Not checking your credit can be expensive. The information in your credit reports (and the credit scores derived from them) is often used to help determine interest rates on credit cards, car loans and mortgages. Even some insurance discounts are based on credit scores, and some employers use a credit check in the hiring process. With that in mind, it’s easy to see how mistakes or problems you weren’t aware of could end up costing you a lot of money.
Does that mean you need to be obsessive about checking your credit reports? Not necessarily. Here are some guidelines for how often to get yours.
The Annual Check-Up
Just like you (hopefully) get an annual physical, it’s a good idea to check your credit reports once a year. You’re entitled to getting your credit reports for free every 12 months. You can get them online at AnnualCreditReport.com or by calling 877-322-8228. There, you’ll be able to get your report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Keep in mind that not every creditor reports to all three, so it’s a good idea to get your reports from each to make sure there are no mistakes on any of them.
Also, checking your own credit report won’t affect your credit scores like a hard inquiry by a creditor would.
Checking Your Credit Reports More Often
But getting your free credit reports once a year isn’t always enough. Monitoring your credit more frequently can be important if you:
- Are separating or getting divorced and will be splitting up responsibility for joint debts you share with your spouse, or if you are worried your spouse might try to use your information to get additional credit in his or her name (which happens more frequently than you might guess).
- Move frequently. Bills might not always catch up to you, and if they go unpaid could wind up in collections and further damage your credit.
- Have had your personal information compromised through a data breach, a lost or stolen wallet or purse, or have been a victim of identity theft. If a crook tries to use your information to apply for credit, you’ll want to catch that early so you can stop them before extensive damage is done.
- Are trying to build or rebuild your credit. You may want to keep closer tabs on your reports and scores to track your progress.
There are two ways to monitor your credit more frequently:
- Get your free credit report summary on Credit.com. You’ll get two credit scores and an action plan for your credit. A significant change in your score could be an indication that you need to investigate what’s going on.
- Subscribe to a credit monitoring service which, for a fee, will monitor your credit reports with one or more of the major credit reporting agencies and alert you to changes. They may also provide you with free credit reports and/or credit score updates.