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How to shop for credit monitoring services
Your credit score is one of your most important financial assets. It can determine whether you qualify for a loan, get a lease, or find a job. That is why it’s crucial to protect your credit.
Credit monitoring services allow you to track your credit reports and alert you when activity occurs. This guide will help you understand how credit monitoring tools work and how to compare them.
How to compare credit monitoring companiesComparing credit monitoring tools is no different than shopping for any other service. It is important to understand how credit monitoring tools work and shop around to find the best deal. Don’t go for the first credit monitoring service you see advertised. Consider these questions when you compare credit monitoring companies.
Which credit reporting bureaus does it monitor?There are three national credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Reports from different bureaus may not contain the same data. According to Katie Ross, Manager of Education, Development, and Housing at American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC), not all lenders report to all three credit bureaus. She also points out that each bureau may update client information at different times and may assign different credit scores. Many credit monitoring tools only offer access to the credit reports of one or two bureaus. You shouldn’t settle for one of these. Look instead for credit monitoring tools that check for activity in all three reports.
Does it monitor additional databases?The best credit monitoring services don’t only check the three main credit bureau reports. They also monitor your personal information, such as your name and Social Security number, across multiple private and public record databases.
Does it provide FICO credit score tracking?Look for credit monitoring services that give you access to your actual FICO credit score. This is the score most lenders use when determining eligibility. However, each bureau’s credit report is typically different. So check whether you’ll get the credit score for one, two, or all three bureaus. Some popular free credit monitoring tools provide access to your VantageScore or estimate your score based on in-house algorithms. These credit scores have some educational value, but they aren’t the same scores lenders use.
How often does it monitor reports?When it comes to protecting your credit, speed matters. The best credit monitoring tools check daily or even more frequently.
How does its cost compare to the cost of other credit monitoring tools?The cost of credit monitoring tools varies widely, from free to $30 a month ($360 a year). Some of the free credit monitoring tools provide an excellent service. But be aware that they typically make money by either selling you other financial products or by selling your data to other companies.
How do its features compare to those of other credit monitoring services?Checking your credit report with all three credit reporting bureaus is free once a year if you use AnnualCreditReport.com. So, if you are going to pay for credit monitoring services or give a company access to your data, you should receive additional features. Here are a couple of questions to help focus your features comparison.
Does the service feature all the commonly tracked information?Credit monitoring services often track the following types of activity:
- New credit accounts
- New public records
- Changes of address
- Hard inquiries
- Changes to existing accounts
- Credit utilization
- Dormant accounts
- FICO and VantageScore credit score changes
Does the service provide certain key tools?When comparing credit monitoring services, you should check if they include the following features. These key features add to the value of such services.
- Credit freezes: Also known as a security freeze, this allows you to restrict access to your credit report. That reduces fraud because most creditors need to see your credit report before they approve a new account. Some credit monitoring tools help you contact credit bureaus and request a security freeze on your credit report. This makes the process more convenient.
- Identity theft insurance: Credit monitoring and recovery services are often sold together. Identity theft insurance helps you recover when your identity is stolen.
- Social Security number monitoring: Some credit monitoring tools check databases to see if people are using your SSN.
- Credit analysis calculator: Also known as a credit score simulator, this tool allows you to explore what effects financial decisions, such as applying for a credit card or getting a loan, will have on your credit score.
- Credit change alerts: This is a staple of credit monitoring. The difference is how often you receive an alert. Some companies will provide instant alerts every time someone pings your credit report.
- Dispute help: People can dispute items on their credit reports if they feel they’re inaccurate. But the process can be confusing and time-consuming. Some credit monitoring tools offer help disputing incorrect items with credit bureaus. Learn more about credit repair here.
- Historical score tracking: This feature allows you to see how your credit score has changed over time. This helps you see how financial choices affect your credit.
- Mobile app: Having a dedicated app on your phone can help keep track of your credit reports and score changes. It is particularly useful when combined with an app that analyzes your purchases and provides warnings when there are unusual charges on your accounts.
- Password protection vault: Some credit monitoring services also include an online vault to protect your personal ID and passwords.
How should you use credit monitoring reviews?There are so many credit monitoring tools to choose from, it’s important to know how to narrow down your options to a manageable selection. Credit monitoring reviews can help by allowing you to quickly scan customer ratings and reviews.
Credit monitoring company ratingsCredit monitoring company ratings provide you with an overall score with which to compare credit monitoring services. SuperMoney collects the reviews and comments of community users to provide a recommendation based on customer satisfaction. Check the credit monitoring company rating of your top choices before you make a decision.
