Free Credit Monitoring can help you keep close tabs on your credit health. Good credit is your financial lifeline.

You need it for everything, like getting a credit card or a loan. It determines your interest on that loan. It impacts your future jobs, insurance coverage and even whether a landlord will rent to you.

Credit card companies often offer free credit monitoring services. But what exactly do they do? Is that all you need? Does this also protect you against identity fraud? What if your social security card is stolen or someone uses your child’s social security number when filing taxes? What protects against those types of things? 

Let’s explore this further.

What Does Credit Monitoring Mean?

Credit monitoring is just what it sounds like: watching your credit score to ensure there’s no funny business going on, like:

  • Accounts you didn’t open
  • Too many hard credit inquiries, which credit lenders consider a red flag
  • Collection bills, cash advances and/or co-signs you don’t recognize

When it comes to your credit, it’s important to keep a good FICO score (670 – 800). That means making regular payments on time, keeping balances low and credit inquiries to a minimum, and preventing fraud.

A credit freeze can help here. This is like an invisible shield stopping anyone from opening an account in your name. The downside is that this shield prevents you from using your credit, too.

Alternatively, a credit monitoring service is the siren to alert you that your identity and credit are at risk.

2018 saw a 24% increase in credit card identity theft instances where new accounts were fraudulently opened.

Source: Federal Trade Commission Report

What does a Credit Monitoring Service do?

A free credit monitoring service will review your credit for you on a regular basis, and alert you of anything that’s off, like a missed payment or credit card fraud. Credit monitoring is especially ideal if you’re working to improve your score, or have recently fallen victim to identity theft.

Credit Monitoring Service vs. Identity Protection Service

Unsure of the best monitoring service to protect your credit? Here’s a snapshot of what’s available to you:

Features Free Credit Monitoring Paid Credit Monitoring Full Identity Protection
Credit Score X X  
Credit Activity   X X
Credit Health   X X
New Accounts Opened   X X
Hard Credit Inquiries   X X
Dark Web Monitoring     X
Internet Monitoring     X
Data Breach Alerts     X
Identity Theft Restoration Services     X
Identity Theft Insurance     X

*Note: Services vary by provider

Free plans provide basic protection. You can build on this with your own due diligence; through the help of one of the three major credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion), you can get one free credit report a year. This will tell you about your current financial status, including: debits, information about your financial accounts, payment histories, loan balances and more.

Credit card companies also usually offer good protection when it comes to credit card monitoring and alerts. Plus, the law is also on your side; the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) gives you 60 days to dispute fraudulent credit charges to your card issuer and caps liability at $50.

But, for the best peace-of-mind, paid plans give you a level of protection that extends far beyond credit monitoring.

A comprehensive Identity Protection Service will go above and beyond to:

  • Give you an indication of credit health
  • Offer full identity theft protection
    • Dark web and internet monitoring: when personal information is stolen, it’s circulated on the internet and the dark web. Identity theft protection will consistently prowl the digital space, ensuring your information isn’t where it shouldn’t be.
    • Breach alerts and response service: let a service monitor multiple sources of public and private data breaches on the Dark Web that to help alert you if your account or personal information has been breached. Get assistance in understanding and responding to breach notifications.
    • Identity theft restoration services: Depend on a professional team to help in document and dispute identity theft claims on your behalf.
    • Identity theft insurance: Have peace-of-mind when the inevitable hits – depending on your plan, you can get reimbursed for losses caused by identity theft, such as lost wages, attorney fees, and notary charges.

Protection for the whole family at one price.

Use coupon code FAMILYFIRST and get your first month for only $2.94.