British couples keeping up to £30 billion worth of debt secret

News release

Andrea Budd
Communications Manager, Experian Interactive
+44 (0) 20 3042 4893 Tel Email

British couples keeping up to £30 billion worth of debt secret
Study reveals extent of financial secrecy in relationships

Nottingham, UK, 26 February 2009 – New research by shows that one in five Britons (19 per cent) are keeping their money worries secret from their partners – up to £30 billion1 worth of hidden debt. And it’s not just undisclosed debt; 3.2 million (10 per cent) of Britons currently in a relationship admit to having a ‘secret’ bank account that they keep from their other half. 2

The CreditExpert research was carried out to establish the extent of financial secrecy in British relationships and reveals that despite the majority of the population (89 per cent) agreeing that financial honesty is important in a relationship, in practice things are very different. As well as hiding debt and keeping secret accounts, the research also revealed:

           More than a quarter (27 per cent) admit to reading a partner’s bank statements or pay slips without them knowing
           One in ten British adults (10 per cent) have admitted to making a secret purchase from a joint account or savings account
           13 per cent do not own up to their current partner about the amount of credit/store cards they hold
           15 per cent of British adults currently in a relationship keep information about their bonus or level of earnings from their partner

Darryl Bowman, Director of, said: “If you have something to hide, you might want to consider that one joint application for credit with your partner creates a ‘financial association’ on both of your credit reports and that means your financial behaviour could impact your partner’s finances, including their ability to get credit. Couples should be honest about money, particularly if you are already financially linked and if you plan to have joint accounts in the future.”   

Shame and embarrassment appear to be the main reasons for people holding back about financial matters with one in ten admitting they are ashamed of the state of their finances. Nearly one in five (18 per cent) simply state that the reason they do not share information is that they do not want a partner knowing everything about their financial situation.

Furtive female purchases
Women appear to be less financially honest than men, with almost a third (31 per cent) admitting to reading a partner’s bank statements, compared to under a quarter of men (24 per cent).  They are also more secretive when it comes to how much they spend, with more than a quarter (28 per cent) not informing their current partner about how much they splurge on clothes and shoes compared to just 11 per cent of men. Men however, are more likely to be cagey about informing their current partner about their level of earnings or bonus (17 per cent to 13 per cent respectively).

Dishonest Capital couples
Financial honesty varies dramatically across the UK, with London couples topping the table as the most secretive when it comes to their finances. Almost a third (29 per cent) of London couples keep their debt levels from their current partner and a quarter (24 per cent) do not share information about their earnings or bonus levels.

Regular credit report monitoring enables you to keep tabs on your credit status and see who you are financially linked to. CreditExpert from Experian provides you with access to your credit report and can give advice on how to improve it. Get a 30-day free trial at

Based on £233 Billion national personal debt (excluding mortgages), Bank Of England, January 2009
2 Based on total GB adult population of 46,537,051, Office of National Statistics