Ask Jane: Should I tell a new date my credit score?

Jane Bryant Quinn is a nationally known commentator on personal finance, with books and columns read and trusted by millions. In her long career, she has established herself as America’s most reliable voice for people trying to manage their money well. Read more of Jane's articles here

You might have to, if you want to see the guy or girl again. Credit scores not only affect the size of the interest rate you have to pay on credit cards and loans. They're also becoming one of the keys to romance.

Even on first dates, that doll who’s gazing deeply into your eyes might ask for a credit score before deciding whether to see you again.

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To me, first dates are too soon to ask. But it definitely makes sense to know a potential partner's score before the relationship goes too far — at least, for people with marriage on their minds. A partner who can't get credit at a decent rate could pull down your mutual standard of living.

Your FICO Score is the best known, most used and most relevant to disclose. The three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) also provide a VantageScore, based on a different scale. FICO scores come free if you apply for credit, and the score influences the decision. Otherwise, you’ll pay $19.95 for an Equifax or TransUnion score. (Experian won’t give you FICO scores. You get a VantageScore for $7.95, which isn’t comparable.)

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If your credit score isn't great, it's a bad idea to lie about it. The relationship might heat up, making it harder to confess. Eventually, truth will come out — and when trust goes out the door, love often leaves, too. So 'fess up, and work on raising your score to date-worthy levels by paying all your bills on time andreducing credit-card balances to less than 30 percent of the credit available. If your date's score is the problem, ask him or her to do the same.

Then promise that you’ll call him or her back.