Like it or not, your credit reports and your credit scores represent your trustworthiness as a borrower to lenders and creditors. Virtually everyone should monitor their credit to make sure they’re represented in the best possible light.
But there are certain circumstances that warrant keeping an unusually vigilant eye on your credit. In these scenarios, you’ll want to diligently watch your credit reports and credit scores to stay informed of any problems or changes.
You can monitor your credit on your own for free or use a paid credit monitoring service. No matter what you choose, it’s wise to make sure you’re watching your credit like a hawk in the following scenarios.
Before Applying for a Loan or Credit Card
Buying a home is big life event where credit monitoring is absolutely crucial. During the mortgage approval process, your potential lender will closely scrutinize your credit. Future homeowners should closely monitor their credit ahead of submitting a mortgage application and continue to do so until the day they close since lenders may pull their credit files multiple times throughout the mortgage approval process —and a big change could cost you a mortgage.
This philosophy should apply to any other credit or loan applications such as auto loans or credit cards. A sub-optimal credit scores or troublesome credit reports can lead to higher interest rates or an outright denial of your application. If you can ensure that your credit reports are accurate and fair, and your credit scores reflect that, your loan or credit card application could result in friendlier terms.
When You Suspect Identity Theft
If your suspect your identity may have been compromised, it’s a good idea to closely monitor your credit. Pulling your credit reports can help you determine if someone has opened fraudulent accounts in your name.
Credit applications you never initiated, accounts you never opened and other inaccurate information stemming from identity theft can land on your credit reports and damage your credit score. The sooner you catch identity theft, the sooner you can get rid of fraudulent accounts opened in your name.
Before Starting a Job Search
Some employers perform credit checks on candidates before making a job offer. Not all employers do this (and in some states it’s illegal), but if you’re preparing for a job hunt, it could be good to monitor your credit.
Employers have to check with you before they pull a version of your credit report and often they don’t have access to the same information as a lender. All the same, it’s good to know how your credit looks and if there are any items on your credit reports that could cause problems.
When Filing for Bankruptcy
If you’ve fallen on hard times and are considering bankruptcy as a way out, your credit reports can help you make sure all outstanding debts are included in your filing.
“By including all of your debts in your bankruptcy petition, you ensure that collection activity ceases pursuant to federal bankruptcy law and that your debts are appropriately accounted for,” Paul Kuzmickas, a bankruptcy attorney at Luftman, Heck & Associates, LLP. in Cleveland, Ohio, said.
You should also monitor your credit reports after your bankruptcy is discharged, Kuzmickas, said. “There are often a fair number of creditors who have not reported the debt as discharged … affecting your debt- to-income ratio and credit score.”
When Trying to Improve Your Credit Scores
Monitoring your credit is an important part of any credit improvement plan. Once you’ve pulled your free credit reports on AnnualCreditReport.com, you can identify what to work on. This could include clearing up errors, reducing your credit utilization ratio or letting the average age of your accounts grow.
As you work on improving your credit, you’ll want to regularly check your credit reports and credit scores to track your progress. That way, you’ll see improvements as they happen and be motivated to keep going.