What is Credit Monitoring and is it Effective?

Monitoring your credit can prevent fraud and identity theft. Free credit monitoring services can foil thieves and help keep your credit score healthy.

By Anna Davies | American Express Credit Intel Freelance Contributor

4 Min Read | March 30, 2022 in Credit Score



Credit monitoring provides you with notifications when your credit report is accessed or updated.

Paying for credit monitoring may provide additional protection over free credit monitoring services.

Victims of identity theft or fraud can use credit monitoring services to prevent repeat attacks.

The Insurance Information Institute reported 47% of Americans experienced financial identity theft in 2020.1


How do you protect yourself against identity theft? Keeping close guard of your personal information, staying on high alert for scams, and monitoring your personal accounts are all smart steps.


What is Credit Monitoring?

Credit monitoring regularly checks your credit activity and other important signals, including applications for new accounts, accessing your accounts from unknown devices, and uses of your accounts in locations you typically don’t spend in.


Sometimes, identity thieves can open accounts in your name that you won’t know about until the damage is done. That’s why credit monitoring services can be helpful tools to safeguard your information and protect your credit.


Various identity theft monitoring services exist online but how do you choose the best one that fits your needs?


Free Credit Report Alerts from MyCredit Guide

MyCredit Guide from American Express offers free credit report alerts for card members and non-card members.


How MyCredit Guide Credit Report Alerts Work

After signing up for the MyCredit Guide credit alerts, members will be alerted (via email or text) if any changes or new information appears on their TransUnion credit report. This information can include a change of address, a credit inquiry, or a new line of credit. The majority of the changes you see should be those you recognize and have authorized but unfamiliar expenses and actions could signal identity theft.


What to Do When Fraud Occurs

MyCredit Guide credit report alerts will include instructions for you to immediately confirm that a charge or credit activity is fraudulent. If you need to freeze your credit accounts, you will need to confirm your identity over the phone and speak to your credit card companies to begin the process of freezing your accounts. Freezing your accounts typically will prevent any new charges from landing on the account and prevent any new accounts from being opened in your name. Some credit card companies will allow for recurring expenses on the card to continue during the freeze period.


Immediate Access to Your Credit Report

If you do receive an alert about a change that doesn’t look familiar, you can immediately view your free full monthly credit report through MyCredit Guide. If something still doesn’t look right, you can take action to prevent the fraud from continuing.

Did you know? As an added security measure to help protect against fraud, American Express reports a reference number to credit bureaus – instead of your actual account number.


Why Do You Need Credit Monitoring?

Even if you’re cautious with your personal information, that doesn’t mean everyone who has access to your personal information will be. And as more and more sensitive information—including social security numbers and credit card information—is stored online, a data breach at an online retailer or medical office can have ripple effects and end with your sensitive information in someone else’s hands.


Credit monitoring gives you peace of mind by immediately notifying you of any changes to your credit report. By confirming that any credit activity was initiated by you or your authorized user, you can prevent any fraudulent charges from damaging your accounts or your credit history.


Free Credit Monitoring vs. Paid Credit Monitoring

Free credit monitoring services may be offered by your bank or credit card company. Some credit knowledge services, like MyCredit Guide, do not provide a full array of credit monitoring services, although MyCredit Guide does support creating credit alerts for card members and non-card members alike.


There are paid services as well that bill you on a monthly or annual cycle, which may offer additional benefits like Dark Web and public records monitoring, in addition to credit report monitoring from all three credit bureaus. These paid services may also offer insurance protection, meaning that you may not be held liable for charges that occur when your identity is compromised. It’s important to understand what is covered by your credit monitoring service. If you do choose a paid service, consider the factor that price plays in your budget as some of these paid credit monitoring programs can cost several hundred dollars per year.


What Credit Monitoring Program is Right for You?

The right credit monitoring service depends on your personal situation, but it’s smart to have some sort of credit monitoring system in place. People who have been victims of identity theft in the past may wish to pay for a comprehensive coverage plan since there may be a greater risk of future identity theft and fraud.2


Knowing your needs and understanding the information you receive from each option can help you choose the smartest plan for you. But take advantage of any free credit services that are offered to you. For example, in addition to credit report alerts, MyCredit Guide also offers free access to your monthly TransUnion credit report. That way, if you do receive an unusual alert, you can request an immediate copy of your credit report for assessment.

Anna Davies

Anna Davies is a writer and content marketing strategist who specializes in the personal finance space. Bylines have appeared in New York, Refinery29, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, and others.


All Credit Intel content is written by freelance authors and commissioned and paid for by American Express. 

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