You’ve likely spent most of your adult life building good credit. Now, imagine you can’t qualify for financing because your credit score has suddenly dropped, thanks to an identity thief who opened new lines of credit on your behalf.
The best way to track your credit is by monitoring your credit score. You can check your credit score yourself from all the three major credit bureaus annually for free or buy a credit monitoring service for more frequent access to your credit report, plus other features like dark web monitoring and public records scans.
The best credit monitoring services
- What is credit monitoring?
- Credit monitoring involves a regular review of credit reports for accuracy. What credit monitoring companies do is monitor your credit profile (report and score) for irregularities, which can be a sign your finances are being exploited. This is one of the best ways to catch instances of fraud early. Some credit monitoring companies offer identity theft protection and additional services too. A credit report is a documentation of your personal debt and credit history compiled by a credit bureau. Your credit report will include details about your loans, credit cards and bills. If you’re applying for a loan, the potential lender will pull your credit report to get a sense of how likely you are to pay back a debt. A credit score takes all the information in your credit report and assigns it a number between 300 and 850, with 300 indicating a very poor credit history. You have good credit if your score is above 700, and a credit score above 800 is considered exceptional. The average credit score is around 680 in the United States. There are two types of monitoring services to consider: credit monitoring and identity monitoring. The best credit monitoring companies provide identity theft protection in addition to basic credit monitoring for a fee. Premium features often include fraud alerts and recovery assistance, like monetary reimbursement for funds lost due to fraudulent activity.
- Credit monitoring: Credit monitoring services from one of the three main credit monitoring bureaus—Experian, TransUnion and Equifax—are best for consumers who only want to periodically check their credit report. Credit monitors that aren’t bureaus provide consumers unlimited access to their credit reports for a fee. Monitoring your credit report won’t help you keep tabs on all your personally identifying information. Some consumer credit reporting agencies offer a basic credit monitoring service for free with more comprehensive monitoring and identity theft protection services available for a monthly or yearly fee.
- Identity monitoring: For alerts about suspicious activity relating to your bank account, medical ID or Social Security numbers, you’ll need identity monitoring. Identity monitoring will alert you about a change of address or check cashing requests made in your name, plus payday loan applications and court and arrest records. It will also alert you if your information shows up on a black market website.
You should look for a service that gives you unlimited access to several major credit bureaus and real-time alerts. Membership-based monitoring services will alert you about any irregular activity regarding your credit or identity that they detect.
- What is a credit monitoring alert?
- A credit monitoring alert is a credit alert service that notifies you in real time about changes to your credit report when irregular activities are detected via email, text message or phone. Even the best credit monitoring companies can’t prevent identity theft, but they can alert you about suspicious activity that can indicate identity theft. If you are alerted of a change on your credit report that you don’t recognize, you should immediately report the incident to your bank or the concerned financial institution to minimize losses.
- How much does credit monitoring cost?
- Credit monitoring services typically cost between $10 and $15 per month, or more, depending on the options included. You could have unlimited access to your credit report and score at all three major credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion for a higher fee.
What is the best credit monitoring service?
The best credit monitoring services include all the monitoring features you want for a fair price. You should look for a service that gives you unlimited access to several major credit bureaus and real-time alerts. LifeLock, Credit Sesame, PrivacyGuard and IDShield offer some of the best credit monitoring services.
Compare credit monitoring services
|Free trial period|
|24/7 emergency support|
|Customer satisfaction||Read LifeLock reviews||Read Credit Sesame reviews||Read PrivacyGuard reviews||Read IDShield reviews|
|Starting price||Mobile app||Free trial period||24/7 emergency support||Customer satisfaction|
|$9.99/month||Read LifeLock reviews|
|$0/month||Read Credit Sesame reviews|
|$19.99/month||Read PrivacyGuard reviews|
|$9.95/month||Read IDShield reviews|
Best overall protection
LifeLock monitoring plans: With the Standard Plan ($9.99/month), LifeLock will alert you if they detect your personal information on service and credit applications, the dark web or a USPS change of address verification. You’ll also get alerts if they detect fake personal information connected to your identity.
You’ll get all the same alerts with Advantage Plan ($19.99/month), with added alerts if your personal information appears on criminal arrest and court booking records or large-scale data breaches. It will also send an alert if it detects unusual cash withdrawals, transfers and high-dollar purchases on your credit, checking or savings accounts. With Standard and Advantage plans, LifeLock will monitor your credit through one bureau.
