Best Credit Monitoring Services: Protect Your Credit Score Today

Credit
Updated: 5th Nov 2020
Written by Drew Cheneler
Share this article:
Credit
November 5, 2020
Written by Drew Cheneler

Disclaimer: This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation (at no cost to you) when you click on links to those products. Read our Disclaimer Policy for more information.

Identity theft is not a joke – in fact, 2018 saw over 14 million people become victims of identity fraud according to a 2019 study. Identity theft can throw a serious wrench into your financial and professional plans and lead to years of economic turmoil.

One of the best indicators of potential identity fraud is random or sudden fluctuations to your credit score. Your credit score is affected by most things you do, like big purchases you make, credit accounts you open, or what loans you take out.

If your credit score suddenly dips, it’s a good sign that your personal information has been compromised.

That’s where credit monitoring services come in. These vital services can provide you with 24/7 or regular coverage for your credit score, alerting you if something seems out of order and giving you time to change your personal information or close up your accounts.

But not all credit monitoring services are alike. Let’s break down the best credit monitoring services in the industry, so you know which to trust with your credit score’s safety.

Best Credit Monitoring Services

Find out why millions of Americans love these credit monitoring services. From there low fees to robust capabilities, and everything in between, these top credit monitoring services will help you protect your credit score.

    Identity Guard: Best Overall Credit Monitoring Service

    Identity Guard

    With over 20+ years of service and experience, Identity Guard is a clear leader in the credit monitoring industry. This service is used by millions of Americans and is known to safeguard even the most sensitive details.

    Overview

    IdentityGuard offers a versatile and worthwhile credit monitoring service that has evolved and become even better over 20 years of operation.

    For starters, it keeps an eye on your credit scores from all three major bureaus, as well as optional $1 million of identity theft insurance.

    We also like the other major benefits of this service, including a robust and user-friendly mobile app to let you access membership information and any time, “dark web” personal information detection alerts (to help protect against identity theft), and account takeover alerts.

    Interestingly, IdentityGuard uses IBM’s “Watson” quasi-AI to help power the service’s credit monitoring efforts.

    Pros:

    • Uses advanced AI knowledgebase and scanning techniques to monitor your credit
    • Provides plans for both families and individuals
    • Includes some identity theft protection
    • Family plans aren’t that much more expensive than the individual plans
    • Comes with “Dark Web” personal information use alerts

    Cons:

    • The most basic plan doesn’t include credit monitoring, so it’s not very worthwhile

    Payment Plans:

    IdentityGuard offers three plans in total: The Value plan that costs $13.33, Total for $15.99, and Premier, which is $19.99 for individual coverage.

    Prices go up if you want family protection, which covers two adults and several kinds included in your household (a good potential choice for married couples or families with teenage kids who have just received their first credit cards).

    They also offer a free trial, so take advantage of it if you want to try out their services before committing any cash.

    View details
    Learn More

    IdentityForce: Best for Real-Time Updates

    Identity Force

    IdentityForce offers one of the most advanced credit monitoring services around. They offer their customers daily monitoring updates, and real-time alerts.

    Overview

    IdentityForce offers one of the most secure credit monitoring services in the business, in part due to the robust identity theft package included with the main plan.

    There’s a lot to like here, including daily monitoring of your credit reports with all three major bureaus, plus the option to receive a text and email alerts if unexpected charges or account withdrawals occur.

    Additional benefits include social media monitoring, plus a handful of security features like anti-phishing and anti-keylogging software you can optionally add to your computer.

    The aforementioned identity theft coverage comes with $1 million of identity theft insurance, plus 24-hour access to recovery specialists.

    Pros:

    • Comes with identity theft insurance, even with the cheaper of the two plans
    • Credit and spending monitoring to track for outrageous purchases
    • Credit monitoring for all three bureaus and across social media accounts
    • The higher plan includes a credit simulator

    Cons:

    • No free trial available

    Payment Plans:

    IdentityForce, unfortunately, doesn’t offer any free trial. Instead, you can choose between two different plans: UltraSecure for $12.99 per month or UltraSecure+Credit for $19.09 per month.

    The latter is the best option for most folks since it includes all of the big credit monitoring services mentioned above and a unique “credit simulator” tool you can use to see how different actions might affect your credit score.

