Any business you request service from may need access to your credit report history and credit score. Businesses use this data to decide whether to extend services or loan money to you. And some businesses (landlords, insurance companies, some employers) will use your credit information to determine if they should approve applications or not.
Since it’s common for reporting mistakes to appear on your credit report, it’s good practice to monitor your credit at least once a year.
Why it’s essential to monitor your credit
Many businesses rely on your credit score and report to approve new accounts. Here are some reasons to keep an eye on your credit information:
- Credit scores change monthly, sometimes weekly
- Credit reporting errors are common
- Data breaches may leave your personal information vulnerable to identity theft
- Anyone trying to rebuild or improve credit scores need to monitor changes in their information
How to monitor your credit report and score
You can monitor your credit report for free by obtaining a copy of your report but you won’t have access to your credit score. The best way to monitor both your report and score is by using a credit monitoring service.
Credit monitoring services aggregate information from one of the three major credit reporting agencies - Equifax, Experian, Transunion. These services can help you keep an eye on your credit report and score.
However, when it comes to third-party credit monitoring services, be sure you understand how the service gets its information, whether it uses data from one, two, or all three credit reporting agencies, and whether there are any fees involved. Also, be sure you understand whether the app offers your VantageScore 3.0 or FICO credit score.
Free credit monitoring services
There are a few ways to get credit monitoring for free, but you should know that these services may use your personal information to make credit and loan offers from participating partners.
Anyone trying to reduce debt or has trouble resisting new credit offers may not benefit from a free service.
Paid credit monitoring services
Equifax, Experian, and Transunion offer in-house credit monitoring services for a monthly fee.
There are also fee-based third-party credit services that offer comprehensive monitoring services, alerts, and access to your FICO or VantageScore 3.0 without loan offers or credit card advertisements.
Your personal preference and need for a particular service will determine whether you should go with a paid or free service.
Popular credit monitoring services
- Self monitor: Check your credit report for free once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com
- Current credit card lender or bank: Ask if your current credit card lender or bank offers free credit scores and/or credit monitoring services.
- Credit Karma: Free credit report monitoring and alerts, and VantageScore 3.0 with Transunion and Equifax information.
- Credit Sesame: Free credit report monitoring and alerts, and VantageScore 3.0 from Transunion.
- Chase Credit Journey: Free (and you don’t have to be a Chase customer to sign up). Monitor your Transunion VantageScore 3.0 and get credit fraud monitoring alerts.
- Privacy Guard: Paid service that offers monthly reports and scores from all three credit bureaus, credit monitoring and alerts, dark web scanning, and additional identity protection plans. Fees range from $9.99 to $24.99 a month.
- MyFico Credit Monitoring Service: Paid service that offers your FICO score and reports from all three bureaus. You also get credit report alerts, identity theft monitoring, identity restoration and ID theft insurance. The fee is $29.99 a month.
- Identity Force: A paid service providing identity monitoring and alerts, identity theft insurance, and credit report and score from all three credit bureaus. Fees range from $17.95 to $23.99 a month.
Be aware of credit monitoring scams
There are many legitimate credit monitoring services to choose from but you should be aware of credit monitoring scams, which could make your credit situation worse. Be careful of any service that claims to offer a “new credit identity” or tells you to dispute credit report information that is supposed to be accurate.
No credit service can legally remove parts of your credit history or make changes to your credit report. If a service claims these things and requires a large up-front payment, it is highly likely a scam.
You could also consider freezing your credit and placing a fraud alert on your credit report. This can be done online with the individual credit reporting bureaus.
A credit freeze locks your report and prevents companies from opening new credit in your name and/or verifying your identity. This option is convenient if you’re not planning to open a new line of credit or apply for services.
A fraud alert lets a company know that you may be vulnerable to fraud, and they must verify your identity through additional means like a phone call, email, or a copy of your government-issued ID.