When it comes to credit monitoring services, there are a lot of options available – and they are not all created equal!
One of our readers, Stacey, sent us this question:
I am thinking of joining Identity Guard or something else to help monitor my accounts and to tell me what my score is. Is it worth it?
Thanks for your question Stacey!
Credit monitoring services are a valuable tool. They help you monitor your credit reports and keep them free from errors, help you prevent identity theft, and allow you to track your credit score. Whether or not they are worth the ongoing expense will depend on your situation.
Most credit monitoring services run about $15 a month and up depending on what you sign up for. Credit monitoring services charge extra for things like tracking your credit scores, and how many of the three credit bureaus you want to view reports and scores from. That said, there are certainly times that you will probably want to track your credit scores and reports no matter what:
- If you are planning to purchase a house, or a car in the near future.
- If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, or if you have had your identity stolen in the past.
- If you plan to get a loan of any type soon.
- If you are rebuilding or trying to raise your credit score.
- If you have secured credit cards and need to know whether or not they report as secured cards, or report to all three credit bureaus.
It is important to understand that all three of the credit bureaus have their own system for computing your credit score, and that those scores are separate from your FICO score. Before you agree to pay monthly for a credit score, be sure that you are paying for the scores that you want to see. Credit card lenders will usually check your credit scores at one (or more) of the three credit bureaus. Anything bigger than that (house, car, bank loan) and they will most likely check your FICO score instead.
Some credit monitoring services will show you your FICO score, and some will not. Read those terms and conditions carefully.
As for which credit monitoring service I recommend:
In the past I have faithfully used TrueCredit, Transunion’s credit monitoring service. However recently I have switched to Id Patrol from Equifax, and I am much happier with it. Here’s the lowdown:
Transunion (True Credit):
- Their pages are full of targeted advertising, and it can sometimes be difficult to locate the information you need.
- They offer too many choices – for $15 a month I can either see just my Transunion credit score and Transunion credit report, or I can view only my credit reports at all three credit bureaus. If I want to view my credit scores at all three bureaus I have to upgrade.
- By the time you add in all three credit bureau scores and reports, plus your FICO score, you can pay as much as $45 a month. Personally, I find that ridiculous.
Id Patrol (Equifax), on the other hand has some really neat perks:
- They have far fewer advertisements.
- Everything is well organized, and easy to understand.
- $15 a month gets you your credit reports (not scores) from all three credit bureaus, and your debt-to-credit ratio is clearly spelled out for each.
- They have several identity protection features, including a very nice identity theft insurance package at no extra charge.
- The identity theft insurance pays for a wide range of expenses. It even includes paying for your time off work to get everything straightened out.
With all of those extras, plus the easy to read format, I switched to Id Patrol. I am very, very happy with it. I do recommend it for anyone who wants to monitor their credit, because they have more features in the same price point as all of the other credit monitoring services.
Thanks for your question!
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