Credit Card Expert Roundup #37 - How often do you check your credit history and credit scores, and why?
While it's important to check your credit score and reports to make sure everything is accurate, especially in the day and age of breaches, there is no set guideline as to how frequently this has been done. For this edition of our Roundup, Jason asks our experts with what frequency they check their credit profiles:
How often do you check your credit history and credit scores, and why?
Louis DeNicola - Personal finance writer who works with Fortune 500 financial services firms, FinTech startups, and non-profits to help promote financial literacy.
I don't have a regular day or interval for when I check my credit, but I frequently sign into my financial accounts and occasionally take a peek at the scores. My scores are high enough that I don't worry much if they move up or down a little. More importantly, I've signed up for free credit monitoring services that cover all three of my credit reports from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. If I receive an alert that something has changed on one of my reports, I'll sign in and review the change to make sure there wasn't a mistake or potential fraud.
Michelle Lambright Black - Founder of CreditWriter.com, Michelle is a credit expert and personal finance writer with nearly two decades of experience.
Personally, I opt to check my three credit reports and scores on a monthly basis. I use a free Credit Karma account to check Equifax and TransUnion reports and VantageScores along with a free Experian account to check my Experian report and FICO Score. I also have several credit cards which provide me with free FICO Scores each month as well.
I've made a habit of checking my credit each month when I review my credit card and bank statements. With financial accounts and credit reports, I know it's important to keep an eye on my own information and to review it for accuracy. No one else is going to care as much as I do if an error shows up on my credit reports (and an error on my report personal won't affect anyone else as much as it affects me either). By self-monitoring my three credit reports, I know that I can react quickly to correct mistakes when and if they occur.
I've worked hard to earn good credit, and it's a tool I use constantly. Good credit saves me money on my insurance premiums every month. It opens the door if I want to purchase a home or refinance a mortgage to secure a lower rate. Good credit also gives me the confidence to know that I can qualify for attractive rewards credit card offers when they become available (one of my favorite good-credit perks)!
Emily Guy Birken - Personal finance writer and author of four books, including End Financial Stress Now and The Five Years Before You Retire.
I unofficially check my credit score about two or three times a year, because my credit card offers a service that alerts me when my credit score changes. I like seeing this vanity metric, but I also understand that it is an imperfect snapshot of my credit.
Though I always intend to do better, I only end up checking my credit history and official credit scores about once a year. Consumers can check their credit history for free once a year through each of the three credit bureaus, which means it would be best practice to check one of those histories every four months. Try as I might, I can't quite get my act together well enough to check that often, and I instead will generally check all three at the same time about once a year.
I feel comfortable being a little more laissez-faire about checking my history and official score for two reasons: first, because I do get those unofficial alerts from my credit card (a Barclays Mastercard), which means I'll be alerted if my score goes down suddenly. Second, I froze all of my credit in the wake of the 2017 Equifax Data Breach, which means I feel secure that no one other than me is taking new credit under my name. The freeze does not protect me from errors and other potential credit-harming problems, but at least I know I'm (relatively) safe from identity theft.
Bill Hardekopf - CEO of LowCards.com
Checking your credit history and credit score is a habit that we all need to undertake.
I check my credit report once every four months. Each of the three major credit bureaus allow you to receive a free credit report once a year. You can do this through annualcreditreport.com. So I spread out those three reports and get one every four months. This allows me to see if there are any lines of credit that were opened under my account that I did not authorize. It also will show if a late payment is being reported that may not be accurate. Checking every four months allows me to make corrections to this report if they are needed.
I check my credit score once a month. Several credit card issuers allow you to see your credit score at no charge. So when my credit card bill is emailed to me, that is a reminder to check my credit score. Since so many financial decisions are made about me based on this score, it is important to keep a gauge on it. And if the score starts to move significantly from one month to the next, I know something must be amiss.
Beverly Harzog - Credit card expert and consumer finance analyst for U.S. News & World Report.
By federal law, consumers get a free credit report from each of the three major bureaus every 12 months. I check one of my credit reports every four months. This isn’t a fool-proof way to catch fraud or mistakes, but it spreads out my credit checks over the course of a year. For each report, I double check my personal information and then look at my accounts. I always look to see if there are any accounts listed that I didn’t open.
I also check my bank accounts every morning before I start work. I do this to catch fraudulent purchases or suspicious activity on my existing accounts. The reason I also check my credit reports is because that’s the way to spot a new account that you didn’t open.
As for credit scores, mine is pretty high and I only check it every few weeks. Several of my credit card and bank accounts offer free credit scores. I do check it more often if I’m planning to apply for credit soon. My advice about scores? If you want to improve your score, pay your bills on time and keep low balances on credit cards. Don’t obsess over it because time, responsible credit card use and persistence will take care of it.