    This could be incredibly valuable if you’re looking to rebuild your score after a few bad years.

    View details
    Learn More

    LifeLock: Best for Protecting Your Children

    LifeLock

    LifeLock is an industry veteran that offers customers in-depth credit monitoring capabilities, such as dark web sweeps and kid-specific PII monitoring.

    Overview:

    Though LifeLock once had something of a sketchy reputation, it’s now one of the best credit monitoring services in the industry. This service offers a ton of identity theft protection bonuses. For instance, there’s an add-on specifically for monitoring kids’ personal information.

    Available features include credit alerts, Social Security number use alerts, dark web monitoring, and alerts for various suspicious activities, such as odd purchases made in your name.

    These all combine under a general credit score monitoring umbrella, so this is an excellent potential pick for those looking for comprehensive identity theft and credit monitoring coverage instead of one or the other.

    Credit reports are only given out monthly, however, so you can’t examine your credit score with as much regularity as you can with some other services.

    Pros:

    • Offers a ton of ID protection add-ons
    • Offers kid-specific personal information monitoring
    • Can check for dark web personal information used or odd purchases
    • Social security number alerts

    Cons:

    • Only offers monthly credit reports instead of daily or weekly
    • The higher plan is a little pricier overall compared to many competitors

    Payment Plans:

    The basic LifeLock plan is $9.99 a month, or you can go higher up to $29.99 per month. The latter option will be the best pick for most people, which swings LifeLock solidly to one of the pricier choices on this list.

    Still, considering the total quantity of extra ID protection add-ons you get access too, there is a lot of value here that could very much be worth your time and money.

    View details
    Learn More

    Experian Identity Works: Best Credit Monitoring for Families

    Experian Identity Works

    Powered by Experian, Identity Works is a great choice is you want to monitor the credit of your entire family.

    Overview

    Experian IdentityWorks is one of the few choices particularly suitable for families. That’s partial because this credit monitoring service is offered by one of the three big credit bureaus: Experian.

    In total, this service will monitor all three credit reports and provide regular updates plus alert you to significant changes that could signal identity theft.

    Furthermore, it provides ancillary services, like dark web scans for your personal information, notifications you about nearby sex offenders in your neighborhood, change of address alerts, payday loan alerts, and much more.

    The real value comes about when you see how many people can be included beneath a single credit monitoring plan.

    The basic plan covers one adult and up to 10 children, or you can go for a pricier plan for two adults and up to 10 children. Either way that is plenty of coverage for most families.

    Pros:

    • Offers reasonable prices for all its plans and covers big families
    • Credit monitoring services are accurate and quick in general
    • Offers additional identity theft protection features like dark web monitoring and payday loan monitoring
    • Additional benefits like sex offender tracking for your local area

    Cons:

    • Basic plans only cover credit tracking for one bureau, not all three

    Payment Plans:

    Experian IdentityWorks offers a 30-day trial subscription, so you can always try out these features before putting down cash. If you do decide to pay, the basic plan costs $9.99 per month for only one adult. If you want coverage for kids, it starts at $14.99 per month.

    Or you can pick the premium 2 adults, and 10 children plan for $19.90 and cents per month. Either way, all these prices are quite agreeable and secures Experian IdentityWorks as one of the best credit monitoring services in terms of value for money.

    View details
    Learn More

    MyFico Ultimate 3B Credit Monitoring: Best for Monitoring All Three Credit Bureaus

    MyFico Ultimate 3B Credit Monitoring

    MyFico allows you to monitor your credit from all three credit bureaus. This gives you a holistic view of your credit.

    Overview

    This advanced credit monitoring service offers instantaneous access to a credit report containing information from all three major bureaus.

    Also, MyFico includes reports for 28 different versions of your credit score, allowing you a bird’s eye view as to what lenders might see when considering your score for a mortgage or other big loan.

    The credit scores are updated every quarter, and the service comes with alerts for significant changes to your credit card information, including things like new public records, address changes, and newly opened accounts.

    Depending on the bureau you query, you could get additional identity theft alerts like changes to your credit card limits or changes to your name on credit reports.

    All in all, the service offers comprehensive identity theft and credit monitoring protection. But as you’ll see, the prices could definitely be better.

