions of love and respect, or even a shallow appreciation for someone’s bangin’ body—but because of how able they’ve been to pay back their past debts.

In terms of sheer inhumanity, evaluating a potential partner based on his or her credit score surpasses other absurd metrics, such as the illusive size 0 dress or size 16 dress shoes.

First, it reflects the almost insane levels of control and power that lenders wield in a highly debt financed economy. Since 1980, individual debt has increased steadily as housing prices soared, wages remained stagnant and everything became so damn expensive that Americans increasingly relied on cheap credit simply to put roofs over their heads, food in their mouths and their kids through college. Remember the era when Henry Ford priced his cars cheap enough for his workers to buy a Model T outright? Today, the total auto debt stands at just under $1 trillion, dwarfed, of course, by mortgage debt at a staggering $8 trillion. The average college student who graduated in 2011 carries nearly $27,00 in student loan debt alone.

The fact that whether or not people are able to pay back these debts has become a measure of romantic eligibility reflects how shockingly acceptable we think this debt-based economic system is—and how much we’ve been tricked into thinking that one’s finances are a measure of his or her moral and ethical character. 

Even more disturbing, credit scores -- particularly in the wake of the highly racialized subprime-lending crisis -- is far from an objective, color-blind number. As the Washington Post reports: “The implosion of the subprime lending market has left a scar on the finances of black Americans—one that not only has wiped out a generation of economic progress but could leave them at a financial disadvantage for decades…. credit scores of black Americans have been systematically damaged, haunting their financial futures.”

It’s a well-proven fact that nearly all of the major mortgage companies discriminated in their subprime lending based on race. Three of the largest lending companies--Wells Fargo, Bank of America and SunTrust—have already settled with the U.S. Department of Justice over charges of racial discrimination in mortgage lending. According to the Center for Responsible Lending, this discrimination held true even when the  home buyers had good credit scores.

“Among borrowers with a FICO score of over 660 (indicating good credit), African Americans and Latinos received a high interest rate loan more than three times as often as white borrowers,” explains the Center For Responsible Lending’s 2011 report.

To judge potential dating partners based on credit score, therefore, means African Americans and other people of color that got screwed by the mortgage industry now won’t get screwed in the bedroom. That seems from fair, doesn’t it? It’s almost like the financial industry was able to boil down white privilege into a single number, and then pretend it has nothing to do with race, then sell it to single Americans as a measure of other people’s self-worth and future eligibility. No wait… that’s exactly what it’s like.

Luckily, not everyone -- or even most people -- are buying (literally) into this trend piece. As one commenter on the Times’ Web site wrote:

This article is so insane on so many levels that I don't know where to start or even why to start…Unfortunately, it portrays our society with values somewhere on par with a pack of piranhas. It is sad to see these sort of values presented as "normal" and 'conventional". And we wonder why our society is so sick. 

Why am I not surprised to find something like this in the business section? This article is better than a major ad campaign for the credit scoring companies.

Anyone willing to bet $20* that this man would make a perfectly fine romantic partner -- regardless of his credit score?


*Accepting the bet is contingent on a credit score above 600 and carries an 11.5% adjustable interest rate.

Laura Gottesdiener is a freelance journalist and the author of "A Dream Foreclosed: Black America and the Fight for a Place to Call Home," forthcoming from Zuccotti Park Press.