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What is credit monitoring?

This helpful service can spot important changes to your credit report and prevent credit card fraud.

Your credit report reflects not only your financial history but also your borrowing habits. Generally, the better those habits, the higher your credit score. But credit reports aren’t without mistakes. And they can sometimes serve as an opportunity to stop credit card fraud in its tracks.

If you don’t have the time to monitor your financial health yourself, credit-monitoring services stand ready to help — most often for a fee.

What is a credit monitoring service?

A credit monitoring service alerts you when new information appears on your credit report, such as credit inquiries, new accounts or changes to your borrowing limits.

With credit monitoring, you sign on with a company that agrees to monitor your credit reports for changes or suspicious activity. They advertise these services as a way to detect fraud or ID theft. But they can also help you keep a closer eye on your overall financial health.

Why is monitoring your credit important?

A credit-monitoring company can be a way for you to monitor what potential lenders and creditors see in your bureau reports. Most include services like:

  • Text and email alerts. You’re notified immediately after changes to your credit report, giving you a chance to spot inaccuracies and fix mistakes before your score is affected.
  • Fraud monitoring. By keeping close tabs on your report, these third parties can pinpoint strange activity that could be a result of credit card fraud.
  • Identity theft insurance. Some services offer identity theft insurance for a cushion of protection if your sensitive information gets into the wrong hands.

What credit monitoring can’t do

Though useful, credit monitoring has its limits. It can alert you to potential credit card fraud or ID theft, but it can’t:

  • Prevent fraud or a stolen identity from occurring in the first place.
  • Keep phishing calls or emails from reaching you.
  • Stop a fraudster from applying for credit in your name.
  • Take steps to correct errors in your credit reports.

Can I monitor my own credit?

Yes. But you’ll need to build it into your schedule.

Monitoring your credit means asking for copies of your credit report from all three reporting bureaus and regularly patrolling your report for inconsistencies or inaccuracies. To help you watch for fluctuations in your score, look into whether your bank, creditor or lender allows you free access to your FICO or other scores.

Should you spot anything suspicious, contact the appropriate credit bureau immediately to protect your credit score. Consider freezing your credit with the bureaus, rending your reports less accessible to anybody but your existing creditors until you’re able to resolve the problem.

Do I need to buy credit monitoring?

No. But it might make sense if you don’t have the time to monitor your credit yourself. If you’re already dealing with theft or fraud, credit monitoring can provide peace of mind that you’re actively protecting your credit from another offense.

Monitoring your credit yourself might make sense if:

  • You’re willing to freeze your credit reports. Freezing your credit is just one tactic you can take to safeguard your credit without paying for a service.
  • You know how to read your reports. It takes time, but you can request your reports and regularly monitor the activity within them on your own.

Start monitoring your credit

If you don’t have time to monitor your credit yourself, you sign up for a paid service that’ll send you updates and alerts regarding your credit report.

Name Product Starting price Trial period Credit scores Credit monitoring Credit reports Update frequency
TransUnion Credit Report
TransUnion, Equifax, Experian
TransUnion, Equifax, Experian
TransUnion credit score, monitoring and identity theft insurance.
TransUnion, Equifax, Experian
TransUnion, Equifax, Experian
Get quarterly access to your most widely used FICO® Scores and a 3-bureau credit report.
Equifax Small Business Credit Reporting
TransUnion, Equifax, Experian
TransUnion, Equifax, Experian
Monitor your key business relationships to protect your company from losses.
7 days
$1 for a seven-day trial to get access to your credit score and credit report from TransUnion.
Credit Karma
TransUnion, Equifax
TransUnion, Equifax

Compare up to 4 providers

Bottom line

Credit-monitoring services promise to keep track of changes to your credit report. But while they can alert you to potential inaccuracies in your report, they can’t prevent them from happening.

Learn more about how you can monitor your financial history on your own in our guide to credit reports.

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