    Pros:

    • This service offers detailed credit score information and variability
    • Lots of alerts for identity theft and significant credit changes
    • Instant access to all three credit reports from the major bureaus

    Cons:

    • The basic plan only comes with quarterly credit updates
    • Prices are a little higher than average

    Payment Plans:

    The basic plan for standard credit monitoring is $29.95 per month. While you can cancel the subscription at any time, you do not get a partial refund for any cash you’ve already paid.

    If you want to kick your subscription up to the premier option, which includes monthly credit score updates instead of quarterly, it’s $39.95 per month.

    Thus, MyFico’s credit monitoring services a little pricier for many. Consider it if you want super detailed information on your credit score, though.

    View details
    Learn More

    TransUnion Credit Monitoring: Best for TransUnion Customers

    TransUnion Credit Monitoring

    If you are a loyal TransUnion customer, then look no further. This credit monitoring services allows you to monitor your credit report in almost near time.

    Overview:

    TransUnion Credit Monitoring is a somewhat unique credit monitoring service in that you only get monitoring for the TransUnion credit score.

    This is still valuable since TransUnion is one of the big three bureaus, but it does leave out the other two, so it does not provide a holistic overview of your credit.

    Still, there is a lot to consider here. For instance, this monitoring service provides alerts whenever there are changes to accounts listed on your credit report. This could be valuable if you have a lot of outstanding loans or cards to keep track of.

    Furthermore, TransUnion provides unlimited requests for your credit reports and scores from their bureau. Most other services have limits on how many times you can pull your credit score information.

    The other significant benefit is personalized debt analysis, which could help you get your debts under control or consolidated for easier repayment.

    Pros:

    • Offers unlimited credit reports for TransUnion
    • Provides personalized debt analysis
    • Offers many identity theft alerts, such as sudden changes to your account balances or newly opened accounts

    Cons:

    • Only provides information for TransUnion credit reports
    • Price could be a little better

    Payment Plans:

    The plan here costs $24.95 per month: not the priciest in the industry, but also not the most affordable. It’s ultimately up to you to decide whether unlimited TransUnion credit bureau information is worth the limitation of not having credit monitoring for the other two bureaus.

    View details
    Learn More

    Privacy Guard: Best Credit Score Simulator

    Privacy Guard

    Privacy Guard is another leader in the credit monitoring space. They offer you a sweet credit score simulator, daily alerts, and more.

    Overview:

    There’s a lot to like about Privacy Guard, starting with the fact that they provide credit monitoring and scores for all three major bureaus. They also offer daily credit monitoring, which is a big plus. This includes email, phone, and text alerts whenever there’s a change to your credit report information.

    There are several plans to choose from. The basic ID Protection plan includes monitoring for signs of identity theft by checking public records, the dark web, and other sources.

    Only the second plan includes dedicated credit monitoring, plus a good credit score simulator. This will allow you to experiment with certain decisions or loans and see how they will affect your credit score.

    One big thing to be aware of is that PrivacyGuard is still relatively untested in the industry. It’s not accredited by the Better Business Bureau or scored by TrustPilot.

    Pros:

    • Offers decent identity theft protection add-ons
    • The credit monitoring offered covers all three bureaus
    • Credit reports are offered daily and can be sent via text, email, or phone calls
    • Includes a credit score simulator you can use to plan for future loans or credit changes

    Cons:

    • Cost for all the benefits above is a little higher than we would like
    • Not available to all US residents

    Payment Plans:

    The three plans available are easy to grasp. ID Protection is basic and doesn’t include credit monitoring the costs for the very reasonable price of $9.99 per month.

    If you want credit monitoring, you’ll have to go with the intermediate subscription that costs $19.99 per month. Or you can get both services combined for $24.99 per month.

    This is a bit of a downside since the intermediate tier doesn’t come with identity theft protection by default. But Privacy Guard does come with a 14-day trial that only costs $1, so you’ll be able to check the service for yourself before putting down significant cash.

    View details
    Learn More

    Complete ID: Best for Costco Members

    Complete ID

    Complete ID is an attractive option for low costs and Costco Members; however, the capabilities and additional features are limited.

    Overview:

    Complete ID is an attractive option for many due to its low costs, especially if you’re a Costco member. Regardless, there are multiple beneficial features included, such as monitoring for all three credit bureau scores.

