There are many credit monitoring services that, for a fee, will alert you when an inquiry is made to your credit report. But, what if you want to monitor credit inquiries for free?
If you regularly sign up for credit cards in order to earn bonuses, it’s a great idea to keep track of the number of inquiries you have with each of the three credit bureaus, along with specifics: for each application, which credit bureaus were hit?
Monitor credit inquiries for free
There are many services that offer free credit scores, and many of these also provide some level of credit monitoring services. Usually, though, they only monitor inquiries from a single credit bureau. To get a complete view of inquiries to your credit reports, you need to monitor all three bureaus. As Doctor of Credit suggested in his post “What’s The Best & Cheapest Way To Monitor Your Credit?” you can monitor all three credit bureaus with two free services:
- Credit Karma: Monitors TransUnion inquiries Displays Equifax inquiries.
- Credit.com: Displays Experian information.
Note that Credit Karma is capable of actually monitoring your TransUnion credit and alerting you to changes. With Credit.com it’s necessary to log in and check for yourself. Below, I’ll show how to monitor inquiries with each service…
After signing up for Credit Karma’s free service, make sure to turn on credit monitoring. Click the little triangle next to the person icon on the top right of the screen, then click “Communications & Monitoring”:
Under “Email Communications”, set “Credit Monitoring” to On.
That’s it. Next time a credit inquiry is made to your account, you’ll receive an email like this one:
Credit Monitoring Alert
And, at any time, you can view your TransUnion and Equifax inquiries by logging into Credit Karma and clicking “Credit Factors”:
To see credit inquiry details, click “Credit Inquiries” (above), then on the next screen select the bureau you’d like to see details for:
After selecting a bureau, scroll down to see full details:
Credit.com is the only free service I’m aware of that lets you view Experian information. Unfortunately, Credit.com doesn’t proactively monitor your credit, nor does it let you see inquiry details. Here’s how to make the most of it…
When you first log in, you’ll see your Experian National Equivalency Score along with grades for payment history, debt usage, credit age, account mix, and credit inquiries.
You can also view your VantageScore 3.0 by clicking “Show Expanded View” or “Other Scores”. Either way, the display will expand to show you something like this:
Now you can see the total number of Experian inquiries (my report shows 14 on the bottom, right of the image above).
Click the letter grade for Credit Inquiries or the number of inquiries to get a bit more detail. The key piece of information in this next screen is the date of your latest inquiry:
Unfortunately, Credit.com doesn’t show where the latest inquiry came from or the exact date of the inquiry (just the month).
Monitoring Experian with Credit.com
Given Credit.com’s limitations, it takes a little bit of effort to use it to monitor inquiries effectively. I recommend doing the following:
- Before any activity that may lead to a new inquiry (signing up for new credit cards, bank accounts, etc.), log in and record the information shown above (total inquires and date of latest inquiry). This can be as simple as making a screen capture or recording the info in a document or spreadsheet.
- After the activity that may lead to an inquiry, log in again and record the same information. Unfortunately, with Credit.com, it is necessary to wait 30 days from the last time they updated your credit information, in order to see a new count of inquiries. After that wait, log in and take a look. If the number of inquiries has increased, then you can be pretty sure that the activity in question led to a new Experian inquiry. Record that information.
In addition to the above steps, it’s a good idea to check this information about once a month just to make sure that it hasn’t changed in an unexpected way (hint: setup a calendar reminder so you won’t forget). Sometimes the number of inquiries will go down because inquiries older than 24 months drop off your report. That’s great. However, if the number of inquiries goes up unexpectedly, then you should research it further by requesting your free annual Experian credit report (since Credit Karma provides in-depth credit report information from TransUnion and Equifax, there’s little need to request credit reports from those bureaus).