Strategies for time-economic lifetime assessment of thermal barrier coatings (TBC) in service are described and discussed on the basis of experimental results, achieved on material systems with coatings applied by electron beam physical vapour deposition. Service cycles for gas turbine blades have been simulated on specimens in thermo-mechanical fatigue tests, accelerating the fatigue processes by an increase of load frequency. Time dependent changes in the material system were imposed by a separate ageing, where the samples were pre-oxidized prior to the fatigue test. Results of thermo-mechanical fatigue tests on pre-aged and as-coated specimens gave evidence of interaction between fatigue and ageing processes. An alternative approach is used, which is focused on the evolution of a failure relevant damage parameter in the TBC system. The interfacial fracture toughness was selected as a damage parameter, since one important failure mode of TBCs is the spallation near the interface between the metal and the ceramic. Fracture mechanical experiments based on indentation methods have been evaluated for monitoring the evolution of the interfacial fracture toughness as a function of ageing time. It was found that the test results were influenced by both changes of the interface (which is critical in service) and changes in the surrounding material.