More businesses than you realize look at your credit history. If you don’t know what’s reported on your credit report, you could be in for an unpleasant surprise.
Checking your credit report once a year isn’t enough. Sure, you’ll see where you stand, but what happens the other 11 months of the year? Your credit report is a snapshot of that point. Credit monitoring ensures you always know what’s going on and can act fast.
What is Credit Monitoring?
Credit monitoring monitors your credit all the time. It alerts you of changes in real-time so you can change any bad credit habits or issues right away. If you initiated the change, you can move on. But if you didn’t, you can act quickly to fix the problem before it gets worse.
Even if it wasn’t identity theft, but an error the credit bureau made, you can dispute it immediately. This prevents excessive damage credit score damage and/or denied loan applications.
No two credit monitoring services are the same, understanding what to look for and who offers the best services is important.
What to Look for in a Credit Monitoring Service
Before you sign up for just any credit monitoring service, consider the price and coverage:
- Price – Most services charge a fee. Some are free, others charge monthly or annually. Make sure it makes sense for your situation.
- Coverage – Some monitoring services watch one credit bureau and others watch all three. You’ll get the best bang for your buck if they look at all three because each bureau has different information.
Also, consider what the service monitors. It should be some of the following:
- Credit score changes – Even a small change could distinguish between an approval and denial. Knowing immediately about the change and why may help you fix the issue and/or delay your loan application until you fix it. No lender likes bad credit no matter the type of loan.
- Learn about hard inquiries – Hearing about hard inquiries right away is one of the best ways to learn about identity theft. If you see an inquiry you didn’t make, do some digging to discover if you’re a victim of identity theft.
- Learn about reporting mistakes – Credit bureaus and creditors report things incorrectly all the time. If you don’t know about it, you can’t dispute it. This could make or break your next loan decision.
- Dark web scanning – This service scans the dark web for your name, social security number, address, or birth date.
- Identity theft insurance – If your information is stolen, identity theft insurance helps cover the legal expenses incurred to fix the problem.
The Best Credit Monitoring Services
Knowing where to find the best credit monitoring services helps narrow down your search, andmonitorsyour credit right away.
Best Free Credit Monitoring Service
Credit Karma offers free credit monitoring. It’s not a ghost subscription where you sign up for a ‘free trial’ but must provide credit card information.
It’s completely free.
Credit Karma monitors Equifax and TransUnion, so that leaves out Experian, but you can monitor Experian through Experian. Credit Karma monitors your Vantage 3.0 credit score. This might be the same score lenders look at, or it might not, but you get the gist of what your credit history looks like, which is the point.
Credit Karma sends alerts when something changes on your credit report. It’s up to you to look into it and figure out the next steps.
Best Credit Monitoring Service for the Features
Most credit monitoring services have at least a few helpful features, but some stand out from the crowd with their offerings. IdentityIQ is one such service, they offer extensive services that goes beyond checking your credit. Here are a few of the top features:
- Immediate alerts of credit score changes
- Up to 12 copies of your credit report provided annually
- Learn about credit score changes of 10 points or more immediately
- Hear about other changes in your credit right away, such as collections, charge-offs, or stolen card suspicions
- Dark web monitoring globally
- Application monitoring so you know before credit is issued that someone stole your identity
- Up to $1 million in identity theft insurance
Best Credit Monitoring Service for Reliable Credit Score Reporting
To keep track of your credit score, you want to know about changes right away.MyFICO is a great option for this.
You not only get access to all three bureaus, but you receive up to 28 versions of your credit score. Each lender who views your credit score sees a different version. For example, auto lenders see something different than mortgage lenders. Knowing what each lender sees helps you make the right changes, and/or right financial decisions.
It’s a little on the pricier side, but getting alerts when anything new hits your account including a change of address, new inquiry, or new public record is worth it especially if you’ve already been a victim of identity theft.
Do you Need Credit Monitoring?
Everyone should monitor their credit. If you don’t pay for a service (or use Credit Karma), then monitor it yourself.
Checking once a year isn’t enough, though. If you go the DIY route, spread out the free credit reports you receive from each bureau annually throughout the year. Pull one report every four months so you cover the entire year.
Just be mindful that a lot could occur in the months you aren’t checking your report. Even if you haven’t been a victim of identity theft yet, it could happen. Catching it as early as you can helps prevent serious financial issues. Bad credit doesn’t last forever, but it takes time to fix and overcome. Rather than succumbing to it, consider credit monitoring services to keep you in the loop.