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Credit Report Monitoring
 Aug 05, 2004

By monitoring your personal credit report you will be able to have control over fixing, repairing, and building your credit history. This article will review the pros and cons of using a credit report monitoring service vs. do it yourself credit report monitoring.

If there is something that can help you or hurt you in terms of your personal finances, it is your credit report. A good credit report can be your ally in getting the loans and other things that you want or need to succeed financially. On the other hand, if you have a poor credit report, the story is the opposite. Bad credit can mean you do not get the loan, terms, apartment, car or even job that you want.

Because credit is so important, you can see why some people are interested in credit report monitoring. Credit report monitoring is when a company offers to, for a fee, keep track of what is in your credit report and let you know if something new or negative (or both) shows up. In many cases, credit report monitoring can lead to early detection of identity theft.

Credit report monitoring services

There are many different credit report monitoring services available these days. Credit report monitoring services regularly check your credit report in order to see if new accounts have been opened, or if negative items (such as a late payment) are showing up on your credit report. Your credit card company may have a monitoring service. All three credit bureaus offer credit monitoring services, and the Fair Isaac Company (creator of the FICO score) also offers such services. There is a plethora of companies that have sprung up recently online that can monitor your credit for you.

As you might guess, credit report monitoring does not come for free. Services charge, on average, somewhere between $10 and $25 per month, depending on the level of service you receive, and products (such as anytime access to your credit report and credit score) that you have added on to the service. You should read the fine print, though, since in some cases a per-transaction fee may be charged for disputing negative items on your report. Many credit card companies that offer credit report monitoring charge you a percentage of your balance. (This means that you could conceivably get free credit report monitoring if you do not carry a balance.)

Before committing to a credit report monitoring service, make sure you understand the fee structure, as well as how often you are billed for the service. You should also know what services are included. Be wary of companies that automatically dispute any negative item. Negative items that are accurate cannot be removed, and if you are paying on a per-transaction basis, you might be wasting money every time such a dispute is filed. Also find out what kind of help, if any, you are getting in resolving cases of identity fraud.

Do it yourself credit report monitoring

While it can be convenient to pay someone else to keep an eye on your credit report, it is not necessary. You can do your own credit report monitoring for as little  as or even less than is charged by service. This is because the credit monitoring service can't actually do something for you that cannot do for yourself.

First of all, credit report monitoring services merely keep track of your credit report and let you know if something new, unusual or negative pops up. This is something you can do for yourself. You are entitled to one free credit report each year from each of the three major credit bureaus.

On top of that, according to law, you are allowed access to your credit report for a reasonable fee. For the most part, it is possible to get a single credit report for between $15 and $25. Additionally, you can usually get a three in one credit report for right around $45 or $50. This means that if you get your free credit report, you can get two or three more three-in-one credit reports for about the same as (or even less than) the cost of paying for a credit report monitoring service.

There really is no reason, in most cases, to pay for credit report monitoring services when you can do most of the work yourself for less. However, you need to have the time and patience to go through your credit report looking for items that are inaccurate, outdated or could signal identity theft.

Many people find the convenience of having someone else checking their credit score and keeping track of what is happening is worth the cost of a credit report monitoring service (usually between $120 and $240 a year). However, if you want to save a little money, it is possible to do it yourself.

Related Article: Best Credit Reports Online >>

* See the online credit card application for details about terms and conditions. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. When you click on the "Apply Here" button, you can review the credit card terms and conditions on issuers website.