    Note, unfortunately, that Complete ID only allows annual report viewing – you won’t be able to check your scores after big purchases or loans multiple times per year.

    But the service does provide credit alerts if there are significant changes to your account. The service also includes additional identity theft protection features like Social Security number monitoring, surveillance for your personal information over the dark web, and up to $1 million and identity theft insurance.

    Even better, you get 24/7 access to a US-based support team if your information is ever stolen.

    Pros:

    • Very affordable if you have a Costco membership
    • Offers good credit score change alerts
    • Provides a support team if your personal information is stolen

    Cons:

    • You can only get this service if you are a Costco member
    • Only allows you to check your credit scores annually

    Payment Plans:

    This service is worthwhile if you’re already a Costco member, as signing up will only run you $8.99. Granted, a Costco membership costs $60 per year, but many folks will already have one of these for the multitude of benefits that come with it.

    All in all, this is best thought of as an ancillary credit monitoring service for those already in a position to take advantage of it.

    View details
    Learn More

    ID Watchdog: Best Credit Monitoring Service for large families

    ID Watchdog

    ID Watchdog is another top credit monitoring service that allows you to monitor credit for two adults and up to four children.

    Overview:

    ID Watchdog is another good potential pick for families – they have a family-specific plan that covers two adults and up to four children. Besides, this service includes online child credit locks for minors who have access to a credit card.

    This could be an excellent choice for teenagers learning about financial independence but who don’t have digital hygiene to guarantee good credit safety just yet.

    This service includes reporting for all three major credit bureaus and tons of account alerts. Your credit score will be updated daily, but you are unfortunately only allowed access to your credit reports once per year.

    There’s also a downside in that ID Watchdog doesn’t include any social media monitoring. But it does offer up to $1 million and identity theft insurance, plus up to $500 in reimbursement for money stolen from things like a 401(k) or employee stock options.

    Pros:

    • Includes credit monitoring for all three bureaus
    • Has online child credit locks to prevent identity theft for kids
    • Includes daily account alerts and updates
    • Includes reimbursement for retirement funds and similar things

    Cons:

    • Higher-tier plans and family plan are a little pricier than we’d like
    • No social media monitoring
    • Only provides one credit report viewing per year

    Payment Plans:

    Plan prices are middling to high, depending on what you want. The basic plan costs $14.95 per month but only provides credit reports from one major bureau.

    The platinum plan is $19.95 per month and is a much better deal. If you want to benefit from family protection, you’ll need to pay a flat rate of $34.95 per month. Considering that there are other family plans for cheaper, that’s a bit of a downside.

    All in all, ID Watchdog has some aspects that could make it worth your time and money, but other options likely do a better job.

    View details
    Learn More

    Credit Squad: Best for ID Restoration + ID Takeover Alerts

    Credit Squad by Credit Saint

    Credit Squad is powered by Credit Saint, which is one of the largest credit repair companies in the world. This service provides you full ID Theft Restoration, robust monitoring, and next level protection.

    Overview:

    CreditSquad provides comprehensive credit monitoring that includes real-time inquiry notifications and score trackers for either one or all three bureaus depending on the plan you choose.

    If you pick the middle or higher tiers of subscription, you’ll get additional benefits and features like identity theft monitoring, change of address monitoring, and early warnings for account takeovers.

    Also, the higher-priced plans include full-service ID restoration, which can cut down on the time before things go back to normal if your information is stolen by a hacker.

    The odd thing is that credit monitoring is only offered with the cheapest and most expensive plans, whereas the middling plan offers additional features but no credit monitoring.

    Pros:

    • Comes with regular credit monitoring and alerts
    • Includes some educational materials for users
    • Has full-service ID restoration
    • Includes additional account warnings and ID takeover alerts

    Cons:

    • The middling plan doesn’t include credit monitoring
    • Only the highest-priced plan has monitoring for all three bureaus

    Payment Plans:

    The payment plans here are pretty standard, ranging from $14.99 per month for basic monitoring all the way up to $24.99 per month to get full three-bureau credit monitoring and all identity theft protection features.

    The last option is effective for most people, and the additional ID protection and full-service ID restoration make the cost well worth it, in our eyes.

    We also really like that the latter two plans come with an education center you can use to familiarize yourself with many complex credit score concepts.

