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The Best Credit Monitoring Services for March 2023
Keep an eye on your credit score, receive security alerts and stay on track financially with these credit monitoring options.
Katie TeagueWriter II
Katie is a writer covering all things how-to at CNET, with a focus on Social Security and notable events. When she's not writing, she enjoys playing in golf scrambles, practicing yoga and spending time on the lake.
ExpertisePersonal Finance: Social Security and taxes
Credit monitoring services help you keep close tabs on your credit score while protecting you against fraud. Since your credit score is used to determine your approval for a personal loan, credit card, mortgage and even renting a new apartment, it's important to make sure it's accurate.
A federal program introduced in 2020 can help track your credit score and rating for free. Through the end of 2023, the three major credit bureaus -- TransUnion, Equifax and Experian -- offer access to free weekly credit reports.
If you don't want to monitor your credit score yourself, or you've been a victim of fraud or identity theft in the past, a credit monitoring service can automate this process and alert you if anything suspicious pops up. Credit monitoring apps can send you alerts if your credit score changes, any new lines of credit are opened, your credit card balances change dramatically or your Social Security number is used without authorization.
Read on to learn more about the best credit monitoring services to track your credit rating and protect from fraud.
Provides real-time alerts when new activity hits your credit report
Lets you dispute inaccuracies on your FICO credit report
Identity theft monitoring available for a monthly fee
Experian (download the app for iOS or Android) is one of the major credit monitoring services that offers free access to your Experian score. Experian can also help you boost your FICO score by using utility bills that you're already paying to apply to your credit. Your new credit scores will immediately take effect, but may only reflect on your Experian score (and not your TransUnion or Equifax scores).
While its main credit monitoring offering is free, upgrades, including identity theft monitoring, will cost you. $24.99 to $34.99 per month. This upgraded pricing also includes credit scores from each of the three credit bureaus, and not just Experian.
Access to instant alerts when your credit report is viewed
Also among the top three major credit monitoring services is TransUnion (download the app for iOS or Android). With TransUnion, you can check your credit score report as often as you'd like to see if your score has changed.
While it will cost you just under $30 to enroll in TransUnion's credit monitoring services, the credit bureau offers some free services, such as the ability to freeze your credit, dispute your credit score and enroll in fraud alerts to help protect your credit profile.
If you're feeling forgiving, Equifax's credit monitoring services are on par with competitors, and its multiple pricing options may allow you to find a plan better suited to your needs and budget. It provides a copy of your Equifax credit report and monitors your credit and Social Security numbers by scanning websites where consumer information has been sold. Equifax also sends alerts about suspicious activities, like someone applying for credit in your name on the other side of the country.
Shows credit factors and how they affect your score
Credit Karma (or download the app for iOS or Android) is a personal finance company. You can use it to check your credit scores as often as you'd like for free. You can also access your credit scores from TransUnion and Equifax, but not from Experian. Credit Karma monitors your credit and sends weekly updates and will notify you if there's any change to your credit score.
The site also shows you your score and credit factors that affect your score, like if you're using too much of your credit card limit, derogatory marks and hard inquiries.
In 2020, Intuit completed its acquisition of Credit Karma, which is worth noting if you're concerned about your privacy and the security of your data puts a lot of your personal financial information into one company's hands.
Also owned by Intuit, Mint (download the app for iOS or Android) is a free service for managing your personal finances. In addition to tracking your payments, you can use it to find out where your credit score is lacking, like not having a long credit history, and where it's doing great, like paying bills on time. Mint shows you your on-time payments, credit usage (so you can see if you're reaching your limit) and average age of credit on one screen.
After you verify your identity, Mint will send you credit report summaries and credit monitoring alerts if your score goes up or down.
Monitor credit usage, hard inquiries and late payments
FreeCreditReport.com is a pared-down service provided by Experian to access your credit report and credit score for free. The company provides you with an updated credit report every 30 days. You'll have access to your account history, like real estate and credit accounts. FreeCreditReport.com shows you hard inquiries on your account, tracks your credit usage and shows any potential marks against you, like late payments.
Your credit score is a three-digit number that's calculated based on your credit report. Both FICO and VantageScore -- the two major credit scoring models -- range from 300 to 850. When applying for credit, lenders check your credit report and corresponding score to determine if you're worth lending money to. Some factors that affect your score include "hard inquiries" like applying for credit (your credit is under review); "derogatory marks" like paying a bill late (these can keep your score down); and how much of your total credit you're using (the less you use, the better). Your FICO score is integrated into reports from the three major US credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.
Will checking my credit score affect my credit?
Many people believe checking their credit score will ding their credit report -- but that's not true. Checking your own credit score is considered a soft inquiry and won't affect your credit. However, if you're applying for a loan or credit card and a company runs a credit check on you, that's considered a hard inquiry, which can bring your score down several points.
How can I find out I've been impacted by a data breach?
For more details on data breaches that may have affected you or someone you know, check out CNET's list and timeline of data breaches.
Watch this: What to do if your personal information is part of a data breach
Mixing and matching services may help cover more ground
When it comes to checking your credit, there are a lot of ways to go. You can select one service, or pair free services together to access your FICO score from all three major bureaus. However, if you go that route, keep in mind that you won't have the promised credit protection and monitoring that Experian, TransUnion and Equifax offer.
Disclaimer: The information included in this article, including program features, program fees, and credits available through credit cards to apply to such programs, may change from time-to-time and are presented without warranty. When evaluating offers, please check the credit card provider's website and review its terms and conditions for the most current offers and information.
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