three-bureau credit report monitoringIt’s no secret: your credit health is important. While you might hear about your credit in terms of your credit report or credit score, the truth of the matter is that each person has three of each from the major credit bureaus — Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. These days, everything from credit cards to banks to financial websites seem to be offering free credit scores or credit information to customers, but these are often only sourced from a single credit bureau. We often remind our readers that the best way to keep on top of their credit is to look at their reports and scores from all three bureaus, and this is never more vital than when you are actively trying to monitor your credit — no matter the reason. Although some services offer free or low-cost credit monitoring for one credit bureau, the best option for your credit health is one that provides three-bureau credit report monitoring. We’ve outlined the reasons why below.

You could be a victim of identity theft and not know it

Identity theft is a far-reaching crime and can take a number of forms, from someone using your social security number to open up a utility account to someone obtaining medical care with your insurance. While not all identity theft can be spotted by looking at your credit reports, an awful lot of it can — and the key to catching it is regular monitoring of all three of your credit reports. The primary reason for this is that not all creditors report to each credit bureau; most only report to one or two at the most. Therefore, if you are only looking at your Experian credit report, for example, you could be missing a whole host of information on your TransUnion and Equifax reports. That isn’t the end of the world if your credit is clean, but if someone’s been using your information to wreak havoc, it could be financially devastating.

Reporting errors might be holding you back financially

Similarly, there could be mistakes on your credit reports that have nothing to do with identity theft, but are just as incriminating. Credit reporting errors are chillingly common, and can be as innocuous as a misspelling of your name or a creditor mixing up two digits in a social security number (and therefore accidentally reporting missed payments which go on your credit reports instead of the rightful person’s). The good news is, you can file disputes to have these errors removed or corrected, but you need to spot them first in order to do so. As with fraud, the best way to keep on top of these things is to regularly look at your credit reports and scores — if you notice a sudden drop in scores or new information on one or more of your reports, that could be a sign something is awry.

Three-bureau credit monitoring offers a complete picture of your financial health

Even if you aren’t concerned about or dealing with fraud or errors on your credit reports, most people have room to improve their credit (or want to ensure they maintain their good credit if they’ve got an unblemished record). Credit report monitoring services that offer three-bureau credit reports and scores allow you to see the whole picture at once. This is beneficial for spotting areas where you could stand to improve, as well as understanding what actions are helping — or harming — your credit. Additionally, since not all lenders look at the same credit score when determining whether to approve or reject an application, you can get a much better idea of how good, in general, your chances are before your apply.

Not sure which credit report monitoring service offers three-bureau credit report monitoring? We review a number of services, the top-rated of which include this feature with their plans. You can learn more about them by navigating to our credit monitoring comparison page, where we pit them head-to-head against one another to help you decide.