The Importance and Suggested Frequency of Credit Monitoring
According to the Federal Trade Commission, one in five Americans experiences errors on at least one of their credit reports. Unfortunately, most people do not realize the mistakes because they do not check their reports often or not often enough.
Credit reporting errors at TransUnion, Equifax, or Experian can lead to weaker credit scores regardless of actual creditworthiness. The only way to ensure that your score is accurate is to review it. The FCRA allows every American access to one free report from all three bureaus once per year (visit AnnualCreditReport.com), but that is not enough to ensure accurate reporting and mitigate potential fraud or criminal activity. According to most financial experts, you should check your credit reports at least once every four months, but monthly is best.
Checking Reports More Than Once a Year
Checking your credit reports more than once a year is ideal, but sites like AnnualCreditReports.com only allow you one free report from each bureau per year, meaning you will need to find alternative ways to access your information. Thankfully, you have several options for viewing your reports or versions of them any time you like through other reputable sites, including:
- Credit Karma
- My Credit Guide from American Express
Additionally, credit bureaus offer free reports under extenuating circumstances. For instance, you can access more free credit reports in the following situations:
- You receive public assistance
- You are unemployed
- You are a victim of identity theft
- You were denied credit or insurance in the past 60 days
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Paying for Monitoring Services
Some people do not have the time or patience to review their credit reports monthly, or they do not know what to watch out for in the numbers. Credit monitoring is a valuable tool but is it worth paying for a service when so many free options are available?
Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, and other companies offer fee-based monitoring services that typically range from $10 to $35 per month. The price seems a little ridiculous when there are free alternatives like Credit Karma; however, fee-based platforms offer several advantages to free options:
- Identity theft insurance
- More information
- Three-bureau viewing (simultaneous reports and scores)
- Three-bureau monitoring
If you can comfortably afford the price, fee-based monitoring is worth it, but it is not essential. Free tools and frequent reviews of credit scores and reporting are enough to reduce risks and offer insight into any errors. Even if you opt for subscription-based monitoring, it is still beneficial to review your reports manually throughout the year — at least every quarter.
It is also worth noting that credit monitoring, even fee-based, will not prevent thieves from stealing your information. Nor will it prevent criminals from opening accounts in your name. However, credit monitoring will allow for the quicker discovery of such activity, allowing for rapid remediation of the issue, for example, the placement of a credit freeze.
Credit reports are vital financial tools, often guiding the decisions of creditworthiness. Checking your reports once per year is not nearly enough to protect against errors or intentional fraud. The best way to monitor your reports is to check them at least once every four months manually, but monthly is recommended.
When was the last time you checked your credit report? Did you find any errors or suspected criminal activity? Leave a comment.