What Your Date’s Credit Card Says About His Personality (and His Bank Account)

prom dates
(Tongue and cheek Guest Post by the folks at Nerd Wallet – aka their “Guide to (potentially unfair) snap judgments based solely on credit card choices”)

It’s crunch time. Dinner is digesting, and you slowly reach for your wallet in case he has the audacity to suggest going Dutch. An awesome wave of relief washes over you when he insists on paying – at least he’s not a total cheapskate.

What he pulls out of his wallet tell you a lot about this guy, in terms of his personality, his credit, and his financial situation. I leave you with these tips for deciding on whether you should run for the hills.

So, what does he pay with?

1. Cash or a prepaid debit card

Breaking the bank, or breaking the law?

Anyone with a legally documented job probably has a checking account, which comes with a bank debit card. Many people also have credit cards. That means you should seriously question why your date would paying with a prepaid debit card, or even cash, at a decent restaurant. The most likely explanations are (i)he has recently filed for bankruptcy, or (ii) he is trying to get rid of piles of illegally obtained cash.

Spotting a prepaid debit card is easy. One obvious sign being that it’s issued by a bank you’ve never heard of. The most popular ones are the WalMartMoneyCard, Green Dot, AccountNow, Vision, Silver, Western Union, and Ace.

2. A bank debit card

Former debt-a-holic, or just lazy?

More than half of America’s plastic swiping now happens on bank debit cards, usually by people who don’t want to have to keep track of credit card bills, or have had trouble managing their credit card debt in the past.  Debit cards are the primary recovery tool of the Orman/Ramsey crowd of recovering debt fiends.

3. A business credit card

Defrauding the IRS, or defrauding his employer?

Business credit cards are easy to spot, because they typically say “Business” in bold letters on the front, or they display a corporate logo that isn’t a bank. If he pays with one of these cards, he is defrauding the IRS for half the dinner bill.

If he doesn’t own a business, then his employer is paying for your dinner, and is involuntarily defrauding the IRS. If he does own a business, and the date doesn’t go so well, remember to report him to the IRS and get 15%-30% of what they recover from him as a whistle-blowing fee.

4. An American Express Centurion (Black) card

Obsessed with image? Or maybe he just really needs airport lounge access and a concierge service.

One one hand, you know he is well off. But if he is actually willing to pay $5,000 to get a black card, and then an extra $2,500 per year to renew the Titanium rectangle of elite douchebaggery, you have to think twice about his personality (if the baby seal interior on his Hummer and his orphan-tear martinis didn’t already clue you in). I’m no relationship expert, but this kind of guy is the type to get divorced biannually.

For those of you who think there are perks to owning a black card that justify the expense, I beg to differ. If you spend a quarter million dollars per year, you probably have an assistant, and you probably fly business or first class. So what’s the point of having a concierge or free lounge access?

5. An American Express Platinum or Gold card

Wishes he could qualify for a black card.

This guy stays up at night fantasizing about one day owning a Black card. He is willing to pay $175 or $450 per year for no tangible benefit. The fact is, he’d have to drink the airport lounge dry about 9 times per year to breakeven on the $450 Platinum annual fee.  Meanwhile he could have been earning big travel rewards with no annual fee on any number of other cards.

6. A Discover Escape or Costco credit card

This guy is more concerned about saving money than his image.

These are amazing rewards cards, but they come from Discover and Costco, not the sexiest brands on the planet.They are definitely the choice of someone who doesn’t care much what other people think about his plastic, which may carry over into other areas of life as well.There’s a good chance he’s looking forward to fatherhood… if that’s your thing.

7. Citibank Platinum Select, or Discover More

He may be recovering from student loans or similar debt, but at least his credit is good.

This person has one of the premier balance transfer credit cards. He probably carries a credit card balance, but he has to have good credit. These cards are specifically targeted towards people with good credit who want low introductory rates to help them dig out of a (presumably) temporary hole.  So at least he’s on the right track.

