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Important Things to Know Before Choosing a Credit Monitoring Company

Alayna Okerlund
Alayna Okerlund | Senior Editor

Credit monitoring services are typically offered either for free by certain financial institutions/organizations or as an independent service that consumers can pay to use. 

Many people choose to use credit monitoring services because they want to have an added layer of protection when it comes to guarding their personal information against fraud and identity theft. 

Since there are many options to choose from within the credit monitoring industry, consumers should make it a priority to do industry research in order to find the right service. 

Here are a few important things you should know about credit monitoring services before you sign up for one.

Why Use a Credit Monitoring Service

As mentioned above, many consumers who use a credit monitoring service do so because it can help them protect their information from identity theft and fraud.

Credit monitoring services are designed to monitor consumers’ credit activity and alert consumers whenever there is a change made to their credit reports. For example, credit monitoring can alert you if there’s a new account opened under your name or if a hard inquiry shows up on your credit report. Because credit monitoring consumers are regularly receiving these alerts, it’s easier for them to spot a potential misuse of their information.

Although consumers generally receive these fraud/identity theft alerts from credit monitoring services after the threat has already occurred, they can provide consumers with a better chance of getting the issue resolved quickly and more efficiently since they were made aware of the threat early on. Threats like these that aren’t dealt with can negatively affect your credit scores, financial situation, and more.  

Another reason why many people choose credit monitoring services is that it can help them be more aware of their current credit behaviors and habits. This can be especially helpful to consumers who want to improve their credit going forward. 

Consumers can look at their credit behaviors and habits, acknowledge their credit misdoings, and avoid making the same mistakes, which can ultimately help them achieve better credit goals.

DIY Credit Monitoring vs. Professional Credit Monitoring

Like many other services, credit monitoring is a service that you can technically do by yourself. As a general rule, you are allowed to request a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian) via AnnualCreditReport.com once per year. 

Requesting and checking your reports can help you avoid fraud, spot potential fraud, and learn what you can do better credit-wise — all things that professional credit monitoring services can help you see. 

That said, it may not be as effective as using a professional credit monitoring service, and it might not save you that much money, especially since there are many free professional credit monitoring services available. 

For instance, you can only request a free copy of your credit reports for free via AnnualCreditReport.com once every 12 months whereas many professional credit monitoring services can give you credit report updates on a monthly, weekly, or sometimes even daily basis. Additionally, professional credit monitoring services can send you alerts if there are any changes made to your credit file. 

Overall, yes, you can choose to monitor your credit yourself, and it is considered good practice to do so. However, utilizing a professional credit monitoring service in addition to checking your credit reports once per year can help you be more aware of what is going on with your credit. After all, changes can happen to your reports before you hit your next year mark, and being aware of those changes can be beneficial, especially if you feel that you are susceptible to identity theft or fraud. 

Paid vs. Free Credit Monitoring Services 

When you first begin researching credit monitoring services, you’ll notice that many companies advertise/offer free services. So, why choose to pay a monthly fee for credit monitoring services when many companies have a free plan you can sign up for? The answer is that some paid plans are more robust than the free service offered. 

In general, the free services that many companies offer are the most basic credit monitoring services you can get. For example, a free service might provide you with single or double-bureau monitoring whereas a paid service might offer tri-bureau monitoring. Likewise, you might be able to get some additional services like identity monitoring with a free plan, but a paid plan might involve more service perks like identity theft insurance, theft resolution, access to specialists, etc. 

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether to use a free or paid credit monitoring service. It really depends on what level of credit monitoring and which additional services are important to you, and how much you are willing to pay.

It’s important to note that some banks and other financial organizations/companies offer credit monitoring services either at a discounted rate or for free to their customers. Again, it’s your choice if you want to use the services a company you’re affiliated with provides or if you want to go with a different provider. 

Keep in mind that although many organizations you’re already doing business with may offer credit monitoring services, these services can sometimes be equivalent to the free services that some companies within the credit monitoring industry offer. Do some research and consider your options before you sign up for credit monitoring from a company that is already providing you with other services. 

