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Which Credit Monitoring Service Should You Use?

Which Credit Monitoring Service Should You Use?
From Lifehacker - September 15, 2017

Theres not much of a silver lining in the Equifax disaster, but its reminded us just how important it is to keep tabs on your credit. More than ever, credit monitoring is essential to making sure theres no sketchy, fraudulent activity associated with your personal info. And you can monitor your own credit for free, forever.

What Does It Mean to Monitor Your Credit?

Monitoring your credit basically means taking a look at your credit report to make sure everything looks okaythere are no errors and, more importantly, no fraudulent accounts or activity.

Its great to check it yourself, and as weve pointed out, youre entitled to a free copy of your report from each of the three major bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) every year. You dont have to check them all at once, either. You can stagger them and check one at a time a few times a year. However, especially in light of this whole Equifax fiasco, which has revealed just how vulnerable the system really is, its a good idea to stay on top of your credit more frequently.

Equifax offered their own version of credit monitoring for free for a year. After pushback that its terms waived customers right to participate in a class action lawsuit, they removed that language, but theyll have to forgive us if were still not champing at the bit to use their service. Plus, they only offered it for a year anyway, so if someone has your Social Security number, whats stopping them from waiting a couple of years to use it? Anyway, there are plenty of other tools and services that help you monitor your credit for free, for as long as you want.

Note: If you have a security freeze on your account, it might affect the registration process for signing up for any of these services. You may have to temporarily lift the freeze in order to register.

What Are Some Better Options?

Weve written about tools like Credit Sesame and Credit Karma, both solid options for monitoring your credit forever. Credit Karma is a favorite, but there are even more options out there to choose from so you can make your own decision. Keep in mind, a free credit monitoring service should never ask you for your credit card to sign up for an account. None of the services mentioned below will ask you for that.

Credit Karma

Weve mentioned this as our Credit Karma is one of our favorite free services for monitoring your own credit and keeping your identity safe.

They offer weekly credit monitoring, which includes a full report (theyve partnered with bureaus, so your score wont get dinged) of activity and balances. Youll also get real-time notifications for new accounts or any major changes, as well as instructions to help you understand what your credit report actually means.

Every credit monitoring service should offer these basic features, so what sets Credit Karma apart?

Whereas some services give access to your reports from just one bureau, Credit Karma gives you access to two: TransUnion and Equifax. This is a decent perk because you get to see your scores with both bureaus, and while your report is much more important than your score (itll actually show you activity), its nice to know how your score might vary between two places. A few other perks Credit Karma offers:

Credit Karma is the tool to beat, but there are still solid options out there if for some reason you dont like them.

Credit Sesame

Like Credit Karma, youll get access to your credit report and score for free. Theyll also help you understand your report with actionable advice and a breakdown of what different activity means, just like Credit Karma. Again, youll get alerts for different types of activity.

According to the Penny Hoarder, one thing Credit Sesame includes on your dashboard that I didnt see anywhere on Credit Karma is total debt.

Seeing all of your debt in one place shows you what you have to deal with. It also makes it easy to check for any major changes to your account. But again, with real-time notifications, you should get an alert if anyone checks your report or opens up a new line of credit, anyway.

Credit Sesame also has tools to let you search for and compare loan rates, but with sites like Bankrate and Nerdwallet out there, thats not a huge leg up above Credit Karma. They also have free identity theft insurance, but as Consumer Reports points out, its not that valuable of a freebie, and likely just their way of getting you to sign up for a more comprehensive plan that costs money. These added perks arent groundbreaking, but its still a decent service for monitoring your credit.

WalletHub

Mint.com

AAA Membership

Which Service Is Best?

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