    View details
    Learn More

    Best FREE Credit Monitoring Services

    Sometimes we cannot afford to pay a monthly fee for credit monitoring. Fortunately, you still have options. While their capabilities and offerings are limited, a free credit monitoring service can still get the job done. Here are the best free credit monitoring services.

    Credit Karma: Best for Free Credit Monitoring

    Credit Karma

    Credit Karma offers free credit service; however, their capabilities and offerings are limited.

    Overview:

    Credit Karma is easily the best free credit monitoring service in the industry, in part because it’s the only one that provides truly free monitoring without any big caveats.

    You can monitor both your Equifax and TransUnion scores using this service at no cost, and it’s updated every time you log on. Credit report information is provided weekly, and you’ll get plenty of alerts.

    The downside, of course, is that you won’t get any credit reporting from Experian. Still, you’ll get recommendations to improve your credit for the other two bureaus regularly, which makes this a good choice overall.

    Pros:

    • Offers regular credit improvement tips
    • Offers credit report every week
    • Provides daily alert and regular credit monitoring
    • Totally free

    Cons:

    • No credit reporting from Experian
    View details
    Learn More

    Credit Sesame: Best Free Credit Monitoring Service with Insurance

    Credit Sesame

    Credit Sesame is another choice for those looking for free credit monitoring. They provide their users with $50,000 complimentary fraud insurance. However, they only provide monitoring from one credit bureau, not all three.

    Overview:

    Credit Sesame also offers decent credit monitoring services without any extra cost, plus $50,000 of complementary fraud insurance. The downside is that you have to manually activate credit monitoring and you only get credit monitoring for a single bureau: TransUnion.

    Still, there’s a lot to like, including daily credit monitoring alerts, identity theft protection add-ons, and live identity restoration specialists if any of your information is stolen. If you pay an extra fee, you can get additional Social Security number monitoring.

    Pros:

    • Also offers $50,000 of identity theft insurance
    • Provides daily credit and monitoring alerts
    • Includes optional Social Security monitoring for a fee
    • Is otherwise totally free for users

    Cons:

    • Only provides information from one bureau
    • Have to manually activate your credit monitoring
    View details
    Learn More

    CreditWise: Best for Capital One Customers

    CreditWise from Capital One

    CreditWise is well suite to serve those who are already Capital One customers. Again, since it is free, the services are limited. CreditWise only monitors TransUnion.

    Overview:

    This free credit monitoring service provides TransUnion reports, so again you’ll have to stomach not getting information from the other two bureaus.

    On the plus side, this service also comes with Social Security monitoring, dark web scanning for your personal information, and automatic alerts daily.

    Even better, this service will provide you with email alerts when your credit report changes, so it’s easy to take defensive action if necessary.

    An additional credit score simulator is included so you can see how specific actions might impact your credit report before doing them for real.

    Pros:

    • Offers credit action simulator
    • Comes with daily credit reports and updates
    • Includes identity theft monitoring features
    • Totally free without hidden fees

    Cons:

    • Only provides TransUnion credit report information
    View details
    Learn More

    Credit Monitoring Services 101

    Now that you know who are the best credit monitoring services, it is time to finalize your choice. This section will help you learn more about credit monitoring, and what factors you need to consider.

    What Are Credit Monitoring Services?

    In brief, credit monitoring services are optional services provided by the big credit bureaus and other financial institutions. They can monitor your credit score and other personal information, usually for a small fee, in order to alert you if your account information is connected with suspicious activity.

    For instance, say that your Social Security number was used to open up a new credit card account in your name.

    A credit monitoring service can alert you to this fact, giving you the time to tell your banks and credit institutions and prevent unmanageable harm from befalling your credit score.

    How Credit Monitoring Services Work

    A credit monitoring service will provide you with regular (though the frequency can vary) access to credit reports and monitoring information from either one, two, or all three big credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

    The service will have alerts in place that will ping and send you text or email information if your account information changes or other suspicious activity takes place.

    They’ll also provide you with reports so you can look at items that affect your credit score line by line at specific frequencies. Some credit monitoring services will let you look at this information weekly, while others will only let you look at your credit reports once per year.

    What is Included in Credit Monitoring Services?

