Most financial experts agree that it’s a good idea to check your credit reports and scores. But ask the same advisors whether you should pay for a credit monitoring service, and they’ll probably throw out different answers: “yes,” “no,” or “sometimes,” and then defend their responses.
There’s really no need to get into a debate here, though, because you can have the best of both worlds if you monitor your credit for free.
When we talk about monitoring credit, we aren’t talking about just getting your free annual credit report. It’s a given that everyone should take advantage of that. Instead, we are talking about staying on top of changes in your credit information on a regular basis throughout the year.
How do you do that? One tool that can help is Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card, which will give you your credit score each month along with helpful information on what areas of your credit are strong, which may need some work — and practical tips on how to address them. This service is truly free. No payment information is required and there’s nothing to cancel.
Why Monitor Your Credit?
There are a number of reasons why you might want to keep closer tabs on your credit throughout the year. Some examples would be if you are:
- Trying to establish or reestablish credit, and you want to know if you are moving in the right direction.
- Concerned about identity theft and want to know if there are significant changes to your credit.
- Aware that information about another person with a similar name (such as a family member) has been mixed up with yours before, or you have a very common name.
- Planning on getting a major loan such as a mortgage or car loan in the not-too-distant future and don’t want any unexpected surprises when you apply.
When You Need More
Free credit monitoring is a no-brainer. But there are times, though, when it makes sense to pay for complete credit monitoring services that can help you keep track of changes to your information more frequently, or by alerting you to changes in your credit reports or scores from all three of the major credit reporting agencies. This may be valuable in situations where you are particularly at risk for credit or ID theft. For example you have:
- Had your wallet or purse, or personal information, stolen and you noticed suspicious activity.
- Recently split up with someone you don’t entirely trust (a spouse, romantic partner or even a roommate).
- Found warning signs of possible credit fraud on your credit reports such as accounts that don’t belong to you or addresses where you’ve never lived.
- Been getting collection calls for someone else.
Paid credit monitoring services may offer additional features such as instant alerts to changes in your reports, identity theft resolution services and reimbursement of certain out-of-pocket expenses you may incur.
Whichever approach you choose, if you check your credit on a regular basis, you won’t have to wonder whether your credit is OK. By staying on top of it, you’ll have one less thing to worry about.