While there are many paid tools and services out there to help consumers monitor their credit and identity, I have found that many of the features and benefits can be obtained for free. Read on to learn how to monitor your credit & protect your identity for free.
The first (and perhaps best) free service is through annualcreditreport.com. After registering with the site, consumers can obtain one free credit report per year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). Checking one’s credit annually is good enough for most people most of the time.
However, there a couple of limited-time offers as a result of the massive Equifax breach. Since Equifax exposed millions of peoples’ data, it has agreed to provide up to six credit reports per year for anyone in the US. So, hypothetically, in any 12 month period, someone could get 8 reports (6 Equifax, 1 Experian, and 1 TransUnion).
Since the Equifax breach was so big, the three major credit reporting agencies have agreed to each provide weekly credit reports through the end of 2023. In my view, this is as good as any of the paid credit monitoring services out there.
One trend I’ve noticed is that many of the financial institutions that I work with offer varying degrees of credit monitoring. So if you have a bank account or credit card, check the firm’s website to see what they offer. Below are just a few examples:
Chase has a service called Credit Journey, which is powered by Experian. It is free to opt into and it provides the following:
- Credit report
- Identity Restoration
- Credit Insider
- Score simulator
Bank of America
Bank of America has an aptly named service called FICO Score, which is powered by TransUnion. This service primarily provides a credit score, but it does offer a free credit report through annualcreditreport.com and counts towards the one free report per 12 months from TransUnion.
Citi also offers FICO Score, but their version doesn’t say which credit reporting agency powers it and the free credit report offer is from Equifax.
American Express has a tool called My Credit Guide, which includes something called Vantage Score 3.0 which is powered by TransUnion. This tool provides credit score, some high level credit report details (like total credit available, number of accounts, length of credit history, etc) as well as score simulators, etc.
Separately, they have a service called FICO Score, which uses Experian data. This just shows an estimated credit score.
Free Dark Web Scan
Many paid services include dark web monitoring, although this can also be obtained for free. A quick google search indicates that Experian offers a one-time dark web scan for free. Its not ongoing, but it is helpful to check your data and resolve any issues you uncover. Additionally, dark web monitoring may be included in services that you already pay for. For instance, password managers (such as LastPass or Dashlane) include dark web monitoring. Many anti-virus and security services also include dark web monitoring for free. Why pay for things like dark web monitoring when its already included in something you already pay for?
Free Identity Theft Protection
Similar to the dark web scans, there are ways to get free identify theft protection from the credit reporting bureaus or from services that you already pay for. For example, TransUnion has a free service called TrueIdentity. Or if you pay for anti-virus or security software, it likely includes identity theft protection. Why pay for a dedicated service if the offering is already included in something that you pay for?
Paid vs Free
Many people prefer to pay for the above services, either because they do not know about the free options or they prefer the convenience of everything being in one place, a mobile app, etc. However, I believe it is important to know that you do not NEED a paid service and you can monitor your credit and protect your identity for free.