    Each credit monitoring service will have its own offerings and features. Generally, you can expect to credit monitoring service to include:

    • at least one report from one of the big three credit bureaus
    • credit monitoring
    • account alerts
    • additional identity theft protection services like personal information monitoring, Social Security monitoring, dark web surveillance, and more

    Some services will come with even more features like credit score simulators, which will allow you to see what potential actions (like opening a credit account) could do to your credit score.

    Why Are Credit Monitoring Services Important?

    These services are so important since they allow you to keep an eye on your credit score over the long-term. This way, you won’t be totally caught off guard if your personal information is used maliciously.

    Since identity theft is a more common threat now than it was years ago, credit monitoring services are more vital in today’s increasingly digital world.

    Credit Monitoring Services: Free vs Paid

    Free credit monitoring services can still be worth your time, but they usually lack some of the more advanced features mentioned above or won’t provide you with credit report information from all three bureaus.

    For instance, each of the three free services described above only provides information from either one or two bureaus. So free services are better than nothing, but they are seriously limited in other ways.

    Pros and Cons of Credit Monitoring Services

    Pros:

    • Help you to avoid long-term ramifications of identity theft
    • Can help you improve your credit over time by giving you detailed information
    • Helps you stop identity thieves in the act

    Cons:

    • Some of these services can be pricy

    How to Avoid Credit Monitoring Scams

    To avoid falling for a credit monitoring scam:

    • Make sure that you know what the service supposedly costs upfront
    • Do some research into the company beforehand
    • See if the company is verified on the Better Business Bureau or if it has lots of good reviews on sites like Trustpilot

    Above all, don’t sign up for a credit monitoring service that looks too good to be true or that promises everything while being totally free.

    This is likely an indicator that the site’s operators are just trying to get your personal information.

    How to Choose the Best Credit Monitoring Service

    Ultimately, the best credit monitoring service for your needs depends on your budget and what you want the service to do. Consider the following factors before choosing:

    • Budget. This matters a great deal since most valuable credit monitoring services will require you to pay a monthly fee. But keep in mind that pricier services are not always automatically the best
    • Included features. Some services include extra identity theft protection features or monitoring add-ons
    • Credit report regularity. Services that give you more regular credit reports are often better since your information will be more up to date each time you look at it
    • Bureau access. In most cases, credit monitoring services that give you access to information from all three bureaus are better, rather than limiting your credit score information to one or two

    Credit Monitoring Services FAQs

    How Much Do Credit Monitoring Services Cost?

    It varies. Some credit monitoring services are totally free. Most paid services (which are generally more worthwhile) cost anywhere between $9.99 per month and $34.99 per month depending on how many people are covered under the service and the included features.

    Is Credit Monitoring Worth it? We Think So.

    Absolutely. Credit monitoring is, regardless of the price, not too expensive overall and is far cheaper compared to being a victim of identity theft, which can drain your account and leave your credit score in shambles.

    Are There Free Credit Monitoring Services?

    Yes. However, keep in mind that free credit monitoring services usually have some limitations or caveats, like only providing credit reports from two instead of all three bureaus.

    Which is Better: Free or Paid Credit Monitoring Services?

    Paid credit monitoring services are usually better if you can afford them since they come with more features and offer information from all three bureaus in general.

    Plus, most of them offer additional insurance for identity theft (up to $1 million or so on average).

    Should You Pay for Credit Monitoring?

    We think it’s a good idea. It might be tough to stomach another monthly fee, but it’ll be cheaper in the long run compared to suffering from identity theft or from not being able to take out prime loans since your credit score plummeted when someone opened up a dozen new account in your name.

    Related: Best Credit Repair Companies

    Bottom Line: Best Credit Monitoring Services

    In the end, the best credit monitoring services include Identity Guard, IdentityForce, LifeLock, and Credit Karma (if you want something free instead of paid).

    But be sure to use the information in this guide to determine the best service for your needs – go with your gut after doing your research, and you’ll be much safer from identity theft in the long run.

    Good luck!

    Drew Cheneler
    Drew Cheneler
    Drew is a recognized Credit, Small Business, and Personal Finance Expert. He has been quoted in CNBC, Fox Business News Section, The Huffington Post, Business.com, Moneyunder30, US Chamber of Commerce, and more. He is known for breaking down complex personal finance topics into action-oriented advice, so you can make the most of your hard-earned money.