When things don’t add up, run for the hills

There you have it, NerdWallet’s guide to (potentially unfair) snap judgments based solely on credit card choices.Who knows, maybe it will save you some time in your next dating escapade.

– A guy with tons of money and a prepaid debit card? Probably into a life of crime, move on.
– A guy with an Amex Platinum or Centurion card? Check his ring finger for tan lines; you may just be his new hobby.
– And a guy with a Costco card? Might be asking you how many kids you want to have before the second date is over.

(Prom photo by Joe Shlabotnik)

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  1. Molly On Money January 24, 2011 at 9:02 AM

    When I was dating cash was king in the town I lived in. I was either dating guys that worked in construction (and had just cashed their pay check) OR were servers at a restaurant.

  2. Karmella January 24, 2011 at 9:15 AM

    So apparently no form of payment reflects well on a date – I guess it is good that he is paying and I don’t have to stress over which way I want to look bad! :)

  3. Brent January 24, 2011 at 9:22 AM

    I dont find anything wrong with cash or debit cards.

    not a big fan of this post J.

  4. Kevin @ Thousandaire.com January 24, 2011 at 9:25 AM

    This article has a very funny premise and I really liked it at the beginning, but when I got to the end and there were no “good” credit cards, it just makes the author sound like a pessimistic, angry person. There has to be some kind of card that makes you look good on a date…

    1. CarrieK February 20, 2019 at 8:18 PM

      The Chase Freedom. It makes you look free spirited. How about the Discover IT. It means you’re hoping she’ll be open to discovering “it” pretty soon. Or maybe the Capital One Quicksilver meaning that the cardholder is quick. Or how about the Capital One Savor showing that you like to take your time and savor. Too many puns…

  5. Jennifer R January 24, 2011 at 9:28 AM

    I’m assuming this is meant to be funny, and not serious at all – because most of the bad reasons given for using a certain type of card are just plain stupid – to put it bluntly. I use prepaid debit cards to pay for dinners because I often get them as gifts. I also use cash when I received that as a gift as well. And I’ve never filed for bankruptcy and I don’t have piles of illegal cash to use up.

    And what’s wrong with a bank debit card? How does using that make someone lazy? Some people just don’t want to use a credit card – what’s so wrong with that?

    And when did Discover become a bad credit card? Or how does using a certain credit card mean that you are getting out of debt, or have had bad credit in the past?

    I really like your blog, J$ – but this is one of the worst posts I’ve read in a long time.

  6. Travis January 24, 2011 at 10:01 AM

    This post is garbage. What were you thinking?

  7. Emily January 24, 2011 at 10:23 AM

    I agree with previous commenters; this post is absurd. It’s not funny OR true. (For the record, I pay with an Amex gold, which implies I have great credit. The annual fee of $175 is waived for the first year; I earned $250 in gift cards as a bonus for signing up. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think this makes me savvy AND secure–not that I need to advertise this to my date by flashing my card. I’d prefer any potential romantic partners figure out how responsible I am over the course of months/years of, uh, responsible financial behavior.)

  8. Brian Drolet January 24, 2011 at 10:34 AM

    Gotta agree with these guys. Not a fan of this post at all. I’ve commented before and have always had good things to say.

    This post is stereotypical, and the tone comes off as rude.

    I think it would be cool to have a follow-up post about what credit cards say about your personality (in a good way)

  9. Dave January 24, 2011 at 10:57 AM

    Srs Bsns, guyz.

    Seriously though, I’m pretty sure this wasn’t meant to be taken seriously. Lighten up and have a sense of humor about things.

  10. CityFlips January 24, 2011 at 11:05 AM

    I’m looking at this with some humor. I agree with the above posts though…it’s a bit pessimistic if you take it very seriously.

  11. NerdWallet January 24, 2011 at 11:32 AM

    Hey guys, as many of you pointed out, this post was meant to be 100% tongue-in-cheek (and yeah, probably a little pessimistic/cynical). If you were expecting to learn something from this post, I apologize.