You’ll get credit monitoring from three bureaus with LifeLock’s Ultimate Plus plan ($29.99/month), which monitors for new bank account applications made in your name and also alerts you if someone tries to take over or add a new name to your existing account. In addition they monitor your investment/401(k) account activity and personal information on file-sharing networks and sex offender registries. Add LifeLock Junior ($5.99/month) to any plan for alerts on your child’s credit.
“LifeLock pre-alerted me of inquiries on my credit report and inquiries from banks. They’ve also reverted about four different occasions of people trying to open accounts in my name. They have been gracious enough to reach out and want to help with the process of me alerting the companies…”
— Read full review by Lance of Northridge, CA
Credit Sesame monitoring plans: Credit Sesame offers single-bureau monthly credit score updates and credit monitoring with alerts free of charge. You’ll be able to access your credit report and score through their app and website. Free membership even comes with $50,000 identity protection insurance. Their free service does not require a credit card, but it does require your Social Security number.
In addition to a free credit monitoring service, Credit Sesame offers three premium membership-based monitoring plans: Advanced Credit ($9.95/month), Pro Credit ($15.95/month) and Platinum Protection ($19.95/month).
All premium plans include single-bureau daily credit score updates, three-bureau monthly credit score updates and a three-bureau monthly full credit report. The Pro Credit plan also comes with three-bureau credit monitoring with alerts and 24/7 access to live experts. Credit Sesame’s Platinum Protection includes all features and services of lower-tier plans, plus lost-wallet protection, black-market website monitoring, public records monitoring and Social Security number monitoring.
“Credit Sesame is a terrific way to monitor your credit. Its site is well-designed and easy to use. It clearly states how your credit is determined, the weight of each category that affects your credit and it offers suggestions as to how you can improve your score…”
— Read full review by Jane of Pacific Palisades, CA
Best security features
PrivacyGuard monitoring plans: Credit Protection ($19.99/month) and Total Protection ($24.99/month) plans come with credit reports and scores from all three credit bureaus, plus triple bureau daily credit monitoring. Get monthly credit score tracking, credit score simulators and a financial calculator suite, as well as access to PrivacyGuard’s credit information hotline and dedicated ID fraud resolution support.
PrivacyGuard’s Total Protection plan includes all the same services and features as their Credit Protection plans, plus protection against identity theft with ID verification monitoring, dark web monitoring, Social Security number monitoring, public web monitoring, annual public records support and online fraud assistance. This plan also can help reduce the amount of pre-approved credit card offers you get in the mail, which thieves can use to open fraudulent accounts in your name. This premium plan also comes with lost wallet assistance and $1 million identity theft insurance.
“The site is very well laid out and user-friendly. I can see all of my information clearly. I do not have any issues with viewing my accounts. I also get an updated report or a clear view of my report every single month which is great.”
— Read full review by Adrian of Little Elm, TX
Best for families
IDShield monitoring plans: IDShield’s Individual plan ($9.95/month) covers complete monitoring and comes with unlimited consultations, IDShield Vault Password Manager, comprehensive restoration and $5 million service guarantee. IDShield Family ($24.95/month) comes with all the same monitoring benefits, plus child monitoring for up to eight dependent minors.
Use the IDShield app with both plans to stay up to date on fraud alerts. In case of an emergency, IDShield credit experts are reachable 24/7.
“IDShield is very reliable. When I bought my last car the dealer wanted me to bring the car back because the finance company refused to pay the dealer because IDShield had a fraud alert on my credit and I needed to be contacted to verify the sale…”
— Read full review by Derrick of Bossier City, LA
Bottom line: Is credit monitoring worth it?
You should definitely monitor your credit, whether you do this yourself for free or pay for a credit monitoring company to do it for you. It’s worth it to pay for credit monitoring if you’ve already been a victim of identity theft or suspect some of your personal information has been compromised.
Credit monitoring services allow you to do two things: keep track of your credit profile (report and score) and detect instances of identity theft. Monitoring credit score changes won’t prevent someone from applying for a loan in your name, but it will alert you if that happens so you can then take steps to report and recover, which will minimize financial damage before it gets out of hand. It’s more like an alarm system than a padded lock.
Credit monitoring keeps you secure by notifying you when there are changes to your credit report. To make sure you’re alerted anytime there is a change in your credit score, sign up for an identity protection service that offers credit monitoring as part of their plan.