Way too many of us have a story about our credit card getting hacked or about being a victim of one of the massive data breaches in recent years. As technology becomes more and more a part of our financial lives, it becomes increasingly important to keep a close eye on our personal credit.
By monitoring your credit score and credit report, you can make sure you know if someone has opened unauthorized accounts in your name.
Monitoring your credit has the added bonus of helping you make sure your credit rating is where you need it to be.
The Easiest Ways To Monitor Your Credit
To put this task in “set it and forget it” mode, you should set up an account with at least one website designed to monitor your credit. (If you’ve frozen your credit, you’ll need to unfreeze it with at least one credit bureau first.)
Monitoring Your Credit With Credit Karma and Credit Sesame
When we talk about monitoring your credit, we’re talking about keeping an eye on both your credit reports and your credit scores.
Credit reports include all the details on your credit accounts, both current and closed. The reports track payments and other information for every loan, credit card and line of credit you have.
Your credit scores are numbers based on that credit history and activity.
If you have any credit history at all, the “big three” credit bureaus — TransUnion, Experian and Equifax — will each have both a credit report and a credit score associated with your accounts. The good news is that you can access all of this information for free online.
Money expert Clark Howard’s favorite site for monitoring your credit is Credit Karma. This site lets you keep tabs on your credit score and view credit reports for free. Once you set up your account, you’ll get:
- Your estimated credit scores from TransUnion and Equifax
- Access to your credit reports from TransUnion and Equifax
- The option to get an alert when your credit score changes or something is added to your credit report (credit monitoring)
- Additional services including identity monitoring, free tax filing, and access to your auto insurance score
Again, you will need to set up your Credit Karma account before you freeze your credit, or you’ll need to unfreeze your credit in order to sign up.
Credit Sesame is a site similar to Credit Karma but doesn’t offer quite as many services. It’s also largely free and signing up gets you:
- Your estimated credit score from TransUnion
- The option to get alerts when your credit score changes or something is added to your credit report (credit monitoring)
- Additional services such as identity protection and limited identity theft insurance
Unlike Credit Karma, Credit Sesame does not give you free access to any of your credit reports.
Other Ways To Monitor Your Credit
You may have noticed that neither Credit Karma nor Credit Sesame gives you access to your Experian credit report and score. But you can get your reports for free directly from both Experian and Equifax by creating online accounts with them (Experian also includes your credit score):
TransUnion does not currently provide free access to your credit report.
However, by law, you are entitled to one free copy of your credit report per year from each of the bureaus. AnnualCreditReport.com is the only place authorized by the federal government to give you access to all three at once.
Final Thought: Freezing Your Credit
While monitoring your credit is crucial, it still means that you’ll find out if someone else has opened a credit line in your name only after the fact. So you should freeze your credit with all three major credit bureaus.
With a credit freeze in place, no one (not even you) will be able to open a new line of credit in your name without first unfreezing your credit — which only you should be able to do.