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You may not be able to keep a 24/7 eye on your credit reports and your accounts by yourself, but you can save money and still keep a good handle on your credit report. Since most credit cards off protection against fraudulent charges, if you use common sense measures to protect your identity and also keep an eye on your credit reports for all three credit agencies, you may not want to invest in a credit monitoring service.
If you do choose to hire a firm to monitor your credit for you, CreditShout recommends checking out the services we recommend in this article. We think these services as the best credit monitoring service available for a reasonable price.
How can you take steps to monitor your credit yourself?
1. Read your credit card statements and check bank account balances frequently.
Online banking and notifications to your smart phone make it easy to stay connected and in-the-know, financially speaking. Make sure you read your credit card statements when they arrive by mail or in your email box, so you can spot and report fraudulent charges immediately. In some cases, your $0 fraud liability won’t be valid if you wait too long to report a fraudulent charge, or if your credit card is stolen and you don’t report it right away.
2. Get your free credit reports and official FICO scores annually.
Use AnnualCreditReport.com to get your credit reports from all three agencies, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax, once a year. Unless you’re making a major purchase, like a home mortgage or a car, you can stagger your free credit report requests four months apart, so you can keep tabs on your credit three times a year. If you’re preparing for a big purchase on credit, you’ll want to pull all three reports at once so you can look for discrepancies and errors that may drive down your credit score.
3. Subscribe to a service like CreditKarma to get an idea of your credit score
Some services such as CreditKarma provide useful credit management tools, and allow you to monitor your credit for free.
4. Order a credit monitoring service and cancel before the trial period is over.
This is the oldest trick in the book to get a free credit report when you’ve used up all your credit report inquiries through one of the services recommended here. Use it whenever you get a bad feeling or before you apply for a loan or line of credit. Just make sure you select a company that provides your credit reports from Experian, TransUnion and Equifax and your FICO scores from these companies — not some other credit score, like your Vantage score.
5. Entitlement to a FREE REPORT.
Did you know you are entitled to a free credit report from all three credit reporting agencies if you have been, or have reason to believe you’ve been, a victim of identity theft or credit card fraud? You’ll need to place an identity theft alert on your credit reports, which could make it more difficult, or impossible to get new credit in your name without removing this alert. You don’t want to do this if you are getting ready to buy a new home or car or make another major purchase on credit.