Having a healthy credit report and score is more important than ever, especially considering the number of businesses that rely on your credit score to approve your applications. Credit monitoring services allow you to keep an eye on your credit report and score. You can receive early warning of changes to your credit and respond accordingly.
Credit monitoring also allows you to detect instances of identity theft – a form of fraud, which is one of the top 10 common crimes in the United States. Protecting your credit from identity theft is key to ensuring thieves don’t run up big bills in your name and leave you to deal with the damage.
When you’re shopping around for credit monitoring services pay attention to the fee – they may be free or may charge a monthly or annual fee. You'll to pay particular attention to the services you’ll be provided and whether the service covers all three credit bureaus or just one.
The 7 Best Credit Monitoring Services of 2020
Best Overall: Privacy Guard
PrivacyGuard provides credit monitoring for your credit reports and credit scores for all three credit bureaus. Daily credit monitoring sends you alerts by text, e-mail or your phone anytime your credit report information changes.
You can try PrivacyGuard for just $1 for the first 14 days. After that, you’ll be charged the monthly subscription fee based on the plan you choose. PrivacyGuard offers basic ID Protection for $9.99 per month. ID Protection watches for signs of identity theft by monitoring both the public and Dark Web, public records and more. Up to $1 million in ID theft insurance is included. Credit Protection for $19.99 per month includes your three-bureau credit reports and scores, daily credit monitoring and a credit score simulator. The Total Protection plan is $24.99 per month and includes all the features of the Credit Protection and ID Protection Plans.
Best Free Credit Monitoring: Credit Karma
CreditKarma.com provides the only truly free credit monitoring service on our list. There’s no trial subscription and you’ll never have to give your credit card number. Credit Karma allows you to monitor your TransUnion and Equifax credit report score at no cost. Your credit score – the VantageScore 3.0 – is updated each time you log on to your account. Your credit report information is updated weekly. Along with monitoring of your credit score, you can receive alerts when unusual activity is suspected on either of your two credit reports. While the service is free, one of the drawbacks if that you won’t get access to two of your credit reports and credit scores. You’ll have to use another service to monitor your third credit report from Experian.
Most Security Features: IdentityForce
IdentityForce has two basic identity and credit monitoring products. The UltraSecure plan includes identity monitoring services only. And the UltraSecure+Credit plan monitors both your identity and your credit.
The UltraSecure plan, for $12.99 per month and $129.90 per year, includes a host of features that monitor your personal information and alerts you if your information is compromised. You’ll also receive $1 million in identity theft insurance, which is useful for covering expenses related to clearing up identity theft. The UltraSecure+Credit Plan is $19.99 per month. It includes all the identity protection features of the UltraSecure Plan, plus three-bureau credit monitoring, credit reports, and scores, as well as a credit simulator to show you how your actions might affect your credit score. Right now, the company is also offering two free months of monitoring when you purchase an annual plan.
Most Versatile: Identity Guard
The parent company of Identity Guard has served over 47 million customers over more than 20 years in business. The credit monitoring keeps a close eye on your credit files from all three of the major credit bureaus. You can choose between the Value, Total, and Premier Plans either for yourself or your family. Plans include $1 million of identity theft insurance, a U.S.-based case manager to work with you if your identity is stolen, a mobile application to access your membership information, alerts when your personal information is detected on the Dark Web, monthly credit score, three-bureau credit monitoring and account takeover alerts.
Plans range from $8.99 to $24.99 for individual and $14.99 to $34.99 for family protection. If you decide not to keep your subscription, make sure you cancel before the trial ends to avoid being charged. TheBalance.com readers receive a 20% discount.
Best for Families: Experian IdentityWorks
Experian, one of the three major credit bureaus, offers IdentityWorks credit monitoring service that monitors all three of your credit reports. In addition to monitoring your three credit reports and credit scores for changes that signal identity theft, IdentiyWorks provides a number of other credit and identity monitoring services. It scans the Dark Web for your personal information, notifies you if a sex offender moves into your neighborhood, detects when crimes are booked in your name or reported in the court system, detects when payday loans are opened in your name, alerts you to a change of address in the U.S. Postal Service, watches for account takeover and alerts you when any accounts are opened using your social security number.
Choose a plan for one adult starting at $9.99; one adult and up to 10 children, starting at $14.99; or two adults and up to 10 children, starting at $19.99. Plans include a 30-day trial subscription, so you can decide whether you want to keep the service or cancel.
Most Reliable Credit Score: myFICO Ultimate 3B Credit Monitoring
Keep tabs on the credit scores that most lenders use with the FICO Ultimate 3B credit monitoring service. You’ll get instant access to your three-bureau credit report and 28 versions of your credit score that are used in mortgage, auto and credit card lending. Your credit reports and scores are updated each quarter to keep you aware of your credit score. You’ll get alerts for changes to your credit information, including newly opened accounts, new inquiries, new public records, new addresses, newly listed collections and changes to your account balances. Some credit bureaus provide additional alerts such as changes to your credit limits and changes to the name listed on your credit report.
The myFICO Ultimate 3B Credit Monitoring subscription is $29.95 per month or $329 per year. You can cancel your subscription at any time, but you won’t get a partial refund for the monthly or annual subscription you’ve already paid.
Best Single Bureau Monitoring: TransUnion Credit Monitoring
With TransUnion Credit Monitoring, you’ll receive monthly credit monitoring for your TransUnion credit score and credit report. With TransUnion credit monitoring you’ll receive alerts whenever there are changes to any of the accounts listed on your credit report. For example, you’ll be alerted when a new account is opened in your name, a creditor reports negative information or a credit card balance increases. Because only your TransUnion credit report is being monitored, you won’t receive any alerts to changes on your Equifax or Experian credit report. The subscription for TransUnion credit monitoring is $19.95 per month.
What is a Credit Monitoring Service?
A credit monitoring service is a company that usually charges a monthly fee to keep an eye on your credit. You fill out a user profile and can sign up for alerts and notifications, so you know when any activity is happening on your credit report. You can then determine if that activity is a legitimate transaction that you completed or fraud that needs to be removed. A credit monitoring service is a quick way to watch over your credit with minimal effort and allows you to resolve any issues before too much damage is done.
How Does a Credit Monitoring Service Work?
A credit monitoring service works by having the user set up their profile, verify their personal information—including current address, date of birth, Social Security number, etc.—and create a secure password-protected account. The user gives the credit monitoring service permission to monitor their credit and alert them when any activity occurs. Some credit monitoring services monitor all three credit bureaus, while other companies may only monitor one or two.
How Much Does a Credit Monitoring Service Cost?
Credit monitoring costs vary. Some companies offer completely free service, while others may only offer free subscription trials. Companies with more tools and comprehensive features generally charge more money. These fees typically range between $9.99 and $34.99 per month, depending on the number of users and what's included.
How to Avoid Credit Monitoring Scams?
Far too often, people fall for credit monitoring scams that leave them with their identity compromised and money wasted. It's important to be aware that these scams exist. Make sure you know the fees upfront, research the company, look at its positive and negative reviews, see how long it's been in business, and go with your gut. If it looks suspicious, has misspelled words, or seems too good to be true, it's probably a scam.
How We Chose the Best Credit Monitoring Services
We chose the 7 best credit monitoring services by first reviewing and researching multiple credit monitoring services and then selecting the top contenders. We chose the best options based on fees, services offered, which credit bureaus they monitor, and more.