Credit Monitoring Tips

Read these 20 Credit Monitoring Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Credit Report tips and hundreds of other topics.

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Shoud I get a 3-in-1 credit monitoring service?

Credit Monitoring Services

When ordering credit monitoring services you may have some additional add-ons offered to include in the overall package. For example, they may offer 3-in-1 credit monitoring. This costs more than the regular service since all three of your credit reports are available for you to review on a regular basis. Some of the major credit bureaus are taking the monitoring service a step further by providing you with insurance coverage in the event you become the victim of identity theft.


Your semi-annual checkup

It's important to view your credit reports at least once a year. Under FCRA laws, you are allowed to request your credit reports from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion once every 12 months. In addition to these free reports, it is also good practice to check your credit reports and credit score every 3-6 months and before a major purchase. Checking your credit reports before a home or car purchase helps you spot potential dangers and improve your negotiation powers.


Fix those mistakes -- no one else will

Regular credit report monitoring is essential to maintaing control over your credit report. If you find a damaging error on your credit reports, it is critical to make a correction as soon as possible. Follow these basic guidelines, when doing a review of your credit reports:

* Make a copy of your credit report and circle every item you believe is incorrect. This is the first step of tracking mistakes when doing a review of your credit reports.

* Write a letter to the credit bureau (the address will be printed on the report). Explain each dispute and request an investigation to resolve the issues. If you have supporting paperwork, send copies along. Do not send originals. Often, you can do this online instead of through U.S. mail.

* If using traditional mail, send all materials to the credit bureau by certified mail, return receipt requested, so that you can prove it was received.

* Send a copy of the letter to the creditor whose credit statements are in dispute. This could be a credit card company, a bank or any other lender. Refer to a billing statement to find the correct address for disputes, because it's usually different from the payment address.

Once it receives your request, the credit bureau will initiate an investigation, and contact the creditor that supplied the credit data you disputed.

If the creditor cannot verify the entry is correct, it has to be removed from your report. When the investigation is complete, the credit bureau must send you a free copy of your credit file to show changes were made.

If the investigation uncovers an error, you have the right to ask the credit bureau to send a corrected version of your credit report to everyone who received the report during the past six months.

Also, if there's a problem with one credit bureau, you're likely going to need to contact all three major agencies and go through the same process.


Erasing bad credit from your report

Erasing bad credit from your report takes work.

Bankruptcies stay on your credit report for 10 years and most other credit problems for seven years.

First, read up on your legal rights as a consumer if you are trying to make changes to your credit reports.

By law, accurate information on your credit report must remain unchanged until the 7-10 year expiration date. Only inaccurate or fraudulent data can be removed from your credit report earlier. Smaller items, such as late payments, inquiries and high balances start to loose their negative impact much earlier than items such as collection records and bankruptcy filings.


Viewing your credit report

Your credit history has a major impact on the rates and terms you'll receive on life's biggest purchases.

Make sure you view your credit report on a regular basis. You are allowed by federal law to view your credit report annually at no charge.

Each of the three major credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion– will let you sign up for credit monitoring services that help you keep a close eye on your credit reports and scores.

There are many credit Web sites that will help you get and examine your credit reports and credit scores, and understand creditworthiness.


Managing your credit -- you need to do it

One of the most important parts of maintaining good credit is regularly checking your credit reports and credit scores.

Buying a house or a car, even charging a vacation or dinner to pay for later, are privileges that come with good credit. Make sure that the credit reporting agencies are reporting your credit correctly. Checking your credit report at least once a year and knowing your approximate credit score are as critical as paying your bills on time.

Regularly checking your credit reports and credit scores is essential for consumers to do. If there are mistakes on credit reports, or if your score is low for some reason, it's going to be up to you to fix it.


Find and correct mistakes

Regular checks of your credit data enables you to find mistakes in your credit report that can prevent you from borrowing in the future.

Sometimes creditors send inaccurate information to the credit reporting agencies. Or the credit reporting agencies themselves make mistakes, like mixing your information with someone else's who might lack your good credit history.

Banks, credit card companies and other lenders aren't going to know that there are mistakes in your report. Only you can find them by checking all three of your credit reports and credit scores every 3-6 months.


Credit Monitoring Tips

One free credit report is allowed per consumer per year by the three major credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Credit reports are often accessed by outside parties when applying for loans, apartments and even insurance. The accuracy of your credit report is essential to companies making accurate decisions based on your credit. A credit score that is not correct based on fraud or other inaccuracies can be expensive in both time and money.

Credit monitoring is a valuable resource to protect your credit score and identity. Credit monitoring services will notify you if your credit information is accessed, an account is added or personal information is changed. Identity theft can be time consuming to resolve with various credit agencies and credit bureaus. Credit monitoring allows you to find out quickly that your information has been changed without your authorization so that you can take appropriate action before further damage is done. With online credit monitoring services, an email is sent out to the individual to notify them of any changes.

Credit monitoring services typically bill either month-by-month or annually. The cost of a credit monitoring service is minimal in comparison to what errors may cost in interest rates, insurance rates and security deposits.


Check your credit

It is a good idea for individuals to check their check credit score online. Your credit score is the most important thing in your life as it used as a background check when you attempt to purchase a house, car or other items. It may also be called a credit rating or life, but in reality is all the same thing. There is no way to remove your credit score if you have a bad background as it stays on the record permanently. However, you can build you credit score back up by paying bills and other debts online. There is a number of online credit score sites that allow you to check your credit score, most sponsored by government or bank agencies. Some online resources to check your credit score are free, while others may make you may a small minimum deposit on processing fees. This all depends on the site. It's best to research which site is the best. Look on search engines for checking your credit score online, but ensure that it is an official site.

