The Silver Lining for U.S. Consumers in Equifax Hack

On the surface, the Equifax hack is a terrible event that affects more than half the U.S. adult population. Because of the hack, there will be identity theft, financial loss and undue stress placed on Americans’ shoulders. But there is a silver lining.

In the past four days, I have tried 12 times to freeze my credit report on Transunion, Equifax and Experian. That’s an average of 4 attempts per company. A dozen. Company sites are down or unable to process requests. Lots of people are getting the message to freeze their credit.

Freezing your credit takes some effort. So does unfreezing it. Plus, there is a fee to unfreeze your credit. This means a higher level of friction when we apply for credit cards. Do we really want to jump through that hoop to get 20% off today’s J.Crew purchase when we already have six store cards and $18k in debt?

U.S. consumers have 764 billion in total credit card debt. Many of us cannot control our spending. While the Equifax hack won’t help with our current credit cards, the hack is a stomach staple for our future financial health. Credit card applications will go down. Only the cards we truly want and/or need will be applied for. Good news for consumers. Bad news for credit card companies.

I’ve written about forcing functions in the past. Freezing our credit is another example of a forcing function. It forces us to consider our credit decisions more deeply.

So while this Equifax hack is unforgivable, let’s enjoy the silver lining in all the mess. The hack may be the single biggest turning point in the history of U.S. consumer debt.