While in Grand Central waiting for my train home from a conference recently, I found myself in a conversation with the person sitting next to me. At some point early in the conversation, we exchanged the "so-what-do-you-do-for-a-living?" question and I told him that I was a credit consultant. He responded by saying that his score was good but he hadn't checked lately because he wasn't planning on borrowing any money.
His response revealed a very common misconception that I need to address. It's quite common to believe that a credit score is really only helpful when you want to borrow money and therefore (so the questionable logic goes) you don't need to check your score until you want to borrow money.
Here are four reasons why that way of thinking is wrong:
1. It can take a while to repair your score
It takes less time to ruin your credit score than it does to improve it. Therefore, a credit score that might have been high once could take months (or sometimes even years) to restore after a rapid descent. If you don't remain aware of your score at all times, you may be taken by surprised at how low it is and if you wait until you need to borrow money, it might take too long to repair for that loan.
2. Incorrect information can drive your score down
One reason for low credit scores is incorrect information. Perhaps the credit reporting agencies accidentally assign someone else's credit information to you because your names or addresses are similar. It happens! Although incorrect information can be fixed, it might take you by surprise if you didn't think it would be there, and it's an extra hassle you have to deal with if you go the banks to borrow money and are denied because of these errors.
3. Identity theft can seriously hurt your score
Identify theft is a growing concern that affects millions of people every year. One of the ways to watch for (and stop) identity theft is to check your credit reports regularly to make sure that you are aware of everything that is being reported. If an account appears that you don't know about, it could be a red flag indicating that someone else is stealing your identity and profiting from your credit score!
4. You never know when you need money
Many of the people who believe the misconception that they don't need to check their credit scores because they don't need to borrow money right now are forgetting one of the most fundamental laws of life: Murphy's Law! You may not think you need to borrow money right now but then all of sudden something happens -- you need to finance a new car or get a mortgage for a new house or borrow money to renovate that leaky roof. Whatever the case may be, borrowed money is often borrowed because it is unexpected.
It's a common misconception to believe that you don't need to check your credit score because you don't intend to borrow money in the near future. But I've seen the all-too-familiar situation that proves the exact opposite is true: You need to check your credit score constantly because you never know what could happen and guess what? The man sitting next to me in Grand Central called me to say he has a problem on his credit report!