Should I report it when I suspect someone has used my information to apply for credit?

Report Credit Card Fraud

Fraud can happen to anyone and it is not pleasant. If you discover someone else is using your information, immediately report credit card fraud to the creditor. Credit card fraud should be taken seriously since it can destroy your credit rating and make it difficult to get a loan or other credit in the future. When this occurs, work with the creditor to explain your situation. Expect the process to take some time. Also, anticipate dealing with a creditor who doesn't necessarily believe what you are telling them. They are used to dealing with people who make up stories to get out of paying a debt, so you will be required to provide proof, possibly including a police report.

Is it worth it to sign up for free credit monitoring?

Free Credit Monitoring

Sometimes an offer for a free credit report is really just a ploy to get you to sign up for something else, like online credit monitoring. They may even start by offering free credit monitoring for one month. But subsequently, you will start being assessed a fee for the credit monitoring service if you forget to have it stopped. This happens to many consumers who then end up paying for a service that they don't realize they have and may not want. Don't get hooked into something like this. While it is ok to request continuous credit monitoring services, know what it is that you are getting before agreeing to anything.

How can I prevent identity theft?

Credit Report Protection

Some credit monitoring services take protection to the next level by watching your credit history and sending you an alert when any suspicious activity appears on your credit report. This credit report fraud alert may include inquiries from one or multiple sources. It may also be when new credit suddenly appears on your report. This notification can occur via email, letting you know to check and determine if the request was legitimate.

Can I put a notice on my credit report?

Credit Report Fraud Alert

To help fight back against credit identity theft, you can have a credit report fraud alert placed on your credit reports. While this may only be for 90-days, it provides you with some peace of mind after your wallet or credit cards have been stolen. Essentially, this places a notice on your credit report that you may be the victim of identity theft and keeps them from opening any additional credit in your name. In some states you can take credit protection a step further and completely lock or freeze your credit file.

Which credit monitoring service should you choose?

Credit Monitoring Companies

There are a number of credit monitoring companies that offer you their services to provide reports that monitor your credit report. How do you know which one to choose? Start by finding one that is offered through a source you trust. You may look directly to one of the three major credit reporting agencies. Then look at the costs. The monthly fee can vary and depends on what services you are requesting. Finally, read through all of the fine print very carefully. Don't skim over anything since you don't want to agree to something that you can not later change. Make sure you know when and under what circumstances you can cancel the service from the credit monitoring business.

How often should I check my credit?

Credit Report Monitoring

While daily credit monitoring may seem a little extreme, it doesn't hurt to check regularly to avoid becoming the victim of fraud or identity theft. By buying services for credit report monitoring, you put yourself in the driver's seat so you feel comfortable that you do not become a victim. There are different services you can buy as part of the credit monitoring package, but it is possible to have alerts sent to you when an unauthorized credit transaction occurs. Browse sites to see the best offers in the way of credit monitoring.


Checking your credit reports is key

Your credit history influences your future ability to borrow and make purchases.

Here's the best advice for anyone trying to build and keep a good credit report:

* Pay your bills on time.

* Have a variety of credit -- a mix of credit cards, installment loans and lines of credit.

* Don't have too many outstanding loans.

* Pay off your debts regularly -- but not too quickly.

* Perform regular credit montoring -- examine your credit report at least annually and know your credit score.

Credit monitoring agencies are doing just that: monitoring your credit. Each charge on your credt card, every loan payment and every big purchase is collected and influences your credit score. Credit monitoring affects your ability to make future purchases, such as buying a home. Think about the impact on your credit report every time you buy an item, or when you make (or put off) a monthly payment.

* Apply for new accounts in moderation


What is a Credit Score?

A credit score is a numerical evaluation of the information on your credit report and is used to predict how risky a borrower you may be. Credit scores are usually between 300 and 850. Having a high credit score indicates that you are likely to be a responsible borrower. Having a low credit score indicates that you are likely to pay late or default on your accounts. Credit scores are used by lenders, credit card issuers and insurers to determine what rates and fees should apply to your account. There are hundreds of slightly different credit scoring models used for various business needs. You credit score can vary depending on where and why it is being checked but should usually be in the same range. Checking your own credit scores online is a great way to monitor your creditworthiness.


Making your credit work for you

Some basic practices can help you keep your credit report in good standing with credit reporting agencies:

* Pay your credit bills on time. Late payments or non-payments will be reported by your creditors and the credit reporting agencies and will hurt your credit score.

* Don't apply for a lot of credit cards, no matter how enticing the offers.

* Use your credit cards responsibly and pay the balance in full each month.

* If you think you find mistakes on credit reports to the credit reporting agencies, don't try anything unethical to get rid of them. The best strategy is to begin to use your credit wisely, earn a good credit score and manage your debts responsibly.


What is a credit report?

Your credit report is a history of your loan and credit card use, applications for credit, address, employment and public records going back 7-10 years.

It is updated regularly by banks, credit card companies, merchants and other businesess. Credit reports are generated by three credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

Each of these companies keep electronic records of your payments, late payments, missed payments and more.

Your credit report is critically important to your future borrowing power. So it's very important for you to check your credit reports and credit scores regularly.

Problems on your credit reports can cause you to have to pay higher interest rates and fees.

Where should I go for credit monitoring service?

Best Credit Monitoring Service

Is there one credit monitoring service that's considered the best? Not necessarily. It all depends on what you are looking for. One of the best ideas is to purchase a credit report monitoring program that provides you with access to all three credit reports and daily monitoring of your credit report. This can alert you immediately to any problems. This is also good for someone who is trying to improve their credit. This way you can watch your report to make sure that information is being updated as you expect.

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Jolyn Wells-Moran