    I’ve used most of these payment methods myself, and feel no shame in having done so. The fact is, what credit card you use has absolutely nothing to do with your personality. In fact, choosing a credit/debit card should be a matter of cold, hard math about how to optimally reduce your expenses or increase your rewards, and that’s exactly what we try to preach at NerdWallet.

    Unfortunately, it looks like humor isn’t our forté :-)

  12. DoNotWait January 24, 2011 at 11:51 AM

    Haha, very funny reading to me! Those personalities references can’t be taken too seriously, although pushed to extreme, the analogies are quite good!

  13. michelle January 24, 2011 at 12:16 PM

    hahahah this is great. my ex was def a nut with a discover card. he was always talking about marriage and babies, but never wanted to focus on the fact our relationship was rocky

  14. Trinnie S January 24, 2011 at 12:24 PM

    Okay, time to stick up for my man, J. This post is a guest post! It’s not like he actually wrote this! and the last part of the post was a sort of disclaimer from the writer: “There you have it, NerdWallet‘s guide to (potentially unfair) snap judgments based solely on credit card choices.” He/she immediately states that the post was snap judgements and possibly unfair! I personally died laughing when I read this, especially since Discover is my and my husband’s credit card of choice! 8 yrs of marriage and 1 child later…hmmm…maybe the judgements are pretty right on after all!

  15. Meredith January 24, 2011 at 12:45 PM


    This post was not cool. Judgmental, stereotypical, rude—actually, it was just downright offensive. I use my debit card all the time, which makes me lazy and a “recovering debt fiend.”


  16. Cristina January 24, 2011 at 12:45 PM

    Hahaha, I thought this was funny, not pessimistic. (My fiance and I have the Costco Amex, are shopping around for a car with car seat space, and definitely fit the stereotype. . .)

  17. Justin January 24, 2011 at 1:10 PM

    I have an AmEx Platinum card. And I’m removing your blog from my list of daily reads because of this dickheaded post.

  18. retirebyforty January 24, 2011 at 2:21 PM

    Lame! I use cash when I go out to eat. This is to help control credit card expense since people tend to spend less with cash.

  19. NerdWallet January 24, 2011 at 2:26 PM

    @Cristina – Thank you for understanding the levity of the post :-)

    @Trinnie – Thank you for reading all the way to the end and understanding that we intended this to push some buttons and be completely unfair.

    This is the internet. And it’s a blog, not the Wall Street Journal. Not everything you read here is meant to be studied and dissected ;-)

  20. Too Funny January 24, 2011 at 2:34 PM

    This guest post is absurd.

    I have a Starwood AMEX platinum. The fee is $65 per year, not $175 or $250.

    I have one for business and one for personal. Great tools for tracking spending and they incorporate into different accounting software.

    There are great rewards, too. I just booked a 10 day stay + airfare to the St. Regis Puerto Rico for FREE with rewards points. Rooms start at $600 per night during the off-season and average about $900.

  21. Evan January 24, 2011 at 2:41 PM

    Not sure why everyone is up in arms…the post was clearly meant as a joke. Either that or he ripped on me b/c I use the AMEX Gold (one free year and 50K bonus miles!)

  22. Kathleen January 24, 2011 at 2:53 PM

    C’mon, people… This is so clearly a joke. I found it amusing. :)

  23. Cassie January 24, 2011 at 3:19 PM

    I can see that it was intended to be funny, but the humour just didn’t make it across. Maybe I’m not in the right mood?

    I went on a date and he used cash AND credit. What do you suppose that means?

  24. Brian January 24, 2011 at 3:19 PM

    Maybe people are angry about this post or feel insulted, because they’re in debt. and they’re trying to get out and they’re trying to make the right choices.

    By “attacking” people that use cash/debit (maybe in debt, etc) it doesn’t seem right compared to the other posts and guests posts from J. money

    Also people that may have recently got out of debt feel insulted because they’ve recently become responsible with credit cards and this is kind of a slap in the face.

