Many people today know that it is possible to use credit monitoring services to keep tabs on their credit score, their finances, and their spending. You don't want to worry about losing control of your credit - and you certainly want to make sure you avoid identity theft at all costs. By monitoring your credit score and by using services designed to alert you to sudden changes in your credit history, you have a better chance to make sure that no one takes advantage of you.
About Credit Monitoring Services
Credit monitoring services offer you constant and up to date feedback on your credit. While each service offers different features, it's good to choose a company that has the following:
- Regular reviews of your credit report -- You want to be able to sign on to the service and actually download an up to date copy of your report on a regular basis. See how often you are permitted to check your report with the service. Can you check it any time you want such as weekly, monthly or at another set interval?
- Alerts and updates if something changes -- Your credit monitoring service should send you an alert if something changes on your report or score; for example, if a new account is opened..
- Identity theft protection and insurance -- Some monitoring services will provide you with insurance if your identity is stolen while using their protection features. These services promise to take care of everything for you, from contacting creditors to get your money back to getting incorrect information removed from your score.
Once you've done some research and have a service in mind, ask yourself these questions:
- Does it offer all the above mentioned features? Will it check your reports with all three bureaus? Do you get to see both your credit report and your credit score?
- What types of protection does the company actually offer you? Some don't offer any identity theft insurance. Think carefully about whether you want that added protection, and about whether you are willing to pay for it.
- What is the cost? Most will charge a monthly fee that can range from a few dollars a month to $30 a month or more. Consider both the cost and what you are getting from that cost
- Is the company reliable? If you opt to purchase monitoring, you want to make sure you can trust the company to do what it promises.
Where to Get Credit Monitoring
Companies that offer credit monitoring include:
Consumer reviews on these companies change frequently, based on the most recently reported interactions that consumers have had with the companies. You can find recent reviews online by searching the specific company names or the phrase "credit monitoring." High level comparisons of the various companies are also available online at websites such as Fight Identity Theft.com.
Should You Buy?
Credit monitoring gets mixed reviews. For some people, the ability to check your credit regularly is important, especially if you are trying to improve your credit or getting ready for a major purchase such as a home. One drawback is that monitoring services only know what shows up on your credit report. If someone opens a card in your name, for example, it may not show up immediately and you may not get an alert right away.
Plus, if someone uses your Social Security number to get a card but doesn't put down your other information, such as your name and address, that new account could end up in an entirely separate file and not show up for quite a while on your report, until long after your identity has been stolen and a lot of the damage has been done. In addition, you can achieve a do-it-yourself monitoring of your credit by regularly checking your credit report, so paying the fees for a separate monitoring service may not be worth it.
Free Credit Reports
You are actually entitled to three free credit lookups per year; one from each bureau. If you request one every four months, this can be enough for you to reasonably keep an eye on your credit. Note that you will have to pay for your credit score in most circumstances.
For more information about taking care of your finances and getting control of your credit, think about signing up for service that monitors your credit or for financial counseling.