How to Look for a Credit Monitoring Company 

When looking for a credit monitoring service, it’s important to compare what different companies have to offer. 

Make a list

Before you begin your company search, it can be helpful to write down a list of things you want from a credit monitoring company or service. For instance, if you know you want tri-bureau monitoring, make sure to add this to your list and make a note to seriously consider companies that offer tri-bureau monitoring services. 

Ask yourself questions

After you make a list, here are a few questions you can ask yourself when choosing a credit monitoring company or service: 

  • Does the service provide monthly, weekly, or daily report refreshes? 
  • Does the service offer an online portal and/or mobile app for consumers? 
  • Does the company offer any included additional services like identity theft insurance?
  • How many credit bureaus does the company provide monitoring for? 
  • How much does the service cost? If there is a free option, what is included? 
  • Does the service include different types of alert notifications (i.e. text or email alerts)? 
  • Does the company or service provide additional tools or resources that can help customers? 

Important note: Many companies in the industry offer enough information on their websites to answer the questions above. That said, not every company adopts the same level of online transparency as others. Companies that don’t offer information upfront may do so because they want consumers to contact them directly. 

Although there likely isn’t a company or service out there that will give you everything you want, making a list beforehand and asking the questions above can help you narrow your search. 

Consult user reviews 

Another way to see if a company provides quality credit monitoring services is to look at their customer reviews. Looking at reviews can help you determine whether or not a company’s paid credit monitoring service is worth the money. Reviews can also help you learn about the company’s customer service, additional services, and more from a user perspective. 

When looking for reviews, consider searching for a third-party review website like BestCompany.com instead of just looking at the reviews on the company’s website (if there are any). More often than not, companies, both in and outside the credit monitoring industry, will only feature positive reviews on their websites. 

Getting reviews from a  trustworthy source can be worthwhile, especially if you want to base your decision on what a company’s consumers have to say about their credit monitoring experience. 

As you’re going through reviews, make sure to pay attention to reviews that talk about the company’s credit monitoring service details like pricing, alerts, reporting, credit information accuracy, and quality of customer service. 

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Credit Monitoring Frequently Asked Questions

What is credit monitoring?

Credit monitoring involves the monitoring of your credit reports and scores. You can monitor your credit on your own or you can use a credit monitoring service. Credit monitoring services are offered by a company/organization and are designed to monitor your credit for you and notify you of any changes that are made to your credit reports.

Typically, credit monitoring can help consumers avoid identity theft and fraud as well as help them be more aware of their credit mistakes and bad credit habits. 

How much do credit monitoring services cost?

Many companies in the credit monitoring industry offer completely free services. These free services, as mentioned above, are often the most basic of services that you can obtain from a credit monitoring company, which may be enough for some consumers.

Pricing can vary for paid credit monitoring services. To give a rough estimate, paid credit monitoring services appear to range anywhere from about $5 to $30 or more per month. Some companies may offer discounts and/or annual pricing options. 

What is the best credit monitoring service?

When looking for the best credit monitoring service, it's important to first evaluate your own needs and wants. Once you have determined what you are looking for, you can refer to trustworthy third-party consumer review websites like BestCompany.com to learn about what each top-ranked credit monitoring company offers and see what their customers are saying.

How often do credit monitoring companies provide report updates?

This varies per company and service. For instance, one company may refresh reports on a monthly basis while another company may provide weekly or daily report updates. Having a regularly updated view of your credit reports can help you catch changes and give you peace of mind. 

Are all credit monitoring services equal?

In short, no. Some credit monitoring services may be free while others cost a monthly or annual fee. Additionally, some services may provide tri-bureau monitoring while others only provide single-bureau monitoring. Many companies also provide additional services like identity monitoring, credit tools, etc.

When it comes to professional credit monitoring, you might be able to find a few companies that offer similar services, but many different services and options are available throughout the industry, which is why it’s important to take your time to do some research. 

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