Credit monitoring is an important service because it provides you with the information you need to build and maintain your credit and to prevent fraud. You can get a credit monitoring service free of charge, and for many people, that’s all they need.
But in some cases, it may make sense to sign up for credit monitoring online with a paid subscription. Here’s what you should know.
What Is Credit Monitoring?
Credit monitoring is the process of keeping track of one or more of your credit reports. The features provided by credit monitoring websites can vary wildly, but the basic premise is the same.
For example, you may get access to your full credit report with a certain credit bureau, comprehensive information based on one or more of your credit reports or simply a summary of that information.
You may also get free access to your FICO credit score with one of the credit reporting agencies or another type of credit score, such as the VantageScore. It’s important to note that most lenders use the FICO credit score in lending decisions, so it’s important to use a credit monitoring service that offers this one.
When Should You Use a Credit Monitoring Service?
It’s crucial that you take the time to focus on building and maintaining a good credit score and monitoring can help with that. As a result, it’s a good idea to credit monitoring websites regularly. In some cases, you don’t even need to log in to get the information you need.
This is because many credit monitoring services provide real-time updates with their daily credit monitoring — you’ll get updates whenever a new account or inquiry shows up on your credit report or even some personal information.
It’s especially important to use a credit monitoring service if you’re planning to borrow money. This includes everything from opening a credit card account to buying a home.
Should You Pay for Credit Monitoring Services?
In many cases, it may not make sense to fork over cash to keep track of your credit. There are plenty of free credit monitoring websites out there that offer information based on different credit reports, so you can usually get a good idea of what information you’ll find with Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.
However, there are some situations where it makes sense to pay:
- You’ve been a victim of fraud and want a more comprehensive monitoring experience.
- You want all of your credit information from all three credit reports in one place.
- You want additional features, such as dark web monitoring, identity theft insurance and more.
- You want to be able to lock and unlock all of your credit reports with just a few clicks in the event that you fall victim to identity theft.
The cost of a paid credit monitoring service can vary, depending on where you look and which services you want. With Experian CreditWorks, for instance, you can get a free version or a paid version for $24.99 per month. If you go directly through FICO, though, there are three tiers at $19.95, $29.95 and $39.95 per month.
Free vs. Paid Credit Monitoring Services
The primary difference between a free and a paid credit monitoring service is what you get with the subscription. Many free services, for instance, don’t offer a lot beyond a credit score and a few pieces of information about your credit report.
Others go the extra mile by giving you credit information from more than one credit bureau or even ongoing access to your full credit report from one bureau.
On the flip side, paid credit monitoring services can provide you with a lot more peace of mind when it comes to protecting yourself and recovering from identity theft. You’ll also typically get three-bureau credit scores, identity theft insurance, real-time alerts about data breaches, monitoring of the dark web for your personal information and more.
Of course, the monthly fees on paid monitoring services aren’t cheap, so it’s important that you weigh the benefits against the costs to find the best fit for you.
If you’re wondering, what credit monitoring do I have? Is it free or paid? With some services, there is no premium tier that you have to pay for. If there are both, though, log in to your credit monitoring account and check the settings.
Popular Credit Monitoring Services
There are several popular credit monitoring websites that you can use. Here’s what you should know about some of the top ones:
- Experian: Experian CreditWorks offers free access to your Experian credit report and your FICO score powered by Experian data. It also provides real-time alerts when an inquiry or new account is added to your Experian credit report. If you want to upgrade, you’ll also get identity theft insurance, three-bureau credit reports and scores, other FICO scoring models, a credit score simulator, credit lock, and much more.
- Equifax: The credit bureau offers several different products, each with different levels of benefits. However, there’s no free service. Benefits of the paid subscription, which costs $19.95 per month, include three-credit bureau reports and FICO scores, automatic fraud alerts, identity theft insurance, stolen funds replacement and more.
- TransUnion: The third credit bureau’s monitoring service is unique in that it doesn’t offer a FICO credit score, which makes it less appealing. What’s more, there’s no free version, so you’re paying for a score that lenders generally don’t use. The membership costs $24.95 per month and includes updates from all three credit reports, credit lock for TransUnion and Equifax, identity theft insurance and more.
- Credit Karma: One of the top free credit monitoring services, Credit Karma offers a VantageScore and credit report information for TransUnion and Equifax. The company also provides real-time alerts when changes are made to your credit reports, along with some other features.
FAQs About Credit Monitoring Services
As you work to find the right monitoring service for you, here are some other questions you may come across.
Credit monitoring can be free, but if you’re looking to pay for a service, expect to pay roughly $20 or more per month with most services. For most people, that can be expensive, even if the benefits are worth it.
It can definitely be worth it to pay for a credit monitoring service, especially if you’ve been a victim of identity theft, you want all of your credit information in one place or you want access to the premium features the paid services come with.
No, checking your own credit doesn’t impact your credit score in any way. The only time an inquiry on your credit report can impact your score is if you give a creditor permission to check your credit for the purposes of a loan or credit card application.