How Credit Monitoring Compares To Freezing Your Credit

Written By Mary Beth Eastman
Last updated November 22, 2019

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padlock over credit card and laptop keyboard representing identify theft protection
April 5, 2019

Simple. Thrifty. Living.

Protecting your credit is essential and requires monitoring to prevent identity theft and fraud. Credit monitoring and freezing your credit are two preventative measures you can take to keep potential theft at bay. But credit monitoring and freezing your credit are two very different things. Here’s how they compare:

Credit monitoring is a service that helps you keep track of changes to your credit report. You can expect credit monitoring services to alert you when activity happens on your credit reports, such as credit limit changes, new accounts in your name or adverse public records, such as a bankruptcy filing or judgment.

Credit freezing is a request you place with the three major credit bureaus to prevent anyone from reviewing your credit. You need a PIN to look at your credit when you freeze it. This makes it hard for companies to look at your account without your permission and works to circumvent potential thieves from opening up accounts in your name. Thus, both credit monitoring and credit freezing offer ways to take precautions against identity theft, but credit monitoring warns you about the activity while credit monitoring offers more protection to prevent identity theft and fraud.

Since September 2018, federal law makes it free to freeze your credit. That means you can request a credit freeze from the three major credit bureaus–TransUnion, Experian and Equifax—without paying for the service. However, you can typically expect to pay for credit monitoring services. Some organizations offer different levels of credit monitoring and charge a monthly fee. For instance, Experian charges a monthly fee for its CreditWorks Premium credit monitoring service while Identity Guard offers three levels of credit monitoring services. Some credit monitoring services, such as IdentityForce, offer a free trial while others like Credit Karma offer free credit monitoring services. We break down the key differences between the top companies in our Identity Guard review.

Since companies can’t see your credit report without your permission, you don’t have to worry about getting advertisements or solicitations for services you may not need when you freeze your credit. Credit monitoring doesn’t inherently provide this option unless it is expressed in the contractual agreement.

While credit monitoring and freezing your credit share the fundamental goal of being a precautionary measure to reduce identity theft, they also are different. It’s important to assess how each option can address your needs to determine which service is best for you.

About the Author

Mary Beth Eastman

Mary Beth Eastman serves as the content manager for Simple. Thrifty. Living, where she is dedicated to helping readers use money and credit wisely. Mary Beth believes that access to the right financial information paired with a growth mindset are essential tools for getting out of debt and building wealth. Mary Beth has a degree in Journalism from Bowling Green State University and has focused her 20-year journalism career on putting readers front and center, carefully considering their concerns and presenting information that will help them in their everyday lives. She has won numerous statewide journalism awards. Her writing on personal finance as been featured on numerous websites in addition to Simple. Thrifty. Living, including Huffington Post and Lexington Law blog. Mary Beth resides in Pittsburgh, Pa., with her family and two rescue dogs.

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