Credit monitoring reviewsCredit monitoring customer reviews are an important tool when shopping for the best credit monitoring service. Although it is unrealistic to expect a company to have no negative feedback, you should stay away from credit monitoring companies with a pattern of providing a bad user experience.
Where can you find credit monitoring sites compared in one place?SuperMoney’s reviews and filters allow you to compare the features, price, and benefits of many credit monitoring companies. Use the list of credit monitoring services below together with the filters on the left sidebar.
Do you need credit monitoring?
Credit monitoring becomes more important every dayThese tools have become increasingly important over the last several years as personal information has come under attack. Just a few years ago, in 2018, over 27 million records were exposed in 789 breaches, according to the ID Theft Resource Center. Since then, things have only gotten worse. According to IdentityForce, 7.9 billion records were exposed over just the first three quarters of 2019, and early figures from 2020 showed the upward trend continuing.
Unmonitored credit is a disaster waiting to happenLet’s say, for example, someone opens a line of credit in your name using your social security number. If you’re not in the habit of monitoring your credit, you could go months without noticing. Identity thieves are not in the habit of making timely payments, so your credit will take a hit. Once you discover the fraud, it will have already hurt your credit score and will take time and expert help to repair.
So many tools, so little time for comparisonClearly, tools for keeping closer tabs on your credit have never been more needed. Enrolling in a credit monitoring service is a proactive step you can take to safeguard your personal information. With the right credit monitoring tools, you can ensure that all your reports are accurate, up-to-date, and heading in the right direction. But with so many tools or services to choose from, how can you choose between them? How can you compare credit monitoring companies and find the right one for your situation? This article can help. It provides an in-depth guide on how credit monitoring tools work, along with clear guidance on how to shop for and compare credit monitoring services.
Credit monitoring frequently asked questionsNow, let’s take a look at some questions often asked about credit monitoring.
What is the difference between credit reporting and credit monitoring?Some people find credit reporting and credit monitoring confusing. Credit reporting involves companies that collect information on people and businesses to build reports. Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax are such companies. Credit monitoring is a service that keeps tabs on the reports to inform people and businesses about any activity.
What is the difference between credit monitoring and identity theft protection?You will notice companies offering identity theft protection along with credit monitoring. You may wonder how that differs from credit monitoring alone. Credit monitoring involves tracking your credit score and reports from the various credit bureaus. The main benefit is that you remain aware of activity on your account. Identity theft protection adds additional monitoring to secure your identity. The additional monitoring can include court records, arrest records, payday loan applications, check cashing requests, social media monitoring, and websites where criminals trade or sell stolen information. Additionally, identity theft protection often includes insurance coverage in case your information is stolen. In short, identity theft protection is a more advanced service that monitors a wider range of data. It minimizes the risk that someone will steal and misuse your information, and it protects you if your information does get stolen and misused.
How do companies monitor your credit?Typically, you’ll sign up and the company you hire will communicate with each of the bureaus on an ongoing basis. They monitor your reports for the activities included in your plan. Your features and services will depend on the provider and plan you choose. Often, you will gain access to a dashboard that keeps your information organized and easy to understand. If something happens, the company will alert you via your selected channel of communication (SMS, email, app notifications, etc.). You may also receive updates and summaries on a regular basis.
Is credit monitoring worth the investment?Should you invest in credit monitoring? Well, let’s consider the alternative. If you don’t, you are limited in how often you can check your credit reports with the three main bureaus. Here’s a quick look at what each of the bureaus offers for free:
- Experian : Users get free monthly monitoring of the Experian report for new credit inquiries and new accounts. It also includes a monthly Experian report and FICO score report.
- TransUnion : TransUnion offers one free credit report per year.
- Equifax : Equifax offers one free credit report per year.
The bottom line of shopping for credit monitoring toolsCredit monitoring services are useful tools to protect your credit from identity theft and to help you improve your credit score. But credit monitoring tools are not all the same. Follow these steps when looking for the best credit monitoring tool for you.
- Check the services and features offered by credit monitoring tools. Determine what features and benefits matter the most to you. If possible, choose a credit monitoring company that offers unlimited access to your credit report and FICO score with all three credit bureaus. It is also a good idea to use a credit monitoring tool that frequently checks your reports for changes.
- Compare the cost and the services offered by your top choices. Free credit monitoring tools may be enough, but you will probably have to combine several credit monitoring services to cover all three national credit bureaus. Don’t pay for services or features you don’t need and won’t use. But, if they’re reasonably priced, don’t leave out services and features you’d benefit from.
- Check how long each company has been in business and what credit monitoring company reviews say about their customer service. SuperMoney provides free access to credit monitoring ratings and reviews.