On her second date with a man she met through an online dating service, Lauren was surprised when he revealed his credit score over dinner.
"When he told me his credit score was 793, he might as well have told me he had a private jet," recalls Lauren, a county employee in Georgia who asked that her last name not be used. "It was such a turn on."
Like Lauren, a growing number of singles are swapping details about their credit scores at the beginning of a relationship, filtering by FICO to find Mr. or Ms. Right.
"While it sounds calculating and cold, it makes sense," says Anthony Sprauve, director of public relations for myFICO.com. "A credit score gives you an indication of how someone handles their finances; a high credit score is the key to your financial future, but a low credit score could be an indicator of potential issues that need to be discussed."
In addition to qualifying for lower rates on loans and more access to credit, a mate with a low credit score may spell trouble in a relationship. In a survey conducted by myFICO.com, respondents reported that a lack of financial responsibility impacted their relationship more than an unfaithful spouse.
When Lauren set up an online dating profile, she wasn't looking for a partner with perfect credit. It wasn't until her date disclosed his score that Lauren realized great credit represented more to her than preferred mortgage rates.
"It was a reflection of whether he was responsible," she recalls.
The idea that credit scores are an indicator of how well someone handles commitment and honors agreements led to the creation of the online dating site CreditScoreDating.com.
"If you're looking at building a life together, you need to know the details of each other's finances," says the site's owner, Niem Green. "If you can't buy your dream house or the interest rates are ridiculous or all of the loans and credit cards need to be in one person's name [because their spouse has bad credit], it can affect a relationship."
When CreditScoreDating.com launched in 2007, most of the members were in their 40s and, according to Green, often had relationships end because of financial issues.
Following the financial crisis, the site experienced a surge in membership and a decline in the average age of members. Of the 15,000 members using the online dating portal, a "significant percentage" are in their 20s and 30s.
"The younger generation is starting to realize that it's important to be proactive about their financial stability by keeping their own scores high and finding a partner who also has a high score," Green says.
Credit: A taboo topic
The problem: Not everyone is willing to share their score.
A third of respondents to the myFICO survey admitted they were reluctant to share their scores with a significant other; just over half of the singles surveyed would tell a significant other their score. A 2013 CreditCards.com research poll found the same reticence: Discussing debt remains a huge taboo , as big or bigger than talking about religion, politics or your sex life.
While talking about credit scores on a first date seems "a little weird" to personal finance expert Liz Weston, she believes couples need to talk about their finances, including the all-important three digit number, before getting serious.
"I understand that it's an important issue, but I don't think it should be a top dating criteria ... You could be shutting out someone who might otherwise be a perfect match," says Weston, author of "Deal with Your Debt: Free Yourself from What You Owe." "Judging someone by their credit score is as [ridiculous] as judging someone by their horoscope."
After learning that her date had a stellar credit score, Lauren worried that confessing her credit challenges would impact their budding relationship.
In 2012, her lofty credit score of 730 plunged after a combination of unexpected medical bills and divorce led her to declare bankruptcy. Living with a less-than-perfect credit report paled in comparison to telling a new suitor about her troubles.
"I realized if we were going to have a good start to this relationship, we needed to be open and honest with each other," she says. "When I told him about my credit, he reassured me that we have all been in bad financial situations and worked our way out of them." Five months later, "It hasn't impacted our relationship at all."
While credit scores are important, Sprauve believes it's not a black-and-white issue.
"When you have the conversation, it's important not to focus on the score, but to understand the circumstances that led to the score: There is a difference between someone who has a [score of] 420 and laughs it off and someone who tells you their credit score is lower than they would like but they are working to fix it," he says. "A low score doesn't mean someone is hopeless and you should cross them off the list."
See related: Plastic love: How to protect your credit while online dating , Love me, love my debt? No way, poll says