×

Surprise! Your partner may be lying to you about money

An estimated 12 million people have a secret bank account or credit card

Here's a Valentine's Day treat for you — your partner may be hiding cash, hoarding a secret credit card or spending money without telling you.

A new survey from CreditCards.com found that 28 percent of respondents confessed to spending at least $500 without notifying their significant other.

The credit card review site surveyed 1,003 adults over the phone in January.

bills debt
Katarzyna Bialasiewicz | Getty Images

Older Americans were especially keen on keeping financial secrets from their spouse. One in 10 survey participants aged 63 to 71 reported having a hidden credit card or bank account, while 3 percent of millennials did the same.

Meanwhile, close to 40 percent of baby boomers splurged on purchases exceeding $500 while keeping their significant other in the dark.

"Because most Americans live on a budget or go paycheck to paycheck, and they don't have a lot of savings, the idea of spending $500 without saying anything to your partner can be really damaging to your finances," said Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com.

The website estimates that as many as 12 million Americans are keeping secret accounts and credit cards.

Now might be the time to come clean about your concealed cash and spending habits.

Spendthrift behavior

Higher-income households were more accepting of a spouse's spending without notification. To that point, 47 percent of participants earning at least $75,000 were comfortable with their partner spending more than $500 without a heads-up.

"The good news is that the people who are most OK with their partner spending without telling them are more likely to absorb the higher expense," said Schulz.

In all, as many as a third of those polled were fine with their significant other spending on big-ticket items while on the down low. See the chart below.

Schulz suggested having a discussion with your loved one when an impulse purchase hits the $100 mark.

"There is no way to have a meaningful budget in your household without knowing how much money is coming in and how much is going out each month," he said.

Setting limits

In a perfect world, partners would discuss their spending before they cohabitate or get married. It's not enough to talk about paying for things you need — rent, utilities and food — as well as your income and debts, you also have to talk about your cash habits.

"Money and financial difficulties are at the heart of the breakup of so many marriages, and it's so important to have those conversations before you really need to have them," Schulz said.

Get your issues out in the open by scheduling a one-on-one with your spouse. Be sure to bring out your relevant paperwork, including your bank and credit card statements, loan balances and other reports.

"It may not be the most fun conversation, but it's important to be honest and open about your spending and how much you and your partner are comfortable with spending without telling each other," Schulz said.