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Free, Do-It-Yourself Credit Monitoring

A credit monitoring service will watch over your credit reports for a price. Here we show you how to monitor your own credit reports free.

Most credit monitoring services check your credit reports over a thousand times a year. Using the free technique, you will only see a credit report three times per year.

It's a big difference in frequency but it's also a big difference in price: $10 - $15 per month versus free.

The concept is pretty simple. You are entitled to a free credit report once a year from each US credit agency. There are three agencies, giving you a total of three free credit reports a year. By spacing out these requests to once every four months, you can monitor your credit year round.

 

How to Monitor Your Credit for Free

Step 1: Mark Your Calendar

Mark three days a year on your calendar when it is convenient to request your free credit report. Pick a different credit bureau for each day: Experian, TransUnion or Equifax.

Preferably, these three days will be spaced four months apart. For example, January 1st, May 1st and September 1st.

 

Step 2: Request Your Report

When the day comes to check your credit report, you can request your free credit report in one of three ways: Online at http://www.annualcreditreport.com, by calling toll-free (877) 322-8228 or through the mail.

Tip: When you request your TransUnion report over the Internet, they will ask you to create a user name and password. Be sure to take note of it for next year- it is a pain to get your credit report from them if you forget it!

 

Step 3: Check Your Credit Report for Inaccuracies and Suspicious Activities

Carefully inspect your credit report for changes and activity. Report immediately anything that doesn't look right.

Some things to look for:

  • Unfamiliar accounts
  • Accounts with unexpectedly high balances
  • Inquiries (requests to view your credit history) by companies that should not have permission (called a "permissible purpose")
  • Personal information: Any new names, addresses, employers and telephone numbers not reported by you.

 

Until Next Time

That's all there is to it. Practicing this every four months keeps you alert of changes to your credit reports for free. And you won't have to pay the credit agencies for protection!

 

Originally Published:  Tuesday, August 15, 2006, 5:00 PM PT

Last Updated:  Friday, July 15, 2011, 5:32 PM PT

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Credit Monitoring: Prudent or Pointless?

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