Free Credit Monitoring (the DIY Way!)

by Michael on Jan 15, 2014 · 4 comments

Image of Credit on Computer Monitor

In the wake of the massive Target data breach, I’ve decided to throw together a free, diy credit monitoring system.

Yes, Target is offering a year of free credit monitoring, but that only covers your Experian credit report, leaving Equifax and TransUnion out in the cold. And it only lasts for a year.

Instead of relying on a commercial entity to do your monitoring, I’d like to suggest that you instead take advantage of the free annual credit report from each of the three major bureaus. As you’re likely aware, the official website for doing this is annualcreditreport.com — don’t be fooled by imitations.

The primary limitation with these free reports is, of course, their once-a-year nature. It sure would be nice if we had free access to this information whenever we wanted it, but that’s not how it works, so…

Instead of pulling all of your credit reports at once, I’d like to further suggest that you spread them out by pulling one report every four months. So maybe Equifax today, Experian in four months, TransUnion in eight months, and so forth.

Is this a perfect system? No, but it works fairly well, giving you the ability to keep an eye on things on an ongoing basis. And, for the average consumer, it’s much better than paying an exorbitant monthly fee for commercial credit monitoring.

The challenge here is actually remembering to pull your credit reports on a regular schedule. That’s where I come in…

Get free reminders

I’ve put together an e-mail reminder system that will shoot you a quick message every four months telling you that it’s time to request your next report. You can sign up (for free!) by submitting your e-mail address using the form below.

Note: This form (above) might not work outside the website, so RSS and e-mail subscribers may need to click through to access it. Once you submit, keep an eye out for the confirmation e-mail. Open it, click the link, and you’re done.

Now for the details…

First, this service is separate from regular e-mail subscriptions (for article updates) so you’ll need to sign up for it separately. Unfortunately, I don’t have an easy way of changing the message timing so the e-mail schedule will necessarily be based on when you sign up. But hey, it’s free.

For simplicity, we’ll tackle the credit bureaus in alphabetical order. Equifax will be first, followed by Experian, and then TransUnion. And then we’ll loop back around.

This service is 100% free and, as with regular e-mail subscriptions, I promise to protect your privacy by keeping your information out of the hands of any third parties. And yes, you can unsubscribe at any time.

What about your credit score?

Unfortunately, while the credit bureaus are legally mandated to give you free access to your credit report each year, the same is not true of credit scores. Thus, if you want to check your credit score you’ll have to get a bit more creative.

While there are services out there that offer free access to your credit score on an ongoing basis, these are typically what has been referred to as FAKO scores as opposed to your real FICO credit score.

If you’d like to gain access to your FICO credit score, you can do so (once, anyway) by signing up for a free trial of MyFICO’s ScoreWatch. Just be sure to cancel within 10 days if you don’t want to pay for the service.

Alternatively, as I’ve noted previously, you could apply for a credit card like the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard, which provides you with free access to your real FICO score on an ongoing basis.

And with that, I’ll turn you loose…

P.S. If you’ve been a victim of credit card fraud or identity theft and wouldn’t mind sharing your experiences, please let me know. I’d love to hear your story, and I’m sure others would, too.


1 Steve January 15, 2014 at 11:44 am

Thanks for this service. I’ve always meant to get a credit report every four months and I’ve always forgotten.

When I was in college someone used my credit card to order $700 worth of porn videos. I had bought something with my credit card on a campus computer, and either it had a keylogger installed or maybe someone shoulder-surfed me. I simply disputed it with the credit card company. The owner of the online porn video store called me and yelled at me. He told me that the videos had been shipped to a nearby Mailboxes Etc (now a UPS store). He was dubious of my claim that I did not order nor pick up the videos, but he did leave me alone after that.

2 Michael January 15, 2014 at 12:12 pm

No problem. I’m already paying for the e-mail delivery service for other things, so I might as well put it to good use. :-)

And I’m the same way. I always have the best intentions when it comes to checking our credit reports but I have trouble staying on track with it.

Oh, and that’s one of the best credit fraud stories that I’ve heard. Not only did someone try to rip you off, but they did it in an embarrassing way.

3 derek castle January 15, 2014 at 5:46 pm

great idea, thanks Michael.
If someone is married and you have mostly joint accounts, another way of increasing your “free credit monitoring” is to do each persons credit report alternating every two months.

4 Little House January 20, 2014 at 12:56 pm

We pull our credit reports once a year – all three at the same time. Spreading them out makes some sense, but we like to compare them and make sure they are all reporting the same information. Spreading them out might make it more difficult to compare. As for credit monitoring, I use CreditKarma.com which isn’t perfect and only reflects the Transunion score, but it keeps me somewhat aware of what’s going on and it’s FREE.

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