Is It Necessary to Monitor Your Credit Score?
Written by: Kristy Welsh
Last Updated: September 25, 2017
Your credit score is something every smart consumer should know, but it is really necessary to monitor it every month? With identity fraud becoming so widespread and prevalent in today's society, it would seem a good argument for one to sign up for one of those credit monitoring services. Recently, the Justice Department estimated identity theft is a $5.5 billion problem worldwide. Stats like that would make it tempting but are these services really worth it?
How Do Credit Monitoring Services Work?
You have probably seen the pop-up ads as you surf the Internet trying to entice you to sign up for their credit monitoring service. These services are offered by credit reporting bureaus, banks, and other third-party companies, promising to ease your mind with 24/7 access to your credit report and score.
So, you click on the ad and it has you fill out a form to start your "free trial" and immediate access to your score. Of course, free is only free for a short time and then you have to start paying them a monthly fee of anywhere between $19 to $40 a month.
Usually you are only going to see one score from one scoring model but you may or may not receive credit reports from all three credit bureaus such as Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Read the fine print before you sign up to make sure you understand exactly what you are getting for your money.
Along with access to your credit report and score, you will also receive alert notifications when changes to your account occur. These changes could be someone making a credit inquiry, a credit card balance change, a credit score change, and possibly a new credit account opening without your knowledge — hence, the reason for credit monitoring. Bottom line, the whole point of the monitoring is to make sure someone has not stolen your identity and opened up a charge card or two and is on a shopping spree at your expense.
Advantages of Using a Credit Monitoring Service
If you are thinking of signing up for a credit monitoring service, here are some of the pros to doing so:
- It can help you become aware of where you are with your finances.
- You will be notified as to small changes in your credit file which could be a sign of ID theft.
- Changes in your credit score may be a sign of ID theft or maybe you forgot to pay a bill.
- With all of the possible data breaches possible on the Internet, you will be notified immediately if any of your accounts have been hacked.
Disadvantages of Using a Credit Monitoring Service
Not everyone is sold on the usefulness of credit monitoring services. Here are some of the cons to signing up for one of these programs:
- Consumers can monitor their own accounts without paying for this service. Checking your accounts on-line and ordering a yearly copy of your credit report are completely free and something everyone can do on their own.
- These services can not tell when a child is a victim of fraud, or if the fraud has targeted someone who is deceased.
- There is no way to tell if someone received medical treatment in your name or is using your medical insurance unless you receive a collection notice.
- You will not know if you are a victim of tax fraud until you file a return and find out you are not getting the refund you thought you were getting.
- The credit score you get for free with the service, might not be the one a potential lender is going to use. There are over 50 different credit scoring models so ask your lender which credit scoring model they will be using to approve your loan.
The bottom line is, before you sign up for that free credit score make sure you read all the fine print. You might get a free score from either Equifax, TransUnion, or Experian, but is that going to be the score you need to know to get a loan? With so many different scoring models out there, chances are the answer to that question is a big fat "no." So if you are just signing up for the service to get your score, this is not the best reason.
If you are worried about identity theft and you want a service that will send you notifications if there are any changes in your credit profile, then this is what you need. But, be warned, what you are paying someone upward of $40 a month to do, you can do yourself. Although it might take a little work on your part, you can monitor your credit card accounts and bank accounts very easily on your own. And, you are entitled to a free yearly credit report. So, do it yourself and save the money for a nice dinner out with your special someone instead.