1 in 5 Americans say they have a financial account they keep secret from their spouses

Jan 24, 2019, 2:18 PM | Updated: 4:31 pm
Financial infidelity...
1 in 5 Americans say they're keeping a credit card or bank account secret from their spouses. (Photo: Clemson / Flickr / Creative Commons)
(Photo: Clemson / Flickr / Creative Commons)

Twenty-nine million Americans currently have a secret credit card or bank account that they’re hiding from their spouse. At least, that’s what a new CreditCards.com survey says, which found that one in five Americans who are either married or living with a partner are keeping an account secret from their significant others.

They call it “financial infidelity,” and, apparently, it’s far more common than the other four out of five of us would have imagined.

Shocked at the statistics, KSL Newsradio’s Dave & Dujanovic invited listeners to call and text in to share their stories of financially cheating on their spouses, and the boards lit up with people’s stories.

Even here in Utah, it seems, we aren’t above hiding credit cards from our loved ones. Countless people around our state have their own stories of financial infidelity, and every one of them gives a little glimpse into why we’re so unwilling to talk to our spouses about how we’re using our money.

Utah’s stories of financial infidelity

Money and relationships

One common thread came up in almost all of our caller’s stories: a lack of financial trust. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Nothing is more important, relationship experts say, than trust. According to Psychology Today, it’s the number one predictor of a relationship’s success.

When it comes to money, though, it seems that our trust runs a bit thin.

More than one of our listeners openly admitted that they have a credit card they don’t tell their spouse about. In every case, they gave the same excuse: they just didn’t think their spouses would let them buy the things they wanted.

One listener texted in with the story of a mother-in-law who managed to hide a credit card from her husband until the day she died and all the unpaid bills landed on his lap:

My mother-in-law loved reading. She got fed up that her husband would not let her buy as many books as she wanted, so she hid a credit card account from him to get the books she wanted. She’d been sick for a while, ended up passing away before he found out. Luckily, she had a big life insurance policy, so it paid off her debt.

Another who called in to share her story insisted that, by keeping a secret credit card, she was doing nothing wrong:

Look, I don’t think it’s a big deal to have a small credit card amount that you keep from your spouse. I have a $200 line of credit and it just allows me freedom still to go out to lunch or buy myself a new pair of shoes when I want to. And I make up for it when I go to the grocery store and I’ll get $20 cash back and pay for it on my credit card.

It could be considered deceiving, but it’s something that I enjoy and something that my spouse doesn’t need to know about that allows me to have some things that I enjoy in life.

Their spouses, however, don’t always agree that it’s so harmless. Fifty-five percent of Americans say that they think financial infidelity is as bad or worse as having an affair, according to the study, and some of our listeners seem to agree. One texter told us:

My sister divorced her husband over hidden accounts. He thought he had to do it because she didn’t save.

White lies and loving secrets

Secret credit cards

Not every story about a secret credit card has to be a negative one, one listener says. (Photo: ccPixs.com / Creative Commons)

Not every story of financial infidelity has to be about lies and heartbreak, however. As one of our callers pointed out, just because a partner is hiding money doesn’t mean that they’re up to something rotten.

One of our texters confronted her spouse when she found out he was siphoning money out of their bank account only to find out that he’d been using it to buy her presents.

“Yeah,” the texter wrote, “I felt like a giant jerk.”

Even host Dave Noriega admitted that he’d once hidden a secret stash of money from his wife so that he could surprise her with a $1,000 payment toward for a cruise.

“I would just disappear, and I would make up, like, some excuse,” Noriega admitted. He would work on a short project, earn a little money, and put it into his secret fund to buy his wife a gift.

But the present, Noriega admitted, didn’t go as well as he’d hoped.

For her birthday, I gave her this $1,000 and I said: ‘Hey, this goes toward our cruise. This’ll get us on our cruise.’ And I thought it was this amazing gift.

And she said: ‘This is what it was? This is why you were gone?’ And she was bothered by it, because she said: ‘Well, why didn’t you just tell me? It would have been better if you just told me.’

And I started to realize: Oh. My great surprise was really not that great.

Everyone, it seems, has their reasons to justify financial infidelity. But perhaps, as Dave’s co-host Debbie Dujanovic suggests, a little honesty goes a longer way than a big surprise.

Hear our listener’s stories

If you missed the show live, you can still hear every story Dave, Dujanovic, and our listeners shared on the Dave & Dujanovic podcast.

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon on KSL Newsradio. Users can find the show on the KSL Newsradio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

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1 in 5 Americans say they have a financial account they keep secret from their spouses