    I guess what’s comforting and where the humor comes from is that this author hits on all sources of payment so there’s no way out.. haha

  25. J. Money January 24, 2011 at 3:30 PM

    Hey guys – on the road across the country right now (literally – at a rest area on the highway! Haha…) but just wanted to step in and say that it sucks this article is coming out the way it is… It was def meant to be a joke from Nerd Wallet (the guest posters today) and I’m sorry for those it offended. Genuinely – U know ive got nothing but love for y’all :) I thought about taking this down and just scrapping it, but I made a conscious decision to post this up in the first place because I believed it to be lighthearted and I stand up for my judgement or lack there of. At the end of the day this is a blog, and a little criticism and unhappy thoughts can do a person some good (aka me). Again, sorry to those who want to punch me in the face right now, and hopefully were back in kumba-yah land soon. See you next week :)

  26. Donna Freedman January 24, 2011 at 3:38 PM

    For me the question is “Does my date use a BOGO?” or “Does my date use a gift card to that restaurant that he bought from a discounted gift-card site?”
    Personally, I find both kind of hot.
    P.S. I’m in my 50s but I don’t believe that the man should automatically pay for everything. It seems unfair. If he invites me, he can pay — but the next meal out is my treat.

  27. NerdWallet January 24, 2011 at 4:07 PM

    @Too Funny The Starwood Amex is different from the Amex Platinum card. The Platinum is a charge card (not a credit card) with a $450 annual fee. The Starwood card is a hotel rewards card, and is probably one of the absolute best rewards cards on the market.

    Hm, seems like we left that card out though.. if I wanted to make some more snap judgments, I would say you probably travel for business a lot (this card is very popular with management consultants), and you love some swank hotels.

  28. NerdWallet January 24, 2011 at 4:12 PM

    @Brian – Thanks for that. I was hoping that by “attacking” everyone, it would be clear that we’re not actually attacking anyone. Those who are most offended probably looked for themselves in the list and decided to focus there, rather than realizing there aren’t any “better” alternatives in our list…

  29. Fred January 24, 2011 at 4:18 PM

    Great post some people were born without a funny bone.

  30. Sassy January 24, 2011 at 4:19 PM

    I happen to respect cash and debit cards…

  31. Aimee Davis January 24, 2011 at 4:28 PM

    I can tell it was supposed to be funny, but it really wasn’t. Maybe I’m just desensitized to good, wholesome comedy. It was seriously lacking F words and proper insults. I would have, at the very least, expected the word “douchebag” with the American Express Centurion card.

  32. Erin January 24, 2011 at 4:31 PM

    I have to reiterate what some people have already said, and tell all the people criticizing this post to LIGHTEN UP. I laughed all the way through it, and I’ve used many of these forms of payment. Maybe it’s time to brush up on reading comprehension skills if you don’t get the obvious sarcasm and humor expressed here. :-P

    Loved it, NerdWallet and J$.

  33. Jonathan January 24, 2011 at 8:52 PM

    My wife and I never even went on a date, but I’m pretty sure this wouldn’t have mattered too much. Good old Chase Freedom, 5% cash back baby!

    It’s certainly amusing…I wonder if anyone seriously thinks about stuff like this…(yes I know it’s a joke post)

  34. 20 and Engaged January 25, 2011 at 12:31 AM

    I don’t see a reason to avoid him if he’s using a debit card. If it goes through, at least you know he has money :)

  35. Trina January 25, 2011 at 2:59 AM

    I thought this was great. Funny, lighthearted. Not offensive at all and I didn’t take it personally…as it seems some others have. Made me interested in checking out NerdWallets blog.
    What’s that saying…you can’t please everyone all the time:)

  36. Catherine January 25, 2011 at 11:13 AM

    I didn’t take any of it personally, though part of me is probably sad as I too covet a platinum card (hadn’t known of the black cards before -now that’s a bit excessive!).

    A lot of the observations could be true to a certain point – but I’d say there’s nothing wrong with debit cards – some of them look quite nice if you get the ones with benefits. And if someone can pay a large amount on a debit rather than a credit surely that’s more impressive – the man has money in the physical world. (or as physical as money gets!)

