What Is Credit Monitoring, and How Can I Use It Effectively?
Credit monitoring is a service that gives the user updates about changes to their credit report. In addition to providing general assistance in terms of managing your credit, these services can also give you early warnings of fraud.
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What Updates Do Credit Monitoring Services Track?
The elements that a credit monitoring service tracks depend on the individual service. However, some notable things they may monitor and alert the user about include:
- Changes to personal information: Changes to personal information such as names, phone numbers, addresses;
- New accounts: The opening of any new accounts in your name;
- Hard inquiries: Any hard inquiries on your credit history;
- Changes in account balances: Any increases or payments on your account balances;
- Changes to public records: Marriage, bankruptcy, name changes.
Who Can Benefit From a Credit Monitoring Service?
An individual could certainly use credit monitoring services for their personal credit needs; however, credit monitoring services are particularly helpful to companies. They are especially valuable to companies that deal with sensitive information, have experienced a data breach, or that have many individuals with access to company accounts.
Is Credit Monitoring Worth It?
Credit monitoring services can certainly be helpful in many circumstances, but it’s not the best option for everyone.
Benefits of using credit monitoring services include:
- Early warnings about fraudulent activity: Although you will not know until the activity has taken place, credit monitoring services can alert you to many early signs of fraudulent activity involving your credit.
- Access to your credit score: Credit monitoring services often provide the user with access to their credit score.
- Monitoring options for businesses affected by a data breach: Businesses that have experienced a data breach can use credit monitoring services to ensure that the breach has not resulted in fraudulent use of their credit.
- Helpful for people with poor credit scores: When dealing with multiple creditors or other issues affecting your credit, it can be difficult to keep tabs on everything yourself.
- May offer identity theft reimbursement: Many credit monitoring services offer identity theft insurance.
Drawbacks of using credit monitoring services include:
- Expense of the service: Depending on your needs, credit monitoring services may be more expensive than they’re worth. These services usually cost about $10 to $30 per month.
- More feasible DIY options: For some people, it may make more sense to monitor their own credit.
- Limited scope of monitoring: There are some fraud warning signs that a credit monitoring service will not alert you to, such as fraudulent use of your Social Security number.
- Not a catch-all for identity theft protection: It is usually advisable to use multiple means of protection against fraud.
Choosing a Credit Monitoring Service
If you feel that a credit monitoring service is right for your needs, there are a few factors you should take into consideration when choosing your service, such as:
- Do they offer credit monitoring for all three major credit bureaus? A good credit monitoring service should provide you with information from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
- Do they offer multiple options and mediums for fraud alerts? A good credit monitoring service should offer multiple means of receiving important alerts, such as through phone call, text message, email, or app.
- Is this credit monitoring service through a credit bureau? Credit bureaus usually do not provide insurance for identity theft with their credit monitoring services, and are therefore not an ideal option.
Other Credit Security Strategies
Some other strategies that concerned people or companies can take to monitor their credit include:
- Self-monitoring: All of the elements that credit monitoring services check can also be checked by a private individual. However, it may be time consuming, especially in the case of large businesses.
- Credit freezing: Credit freezing makes the information on your credit report inaccessible without your permission.
- Identity theft protection services: Identity theft protection services more broadly monitor your personal information and any suspicious use of it, rather than focusing purely on how it relates to your credit. These services also often offer identity theft insurance.
In short, there are many options available to people who are concerned about fraudulent use of their credit. Which option will be best for you will depend on your unique needs.
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