You are searching for homes online, all excited to start a new chapter in your life. You find the one in the location you have been looking for, and you contact the listing agent to find out if the property is still available.

Luckily, the agent says he can schedule a tour immediately if you want. Things proceed very fast after that, and you find yourself talking with a lender about a home loan.

You fill out the application, 100% sure that the lender will approve it. However, a few days later, you get the rejection email. You call the lender to ask if there’s a problem, and they tell you your credit score is low.

This is shocking news because never in your life have you taken out a loan and paid all your bills on time. You get your free credit report online to discover how this could happen. Several charges on your report, made through your credit card, have not been paid. You look at them confused because you didn’t make any such purchases. It turns out you are a victim of identity theft, and someone has taken advantage of your financial stability.

If you have ever been in this situation, it’s high time you got a credit monitoring service! The good news is that plenty of online websites offer you the facility of tracking charges on your credit report for free. These are some of the differences and benefits of paid versus credit monitoring.

A paid credit monitoring service will cost you anywhere between $15 and $50. Some might charge higher based on the features you choose. For example, a basic package will give you access to at least two or three credit reports from different credit reporting agencies.

You will be immediately notified via email if a negative item appears on your credit report. In an advanced package, your consumer profile will be under review constantly. The service will record things like lines to ensure your credit report is clean.

Coming onto a free credit monitoring service, the features are a bit limited. You won’t be able to access credit reports from different credit reporting agencies. Remember that a mistake on one report could mean the other report has it too.

You will be notified immediately about a negative charge. It’s then up to you to find out what’s hurting your credit score. Some top platforms that offer free service include Credit Sesame and Credit Karma. While opting for a credit monitoring service, free or paid, is not a foolproof way to prevent identity theft, it allows you to have some safeguards in place to act immediately.

We recommend monitoring your credit report annually to ensure your plans are not delayed. Getting a credit monitoring service gives you peace of mind that if someone steals your identity or a negative item is charged to your credit card, you will be notified immediately, allowing you to dispute it.