credit monitoring en-US Can Your Spending Patterns Affect Your Credit? <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-your-spending-patterns-affect-your-credit" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="shopping with credit card" title="shopping with credit card" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>I am one who prefers to use <a title="Ultimate Credit Card Guide" href="">credit cards</a> over cash for the convenience and ease of use of dealing with the plastic. Since I always pay my monthly bills in full, using credit cards has never been an issue for me. In fact, I'm always on the lookout for good <a href="">credit card rewards programs</a> and I readily take advantage of those 0% interest credit cards that allow me to take out free loans for a limited period of time. No worries since I always pay off my balances in full before the intro periods are up.</p> <p>But regardless of how fiscally cautious and responsible you are as a credit card holder, you may still be curious to know just how much credit card companies know about you through your card use. The truth is, our card spending patterns provide information that is monitored by issuers; and this data has been used to affect our credit ratings.</p> <p>This article from is quite telling: credit card companies are interested in where we shop, how much we earn (which they may try to verify based on activity in our accounts), where we live, how much we normally spend per year and even what nationality we are. So it's not just how you pay your bills that goes on record, but also how and where you use your money. These companies keep their eye on how you shop, and use this data to determine your financial health. Certainly, they are mining a lot of our personal information for a variety of purposes. Here are a few of those reasons.</p> <h3>To know which products to market to you</h3> <p>I've been receiving a lot more telemarketing calls from my credit issuers lately and it's no doubt linked to what they know about me as a customer. This is nothing new though, as many retailers use the information they get about you to pitch more products your way. If you use sales and store catalogs, then you know what I mean!</p> <h3>To monitor your account for possible fraud</h3> <p>I've been contacted more than once for possible suspicious activity in my credit card accounts. This kind of free monitoring is something I appreciate from the credit card companies. At least they're putting their information gathering to good use this way.</p> <h3>To manage risk</h3> <p>Here's where a lot of consumers may feel a bit uncomfortable about the extent of tracking that their credit card companies are doing. The truth is, these companies watch your FICO score and credit report like a hawk to gauge your credit-worthiness. Even financial accounts you have at different institutions may be subject to scrutiny by credit companies and agencies such that any financial transactions you make may influence your credit rating. You may be paying your card bills on time but if you're late on your mortgage payment, watch out! That just may be grounds for your card rates to go up or for your credit limit to get cut. It's therefore important to check your credit score on a regular basis to keep abreast of what it is that is visible to lenders and credit watchers. You'll want to ensure that these reports are accurate.</p> <h3>To monitor information that may be used for law enforcement.</h3> <p>If need be, financial data may be used for legal situations and cases. Our financial records may be utilized and entered as potential evidence in disputes, reviews or investigations of any sort.</p> <p>That said, I'm not at all surprised that our financial behaviors are easily monitored by those we go into business with. When you enter into a relationship with a financial institution such as a credit card company, bank or mortgage lender, you should assume that your data is being tracked to form your profile as a debtor or consumer. It's the tradeoff we make to become borrowers or customers of companies that offer us the privilege of being part of a financial system that helps us thrive and prosper in the material sense.</p> <h3>Can You Avoid Being Monitored?</h3> <p>While it may be concerning that banks and credit card companies are aware of just how and where you spend your bucks, the good thing is that there have been steps taken by the government to pursue reform and regulate the card industry further. The Credit CARD Act has been put together to address the &quot;abuses&quot; that have been rampant in the industry for some time now. By early next year, the full effect of this legislation will be in place and may hopefully make a dent on some of the undesirable practices that card companies have been imposing upon their customers, including unpredictable rate increases, unfair changes in credit limits, and unfavorable adjustments to terms and conditions.</p> <p>While the government is pushing for change in this area, there are things that consumers can do to protect themselves from this kind of scrutiny, if they so choose. It's always our prerogative to limit the use of credit cards when participating in financial transactions. <strong>It's simple: if you use cash, there won't be any data to track.</strong> As it stands, this could be one more reason for <a href="">why using cash-only rocks</a>.</p> <p>So are you at all surprised by how much your spending behavior can affect how your lenders and card companies are viewing you? The bottom line is that there are both good and bad implications for having &quot;big brother&quot; watch how you shop. Well nothing's for free. In this case, we give away some of our privacy for the convenience of using the plastic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Can Your Spending Patterns Affect Your Credit?" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Silicon Valley Blogger</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Consumer Affairs Credit Cards credit cards credit monitoring credit score shopping Tue, 01 Dec 2009 17:07:07 +0000 Silicon Valley Blogger 3902 at 7 Free and Low Cost Ways To Protect Your Credit <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/7-free-and-low-cost-ways-to-protect-your-credit" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="protect your credit" title="guard your credit" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>There are a lot of reasons why you should want to guard your credit. One such reason?