Chances are, one of two things happened when you read that question. Either your score came immediately to mind, or you felt a sharp twinge of guilt. After all, you really should know your credit score, and you’ve been meaning to check it…
When it comes to credit, there are a few things that most people agree on. We acknowledge that it’s a good idea to know our credit score. We also agree that we should periodically check our report to ensure its accuracy, and make sure it doesn’t list any accounts we didn’t open. Where do we go from there, though?
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How and Where to Monitor Your Credit
These days, it’s actually pretty easy to access your credit score. Many credit card issuers provide you with your free credit score (genuine FICO or just an estimate) on a monthly basis.
For example, Barclay and Citi provide cardholders with a monthly FICO, and Chase offers “Credit Journey,” which provides an updated simulated score weekly. Discover — one of the first to start providing cardholder’s with their FICO score — now offers a free FICO to everyone.
Straight from the Source
Okay, so perhaps you’re the kind of person that wants to get your information straight from the source. Or maybe, you want access to your credit report and your actual credit score, not simply an estimate. What options are out there for you?
If you’re willing to pay a monthly fee ($9.95-$19.95), then TransUnion Credit Monitoring might be for you.
In addition to receiving access to your credit score, signing up for TransUnion’s service will give you access to the following additional benefits:
- Unlimited updates to your TransUnion Credit Report and Score
- Email updates of critical changes for all 3 bureaus
- Instant email alerts sent as soon as TransUnion finds out someone’s applied for credit in your name
- Easy lock and unlock of your TransUnion Credit Report
- Personalized Debt Analysis & Credit Score Trending
- Score Simulator — see how specific credit choices may affect scores
- Unlimited toll-free access to ID theft specialists
- Up to $1,000,000 ID Theft Insurance
As you might expect, signing up for this service is relatively straightforward. It is actually pretty similar to applying for a credit card. You have to enter your name, birthday, and last four of your SSN.
After you enter the information to create your account, TransUnion verifies your identity, and you’re good to go. It’s really that easy.
A note on the monthly price: when looking to sign up for this service, I noticed that I was able to find two different pricing structures for what appears to be the same service. Option 1 is $9.95 per month. Option 2 includes a free Credit Score, $1 Credit Report, and 7 day free trial of the service; after the 7 day trial, Option 2 is $19.95 per month.
The two options seem to be identical, other than price. That being said, it seems like you’ll be paying an extra $10 per month for the privilege of a 7 day free trial option. You may be better off signing up for the $9.95 plan even if you’re unsure about keeping the service — it would save you $10 a month if you end up using the service beyond Day 8.
Once you’re signed up and logged in, you land at the dashboard. From here you can get a good overview of your TransUnion credit situation.
The user interface seems to be on par with some of the free options (Credit Karma, for example) and is surprisingly intuitive to use. As you can see below, your Credit Score and debt analysis take center stage. As you might expect, along with your score, TransUnion provides you with a letter grade assessment of your credit (again, similar to Credit Karma).
Related: The Best Credit Monitoring Services
If you’ve ever listened to popular talk radio host Clark Howard, you’re probably familiar with the concept of a “credit freeze.” Essentially, putting a credit freeze on your report stops lenders from pulling your credit report. In this way, by putting your credit on ice, you are also able to deter people from opening up fraudulent accounts in your name. If the lender can’t pull a report, they likely won’t open up the account.
In recent years, laws have been passed forcing the three major credit bureaus to allow consumers to freeze their credit upon request. In most states, you’ll still pay a small fee (up to $10 per bureau) to freeze and unfreeze your report, though.
TransUnion’s Credit Lock feature is like a fast track credit freeze. You simply log in to your account, and lock or unlock your report. Pretty straightforward. The nice thing about having this service built into the TransUnion Credit Monitoring service is that you have the option to freeze and unfreeze your report as often as you like without having to pay the fee. The downside to that, of course, is that this only applies to your TransUnion report. If you want to freeze the other two bureaus, this service can’t help you.
Worth the Cost?
As you might expect, I can’t tell you whether this service would be worth it for you, in your specific situation. What I can tell you is that functionally, it seems to operate in largely the same way as the free options, as far as credit score and report monitoring are concerned.
Where the TransUnion option really makes sense is for those people who are willing to pay a little extra to get the information directly from the bureau or who want on-the-fly control of freezing their credit.
Learn All About Credit Freezes and How They Protect You
The service also could make sense for someone worried about identity theft, as it includes ID Theft insurance. Fortunately (knock on wood), I haven’t had a need to evaluate TransUnion’s ID Theft insurance firsthand, but it could be worth the cost for those that need a little extra peace of mind.
Do you prefer your credit score and report monitoring straight from the source, or through a third-party company? Which of the three bureaus would you choose to pull first?