Credit Monitoring vs. Credit Repair: Pros and Cons
Without a decent credit score, it can be hard to purchase a cell phone plan, car, house or other big-ticket item. Since your credit score plays such a vital role in your life, it’s important to keep an eye on it and understand when you need to take action.
Two of the most common ways you can protect your credit score are credit monitoring and credit repair. They sound similar, but the differences between them are important to grasp.
“Credit monitoring is like the routine maintenance you do on your car,” said Joshua Escalante Troesh, financial planner and owner of Purposeful Strategic Partners in Alta Loma, Calif. “Credit repair is the major work that is needed after an accident or when your transmission goes out.”
Let’s take a look at what each service offers, and the advantages of each.
What is credit monitoring?
Credit monitoring is a service that notifies you any time there has been a change to one of your credit reports. It can allow you to confirm the accuracy of the change and work through any problems before they spiral out of control. Although every credit monitoring provider is different, most of them will notify you within 24 hours of a change being made to your credit report. You can choose to receive these notifications via email, text message or phone call.
A credit monitoring service may alert you when:
- A credit card or loan application has been submitted in your name;
- A new credit card or loan is opened using your identity;
- You have new public records, such as tax liens or bankruptcies; or
- Your address has been changed.
It can also keep you up to date on your credit card payment history and the highest balances on each of your credit cards.
Another easy to way to keep an eye on your credit is the LendingTree credit monitoring tool. It will send you updates via email and push notifications any time there is a change to your credit score.
Pros and cons of credit monitoring
As with all financial services, credit monitoring comes with benefits and drawbacks. Let’s take a closer look at what they are.
- Informs you of identity theft. By actively monitoring your credit reports, you’ll know if someone is trying to access your credit.
- Provides a clear roadmap of how to improve your credit. Regular credit monitoring can help you design a plan of how to raise your credit score because you’ll know what may be bringing it down.
- Enhances your purchasing power. Whether you’d like to apply for a mortgage or a new credit card, a strong credit score can increase your chances of qualifying for lower interest rates and better payment terms.
- Cannot prevent theft. While credit monitoring can notify you that theft has occurred, it cannot prevent it from happening in the first place.
- Does not alert you of all identity theft related activities. Credit monitoring cannot inform you when someone uses your personal information to apply for a job or uses your Social Security number to open new accounts.
- Can be expensive. While costs for credit monitoring services vary, most charge between $10 and $30 a month.This can become pricy over time.
What is credit repair?
Credit repair services are designed to help you improve your credit score by removing negative items and resolving errors from your reports. If you opt for a credit repair service, you can expect a company to review your credit reports and fix any negative items they are able to on your behalf.
Most credit repair companies will ask each of the three major credit bureaus for a copy of your credit report. Then, they’ll design a plan that may include steps such as disputing any errors and negotiating with creditors to remove them.
LendingTree offers options from various credit repair services that may be just what you need to improve your credit history.
Pros and cons of credit repair
Credit repair services come with advantages and disadvantages:
- Saves you time. Collecting data, reviewing credit reports and trying to resolve errors by negotiating with bureaus and creditors on your own can take a great deal of time. If you lead a busy life, credit repair services may be right for you.
- Allows you to benefit from professionals who have extensive knowledge of the law. Reputable companies that offer credit repair services are typically knowledgeable of current federal laws such as the Fair Credit Billing Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. They can leverage these laws to your benefit.
- Saves you money. By repairing your credit, you may get lower interest rates and better payment terms the next time you buy a car or house.
- Cannot guarantee an improved credit score. Keep in mind that not all issues on your credit report can be corrected by professionals, so credit repair services do not guarantee an improved credit score.
- Credit repair scams are common. Unfortunately, there are a number of companies that position themselves as credit repair specialists, but in reality they are scammers.
- Can be expensive. Credit repair services can be expensive. While some companies ask for payment after the service is performed, others require payment upfront.
Making the right choice
Now that you understand the difference between credit monitoring and credit repair, you can determine the right service for your particular situation. Regardless of which you choose, you’ll be taking a step toward improving your credit score, which can be one of your most valuable assets.