&nbsp; <strong>To make sure your credit rating is in good standing so that you may qualify for the best loans in the land:</strong> with poor credit, borrowing money ends up becoming much more expensive as you are offered relatively higher loan rates than anyone else.&nbsp; But more importantly, you'd want to watch your credit to prevent identity theft and avoid fraudsters from getting away with wreaking havoc on your accounts.&nbsp; </p> <p>Many people have <a href="">fallen victim to identity theft</a> and credit fraud such that it's become essential for us to keep an eye on our credit.&nbsp; Most of the time, a fraud victim finds out a little too late that his or her identity has been compromised.&nbsp; My own brother was surprised to learn after a visit to the bank that his social security number had a variety of foreign identities associated with it!&nbsp; And just how many times have I been called by my credit card company about suspicious activity on my account? One time too many. So it's time to fight back with a few options.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3>7 Ways To Monitor and Protect Your Credit For Less</h3> <p>The fact is, you can track your credit information in a variety of ways, through free and low cost options as well as through paid services like those offered by <a href="">myFICO</a>.&nbsp; The lowdown:</p> <p><strong>1. Order your credit report for free.</strong><br /> Most financially savvy people will be aware that their credit report is freely available through a site called <a href=""><strong>AnnualCreditReport</strong></a>. We are entitled to one free report per credit bureau each year -- so this means that you can fetch a report each from Experian, Equifax and TransUnion on an annual basis.&nbsp; While some people may request all reports at once in order to compare them to each other, say because they're interested in checking out their credit history before they make a big purchase, it's generally a better idea to order one report every 3 or 4 months (e.g. stagger your orders) over time to cover the length of the year. This way, you'll get an update on your credit information every quarter from one report obtained from a credit agency.&nbsp; If you spot any errors on your reports, report them to the appropriate bureau right away!</p> <p><strong>2. Check out free sites and resources for credit information.</strong><br /> Besides your credit report, your <a href="" title="Wise Bread's Guide to Credit Scores">credit score</a> is something you should keep tabs on as well. What's great is that we can now get free credit scores through sites like <a href="">Credit Karma</a>. Mind you, the free credit score you receive through Credit Karma is not a FICO score, but one that is proprietary and based on reports from TransUnion. Still, if you don't mind handing your sensitive information to Credit Karma to work with (they promise to keep your data private), then you'll be privy to those free scores as well as tools, recommendations and simulators that help you get a good grasp of your credit standing.&nbsp; Some other sites that offer free credit &quot;grades&quot; and proprietary ratings: <a href=""><strong>KnowBeforeYouApply</strong></a> and <a href=""><strong>Quizzle</strong></a>.&nbsp; For FICO scores, you're going to have to check out <a href="">myFICO's products</a> for this information.</p> <p><strong>3. Ask your financial institution for assistance.</strong><br /> You may be able to score free credit information through the financial institution you do business with.&nbsp; Some banks have been offering no cost credit monitoring to their customers to keep their loyalty. In particular, I read that some smaller banks and credit unions are offering their clients Equifax credit monitoring (check out SunTrust Bank, People's United Bank, Chittenden Bank) as a benefit.&nbsp; Could your bank have this perk?&nbsp; Also, check whether your credit card company offers additional fraud protection, consumer protection and security features through <a href="">your debit or credit card</a>.</p> <p><strong>4. Get a security freeze.</strong><br /> Then there are those who have opted to <a href="">freeze their credit files</a> rather than have to worry about their status every so often.&nbsp; By freezing your credit, you're locking your credit information at all credit bureaus so that the agencies are unable to release your data unless you give them permission to do so. This means that you can't get a loan or any credit issued in your name unless you unfreeze your account first -- which is great if you're wanting to put a clamp on anyone accessing your credit. This may be a good alternative for consumers who don't need access to credit often, but for anyone else, there's the additional hassle and inconvenience to deal with &quot;credit on ice&quot;. <br /> <strong><br /> 5. Use a credit score estimator.</strong><br /> In the past, a free credit score was not easily available, so there were certain tools that cropped up to address this issue.&nbsp; These simple tools (<a href="">credit score estimators</a> and simulators)&nbsp;are currently available to help you get a quick approximation of your credit score. Most estimators simply ask you a bunch of general questions in order to get your profile and supply you an approximate score.&nbsp; They won't need your private information to make their calculations, so that's the advantage they have over free score sites like Credit Karma which will require you to fork over your social security number.&nbsp; <br /> &nbsp; <br /> <strong>6. Set up fraud alerts on your accounts.</strong><br /> I've read mixed reports on just how effective <a href="">fraud alerts</a> are when applied to your credit information. When you flag your credit report with a fraud alert, it's supposed to tell lenders to double check and review your credit information each time someone applies for a loan in your name.&nbsp; Before the advent of electronic processing, these flags were much more effective, as lenders would review reports on a manual basis before issuing credit.&nbsp; These days, however, credit is reviewed with minimal manual intervention and may be issued automatically in many situations.