You have decided to begin using a credit monitoring service to take control of your financial health. The next step is finding a reputable company to provide your credit reports that can give you a clear picture of your fiscal standing. There are many options to consider when you choose to monitor your credit, including many free services. Besides the great price, what do free credit monitoring services offer? The best credit monitoring service is one that gives you a timely and accurate snapshot of your finances on a regular basis. It is worth looking at some of the free options and finding out what they re able to provide.

Monitoring Your Credit
Federal law allows you to get one free annual credit report from each of the three credit bureaus. That s great, but if you want to stay on top of your financial reputation, you need to monitor your credit more frequently. If something goes wrong with your credit, you don t want to wait a year to find out about it. It is important that discrepancies are found and dealt with immediately, or they may become much worse and take more time to resolve. Free credit report monitoring can help you avoid by providing your credit information throughout the year.

What to Look For
When looking into credit monitoring services, it s important to know what data they monitor, how often the data is reviewed, how often you have access the data and how the data is presented. You also want to know if they provide your credit score. Resolving fraud or identity theft on your own is a challenge, so you want to know if the service offers fraud resolution services. Getting help through the process of restoring your credit can be valuable. You will also find some companies that offer identity theft insurance to help cover the costs incurred if your data is breached.

Reviewing Your Data
Monitoring services look at three major credit bureaus for your data: Transunion, Experian and Equifax. You may be given information from one of these or all three. Each bureau s data are slightly different, so having all three reports gives you a more complete picture of your financial situation. On free accounts, services often pull from just one or two bureaus and you have to upgrade to a paying account to get all three.

To catch unauthorized activity on your report, you want to have frequent credit alerts. You want to find out how often your monitoring service pulls your data from the credit bureaus. The sooner you find suspicious activity, the easier it may be to remedy.

When you get a credit report directly from a major credit bureau, it is a very detailed report with all of your accounts. You can see every debt you have, the account open and close dates, balances, monthly payment amounts, payment status, and account numbers. It will have a summary and a section that highlights delinquent payments. When you do credit monitoring with a third party, the detail it provides varies. Some services only provide you with a summary, which makes it harder to find identity theft.

In addition to providing information about your accounts, credit bureaus also maintain public record information from government sources, such as tax liens, bankruptcies and overdue child support. You should be able to review this information to make sure there are no inaccuracies in your report. Negative items can have an impact on your ability to obtain credit or gain employment, so you need to know what s on there.

Credit bureaus also track the inquiries made when someone requests your credit report. These inquiries are typically made when you apply for a loan or a credit card as well as when you apply for rental housing. These inquiries can count against you if they are made frequently, and they stay on your report for two years. Your monitoring service should tell you how many inquiries you ve had.

Other Factors
Free credit report monitoring services usually provide very basic credit information, but they offer more data more frequently when you upgrade to a paid account. When you use a free service, you may encounter lots of ads on sites. This can be confusing since sometimes they are presented to look like recommendations from the website and you don t know that they are being paid when you sign up. The line isn t always clear. If you do want the additional features of a paid service, most of the companies offer free trials so you can evaluate their software.

The best credit monitoring services provide detailed information from all three credit bureaus on a regular basis. Knowing what s on your credit report helps identify unauthorized access to your credit. Finding problems as soon as possible allows you to begin the process of restoring your credit quickly.

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