  37. David January 25, 2011 at 11:52 AM

    To say that debit card users falls into two categories, “Former debt-a-holic, or just lazy?”, is lame.

    I don’t use credit cards and the money I’m spending right now with my debit card comes directly out of my checking account.

    It’s the same thing as writing a check or paying with cash, without the inconvenience.

    AND I earn money back on the rewards program.

  38. Mary Sue January 25, 2011 at 6:05 PM


    Just… wow.

    The assumptions in this article… mind boggling in their stupidity.

    Hey, do any of these answers change if the one paying is a woman? Because baby, I totally pay with cash, because that’s how I keep my budget intact and my savings continually growing.

  39. JennyDee January 26, 2011 at 12:53 PM

    I, for one, loved this post. It was funny and snarky. Too bad it was only about paying with cash or credit – I’d love to have known how a potential date appears who pays “split” – $20 on his credit card and the rest in cash. My sister does this a lot, mostly to make balancing her account easier (only whole numbers on the card, also makes finding fraudulent charges easier). Thanks for the laugh!

  40. Janet January 26, 2011 at 6:02 PM

    I’m surprised at the reactions here. I thought the post was clever.

    But to be sure, I’m most impressed when a guy pulls out a fat wad of cash and says “I got it.” :)

  41. Dawn January 29, 2011 at 11:42 AM

    ROFLMAO!! Great job on this tongue-in-cheek post! Was in a situation last night where a friend pulled out a Hooters credit card. But I caught a glimpse of the black and my eyes lit up, “You have an Amex BLACK?!” I asked. We all got a good laugh when he revealed the tacky orange logo of Hooters.What does THAT card say about someone?!

    You forgot to mention that paying cash in a restaurant could mean they are paranoid about identity theft, incidentally… In fact, they could be like Mel Gibson’s character in Conspiracy Theory and think the government is tracking their every move. ;) http://creditshout.com/5-ways-you-can-have-your-credit-card-number-stolen/

  42. J. Money January 30, 2011 at 4:38 PM

    Hahah… the Hooters card says you’re awesome ;)

    @JennyDee – Yeah! I’d like to know what splitting the check means too, haha… probably nothing good.

  43. Dawn January 31, 2011 at 6:06 PM

    @J. Money – I will have to let my friend know your thoughts on his Hooters card! :)

    @Janet- I’m with you. I think nothing says class and, well, money… like cash. :)

  44. Ernest July 12, 2011 at 4:14 PM

    The individual who wrote this ad is a stupid

  45. J. Money July 12, 2011 at 4:51 PM

    what ad?

  46. Y May 12, 2012 at 3:42 PM

    Stupidest summary of the amex platinum ever. The author seems like they’re the one with jealousy issues

  47. Biff Malibu October 3, 2015 at 9:48 AM


    If you are a nice restaurant and your date sees you use plastic, it i ho-hum. However, if you pay the exact $100 with cash a you pull a wad of greenbacks from your wallet or pocket, that “flash money” makes a subconscious impression on you date. She is thinking you are a rich guy and that gets her all revved up for later.

    Cash makes an impression. One that promotes horniness.

  48. CK November 27, 2017 at 3:34 AM

    This is nonsense. You are basically saying we are dammed if we are successful and dammed if we are not.

  49. CarrieK February 20, 2019 at 8:23 PM

    LOL. The only ones that would concern me are cards like the American Express Black or American Express Gold. If it works out and you end up getting married, you’re going to be managing a house with someone who thinks looking cool is the most important thing. I wouldn’t get along with someone like that.

  50. Tom April 28, 2019 at 7:12 PM

    The author clearly has no idea what the heck he’s talking about. Like others have pointed out, seems like a jealousy thing – he couldn’t qualify for the premium credit cards and/or can’t afford it. AMEX Gold for example, is $250 annually. But the value you get out of it can be as high as $1,000 first year, you get 8% at restaurants, 6% at supermarkets, not to mention a host of other premium benefits, purchase protection, price protection, just to name a small fraction. The author clearly has no idea how credit cards work.