Maintaining solid credit reports and scores is a valuable asset with the potential to save you money and make it easier to qualify for the things you need and want. And because credit matters so much, you should keep a close eye on your credit reports from Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax, which are the three generally recognized major credit reporting agencies in the United States.
However, constantly pulling all three of your credit reports every few weeks can become tedious. And, if you don’t see any substantive changes you might start feeling like you’re wasting your time. This begs the questions, is there a benefit to having a credit monitoring subscription instead?
There are numerous free options from which you can choose to monitor your credit reports. And while free is always nice, the fee-based credit monitoring subscriptions feature additional benefits that might make them worth the cost.
There are many ways to access your credit reports at no cost. For starters, you can visit AnnualCreditReport.com. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) allows you to use this website to check your three credit reports free of charge once every 12 months. However, due to the pandemic the credit bureaus are allowing free access every week through 2022.
There is, however, a small catch. Most free credit report websites (including AnnualCreditReport.com) won’t let you access and then monitor all three of your credit reports at once. Instead, you’ll need to complete a multi-step process over and over to access and review your credit reports from all three major credit reporting agencies.
If you want to check and monitor all three of your credit reports then a “tri-bureau” monitoring subscription may be a better option. None of the free monitoring options are tri-bureau but are, instead, single bureau. And, free single-bureau options cannot be accumulated so that you end up monitoring all of your reports for free. And like I’ve said for many years, monitoring some of your credit reports but not all of your credit reports is a little like locking some of the doors to your house.
Your credit reports aren’t static. They are likely to change frequently because any time a company shares new information about you with one of the three major credit bureaus your data is updated. You’re just not going to know when and by whom.
Some credit report changes can be positive, and some may be neutral. Yet, certain adjustments could have negative implications where your FICO and VantageScore credit scores are concerned.
Because updates to your credit report have the potential to help or hurt your credit scores, it’s important to pay attention when these adjustments happen. A tri-bureau credit monitoring service will provide you with alerts when your credit information changes so you can take a closer look to ensure its validity.
It’s important to understand that credit monitoring can’t stop an identity thief from stealing or using your personal information without your consent. But, credit monitoring can make sure you’re aware of credit report changes caused by fraudulent activity when they happen.
With incidents of potential fraud, the timing of you being alerted is important. The sooner you can notify the credit bureaus that there’s a problem, the better. And, the same is true for notifying the creditor, the sooner you notify them the better.
“I only need to worry about my credit reports when I want to apply for credit, right?” I’ve heard that sentiment for decades, and it’s still incorrect. Your credit reports always matter if for no other reason than your existing creditors can constantly check them even if you’re not applying for something new.
Keeping a close eye on your credit reports can also provide motivation and validation. Whether you’re working to improve your credit or to protect the good credit you’ve already earned, monitoring your credit reports can keep you on track and confirm that you’re doing the right things.