&nbsp; Unfortunately, many lenders may not even be equipped with the right technology to capture these alerts, so it's often the case that these flags aren't used as easily and effectively as you'd expect.&nbsp; Alerts are only a good idea if they work!</p> <p><strong>7. Pay for a credit monitoring service.</strong><br /> Finally, there's always the ease and convenience of subscribing to a service that monitors your credit reports for you.&nbsp; Of course, it's all at a cost.&nbsp; Are <a href="">credit report monitoring services</a> worth it?&nbsp; &quot;Do it yourselfers&quot; who don't mind the extra effort and work involved to review their own credit reports on a regular basis will tell you that you don't need to shell out any money to do all this.&nbsp; But to those who just don't have the time or inclination to bother with yet another financial task they have to remember and worry about, the answer is yes, services like <a href="">myFICO Score Watch</a> are worth every penny!&nbsp; For many consumers, a few bucks a month buys them credit security and peace of mind.&nbsp; Just make sure that if you pay for such a service, that you've done the due diligence to ensure that you're signing up with a reputable one.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="7 Free and Low Cost Ways To Protect Your Credit" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Silicon Valley Blogger</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Personal Finance credit credit monitoring money management personal finance Tue, 05 May 2009 16:15:07 +0000 Silicon Valley Blogger 3120 at Once Bitten Twice Shy: What is Credit Security Worth to You? <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/once-bitten-twice-shy-what-is-credit-security-worth-to-you" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="credit cards" title="credit cards" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="250" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoPlainText">Anybody who has had their <a href="/get-your-own-identity-what-to-do-when-yours-is-stolen" target="_blank">identity stolen</a> is usually willing to pay good money to ensure it never happens again. Weeks upon weeks upon months of tiresome paperwork, changing bank accounts, switching automatic payments, and in some cases pleading a case for wrongly damaged credit is among the giant task list of nightmarish to-dos when you’re picking up the pieces after the fact. </p> <p class="MsoPlainText">&nbsp;</p> <p class="MsoPlainText">So what is it worth to you to try and avoid this problem altogether? Obviously, exercising due caution is easy enough to do and prudent to say the least. Don’t use a credit card or do banking over an unsecured wireless network. Be careful with your bank card and entering in PIN numbers in public places. Avoid using the same password for everything that also happens to be the name of your pet. </p> <p class="MsoPlainText">&nbsp;</p> <p class="MsoPlainText">In this day and age, most of these techniques are relatively commonplace. But what else can you do? </p> <p class="MsoPlainText">&nbsp;</p> <h2>Credit Reporting and Monitoring Services</h2> <p class="MsoPlainText">Most credit agencies like <a href="" target="_blank">Equifax</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">Experian</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">TransUnion</a> have a credit reporting service you can subscribe to. For between $10 and $15 per month for example, the <a href="" target="_blank">Equifax Credit Watch program</a> will alert you to any changes in your credit such as:</p> <ul> <li>Somebody trying to open an account in your name</li> <li>Credit inquiries made on your accounts</li> <li>Changes in your account balance beyond user-set parameters</li> <li>Even $20,000 in Identity Theft Insurance</li> </ul> <p class="MsoPlainText">&nbsp;</p> <p class="MsoPlainText">Experian and TransUnion have similar programs <a href="" target="_blank">here</a> and <a href=";loc=2091" target="_blank">here</a>. Most programs encompass monitoring of all three credit bureau activities, but before you race out and sign up it would be prudent to double check. Paying a monthly fee for a service that monitors only one third of your credit history is, well, only one third as good. </p> <p class="MsoPlainText">&nbsp;</p> <p class="MsoPlainText">Initially, it seems like a good deal, worth considering – especially for those who were once bitten and now twice shy.</p> <p class="MsoPlainText">But upon further consideration, I begin to question the value in the name of frugality. </p> <ul> <li>Can I not hop online and check my credit balances daily (or every other day), scanning for erroneous charges? </li> <li>If somebody does a credit check on me I’d like to know, but what if instead of subscribing, I periodically order a free credit report? Each of the three credit agencies usually allow one free report per year: if I timed it right I could check my credit activity every four months. </li> <li>And although the Identity Theft insurance sounds handy, with a little bit of elbow grease, I shouldn’t have to pay any erroneous charges to my credit cards or account change fees once we’ve established the identity theft as the cause. </li> </ul> <p class="MsoPlainText">&nbsp;</p> <h3>Then again…</h3> <p class="MsoPlainText">There’s no denying the fact that simply paying the monthly fee could be easier, and may give you some more <a href="/outsourcing-your-life-and-creating-new-businesses" target="_blank">free time</a> and well-deserved peace of mind. </p> <p class="MsoPlainText">&nbsp;</p> <h3>Then again…</h3> <p class="MsoPlainText">$10 here and $10 there, and you’ve blown your <a href="/the-retirement-latte" target="_blank">Latte Budget</a> before even getting one drop of caffeine into your system. </p> <p class="MsoPlainText">&nbsp;</p> <p class="MsoPlainText">So what is your credit security worth to you in this world of ever-increasing identity theft and credit crime? And what are you prepared to do about it?</p> <p class="MsoPlainText">&nbsp;</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Once Bitten Twice Shy: What is Credit Security Worth to You?" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Nora Dunn</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Personal Finance credit card fraud credit monitoring credit reporting credit score Equifax Experian identity theft TransUnion Sat, 23 Aug 2008 01:16:25 +0000 Nora Dunn 2359 at