Your credit score is a number on a range between 300 and 800 that indicates how credit-worthy you are. If you are at high risk to default on a loan with negative remarks on your credit report or have no credit at all, your score falls on the low end of that range. If you have positive remarks on your report showing a good history of making payments, then your score will fall higher on the range.
The actual score is known as a Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) score. This is the central place where your credit activity is recorded. The Fair Isaac Corporation shares that information with other credit reporting agencies. Sometimes, information may be wrongly shared with Fair Isaac Corporation, perhaps due to a payment not being recorded properly or even identity theft. You might not even be aware of such errors until you are denied credit, such as when seeking a car loan. This is why you might want to monitor your credit score for accuracy.
Monitoring your credit score in the most efficient manner is easy to do with the right tools. There’s even a free system you can use to track your credit. Or, you can enlist the aid of a credit monitoring service for a small fee. Here’s what you need to know about both methods of credit monitoring.
How to monitor your credit score for free
You can maximize your free annual credit score reports by alternately ordering from one credit reporting agency every four months. This gives you three opportunities per year to peek at what is hurting and helping your credit score and check for abnormalities. There are three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. While each agency calculates credit scores slightly differently, the end result is similar.
To request your free annual credit report, go to ANNUALcreditreport.com. Do not attempt to get your report from a similarly named website, as those are not actually free. Press the button to request your free credit report, and follow the instructions to obtain it from one of the three agencies.
To stagger your free reports, you might request one from Equifax in January, one from Experian in April, and one from TransUnion in August. You could repeat that each year and not pay a cent.
How to monitor your credit score with tracking service
You can also check your credit score through a tracking service any time you like and even get alerts by email or phone when your score changes. CreditKarma is a free service that monitors your credit score and alerts you to changes. It is, however, somewhat limited in that it only tracks scores through Equifax and TransUnion. Nonetheless, it is a powerful credit score monitoring tool that doesn’t cost a cent.
Using a paid identity protection service is another way to monitor your credit score and protect against identity theft. In this scenario, you pay a subscription for things like identity theft insurance, alerts to potential data breaches, and often dark web monitoring. Credit reporting usually comes with it as a bonus.
Identity protection service with credit score monitoring costs on average $10 per month with a small discount if paid annually.