There are a couple of reasons why you might consider buying a credit monitoring service.
If you’re in the market for a new home you might want to make sure that your credit report and your credit rating are in good shape before you apply for a mortgage. Or you may be concerned about identity theft because you’re a customer of one of the many retailers that have been hit by credit card thieves—Target, Home Depot, K-Mart, etc.—and wonder if some crook is out there using your credit card information.
Credit monitoring services promise to assist you in both of these situations. They keep a close eye on your credit report at one or all of the credit bureaus and alert you when there are any changes or any suspicious activity going on with your account. That could include:
Credit monitoring services may also give you access to your credit score.
Credit monitoring services cost about $10 to $15.
If you’re losing sleep worrying about your credit score and/or the possibility of identity theft, a credit monitoring service is probably worth the expense. But you should be aware of some of the drawbacks of these services.
While it’s good to watch for incorrect information on your credit report, you don’t have to pay to do it. You’re already entitled to view your report from each credit bureau once a year. Go to annualcreditreport.com and apply for a different report every four months. It may not be as timely or as thorough as a credit monitoring service, but it is free. You should also be monitoring your credit cards on a regular basis anyway—weekly is best—so you could catch unauthorized charges that way.
It’s also free to place a fraud alert that lasts for 90 days on your credit report, which will notify you if anyone makes a change to it. You can renew that alert as often as you like. If you’ve actually been a victim of identity or credit card theft, you can get a seven-year fraud alert placed on your account
Be aware that no credit monitoring service can prevent identity theft. They can’t block a thief who’s trying to apply for a card in your name. They can only let you know after that fact that someone has done so.
If you decide you want to try a credit monitoring service, here’s how to get your money’s worth: