Credit Watch

What Is a Credit Watch?

"Credit watch" is a term used to refer to a variety of special programs offered by credit rating agencies and financial institutions to monitor your credit report for any credit-related changes. These programs are also known as credit monitoring services. You receive notices about any changes, allowing you to act on suspicious activities before they can harm your credit score or credit history. These services are also sometimes used to combat identity theft.

Key Takeaways

  • Credit watch is a term that refers to a variety of special programs offered by credit rating agencies and financial institutions to monitor your credit report for any credit-related changes.
  • These services may be free or come as a fee-based service.
  • Credit watch services often notify you within a business day when a credit application is made and shows up on your credit report.
  • The intent of these services is to alert you of changes to your credit reports so you can act.

How a Credit Watch Works

A credit watch service tracks changes in borrower behavior so that consumers are aware of potential fraud and changes to their creditworthiness. While these are increasingly available for free, several of them still are fee-based services.

Most credit watch paid services will notify you within a business day when a credit application appears on your credit report. The intent of this service is to provide alerts for changes to your credit report. These updates provide you with a timely opportunity to contact any agencies involved and take action to prevent damages.

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Credit Watch

A credit watch service can be valuable for your financial well-being and toolbox. Along with the advantages these services have, there are some disadvantages you should be aware of.


  • A credit watch service frees up time if you're too busy to monitor your bank account, credit cards, or Social Security number.
  • Some services may provide regular updates on current scams or practices thieves use.
  • You only get one free credit report per year from each bureau, so these services can help you stay updated throughout the year.
  • Credit watch services give you an extra measure of identity protection.


  • Credit monitoring doesn't protect you from identity theft.
  • It can be expensive for the services you get.
  • Some credit card issuers provide free access to your credit scores and reports, making a paid service unnecessary.
  • A credit watch service is reactive, not proactive.

Credit Watch and Identity Theft

While credit watch services can provide identity theft or fraud warnings, for the most part, they offer protection only after the fact. These services work best as part of a broader strategy to protect and monitor personal information that bad actors could use to commit fraud.

In particular, you should remain vigilant about the circumstances under which you disseminate important personal information, including your Social Security number, bank account number, and credit card numbers. In many cases, simple awareness of social engineering techniques criminals use to obtain such information can provide substantial protection against identity theft. Checking the accuracy of credit card statements and reliable credit monitoring services offer a useful second line of defense.

Example of a Credit Watch

Let's say that Robert is worried about his identity because his information was included in a recent data breach at a business he frequents. He signed up for Ernie's Credit Watch service, which will monitor his credit reports from the three main credit bureaus—TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax—for changes such as credit applications.

A few weeks later, Ernie's notices Robert has had a slew of credit applications for new credit cards, some of which are in different countries. Ernie's alerts Robert that these applications have been made. Robert views his credit report and can dispute the applications and take additional measures against identity theft since his personal information has been stolen and used to open fraudulent accounts.

What Is Equifax Credit Watch?

Equifax credit watch services provide alerts about changes on your credit file and give you access to your credit report so that you can act if there are any suspicious changes. You can monitor your credit and identity or your entire family's, up to four children.

Is Credit Secure Worth It?

CreditSecure by American Express monitors your credit reports, personal data, and personally identifiable information. Whether the service is worth it depends on your circumstances and if you believe you'll benefit from it.

What Is the Meaning of Credit Watch?

A credit watch is a service for monitoring your credit report and personal information to provide alerts for suspicious activity.

The Bottom Line

Credit watch service providers give you additional notifications about your credit and identity. These services do not protect you from identity theft or keep your credit from being accessed—they alert you when someone uses your identity or credit. You may not need the help of a credit watch service if you're diligent and keep yourself informed, but if you believe it's more convenient to have an automatic service monitor and notify you, you could benefit by subscribing to a credit watch service.

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "What is a Credit Monitoring Service?"

  2. Experian. "Free Credit Monitoring."

  3. Federal Trade Commission Consumer Advice. "Free Credit Reports."

  4. Federal Trade Commission Consumer Advice. "What to Know About Identity Theft."

  5. CNET. "The Best Credit Monitoring Services for March 2023."

  6. Equifax. "Identity Theft Protection."

  7. American Express. "Credit Secure."

Compare Accounts
The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Investopedia receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where listings appear. Investopedia does not include all offers available in the marketplace.