A credit monitoring service should make tracking your credit score a seamless part of your life — much like checking your email or ordering delivery for dinner.
The best services, which I list below, all excel with this kind of accessibility, but they also have some distinct differences.
Each credit monitoring service charges different fees (or no fees) and provides a unique combination of services. So choosing a service comes down to finding the service that best fits your individual needs.
Let’s get into some of the different features found in each one of the credit monitoring services we recommend so that you can choose the right one for you.
9 Best Credit Monitoring Services
Here are the 9 best credit monitoring services you can start using today:
- TransUnion: Best Single Bureau Credit Monitoring
- LifeLock: Best for Monitoring and ID Theft Protection
- Experian: Best for Families
- IdentityForce: Best for Extra Security Features
- Identity Guard: Best for Flexible Plans
- Privacy Guard: Best Three Bureau Credit Monitoring
- Credit Sesame: Best Free Monitoring
- Credit Karma: Runner-up for Best Free Monitoring
- myFico: Best for FICO Score Monitoring
TransUnion is one of the services I use. I like this service because you can get a copy of your TransUnion credit report as well as your credit score whenever you want — even every day.
This service is simple and affordable at only $24.95 per month.
- Unlimited updates to your TransUnion credit report and credit score (not Equifax or Experian).
- Email alerts of changes to your credit report.
- Instant email alert when someone opens a new account in your name.
- Score simulator to see how specific credit choices affect your score.
- Unlimited access to toll-free identity theft specialists.
- Up to $1 million in identity theft insurance.
Learn More: Read our full TransUnion Review.
LifeLock offers a 60-day money-back guarantee with the annual membership, providing a great way to test drive the service before making a complete commitment.
LifeLock focuses on protecting your entire identity. Your credit score is part of your identity, so you’ll also get credit monitoring with the package.
If protecting your identity, rather than checking your credit score every month, is your priority, Lifelock will be a great choice.
Lifelock also offers three different credit monitoring products, each with different features. They are priced from $9.99 a month (fewest features) to $29.99 a month (tons of features).
To get routine checks from all three credit bureaus, you’ll need to opt for LifeLock’s most expensive plan.
- Reimbursement for stolen money if someone steals your identity
- Security software for your electronic devices
- Interacts primarily with Equifax; TransUnion and Experian can be added.
Learn More: Read our full LifeLock Review.
Experian should make your shortlist if you’re mostly interested in your Experian credit report.
Some creditors prioritize Experian credit reports over others, so if you’re planning to work with a lender that values your Experian score in the next few months, you can benefit by choosing this service.
Experian has a Basic package that is free, but the Premium package, which monitors reports from all 3 credit bureaus among other perks, is free for 7 days then $24.99/month thereafter.
- Everyday access to your Experian credit report and FICO score.
- Daily Monitoring of your Experian credit report.
- Score factors showing what’s positively or negatively impact your FICO score.
Learn More: Read our full Experian Review.
Identity theft protection and credit monitoring have become intertwined for good reason: Your credit score is a big part of your financial identity, and your Social Security number is a key piece of your identity.
But there’s more to your identity than your Social Security number and your credit score. IdentityForce focuses on the bigger picture of your entire identity.
IdentityForce offers two subscription-based programs:
- UltraSecure: For about $18 a month, you’ll receive alerts anytime your financial information has been potentially compromised by fraudulent activity and up to $1 million in identity theft insurance in case something does go wrong.
- UltraSecure+Credit: For about $24 a month, you’ll get the identity theft protection provided by the UltraSecure plan along with a thorough credit monitoring service that checks all three credit bureaus 24/7.
IdentityForce stands out because it monitors for suspicious activity and it also helps you recover from a security breach. The company’s customer service staff will make phone calls and even fill out paperwork to help you regain control of your financial life.
These services will be available only if the data breach occurs while you have an active contract with IdentityForce.
- 24/7 monitoring from all three credit bureaus
- Recovery tools in case of a breach or ID theft
- Credit score simulator
- Automatically receive four free credit bureau reports and scores
- Automatic credit score tracking
- ID theft monitors public and Dark Web records
Learn More: Read our full IdentityForce Review.
Identity Guard provides a flexible choice for customers looking for a basic and affordable layer of identity protection and credit monitoring.
Prices range from $8.99 to $29.99 a month for individuals and $14.99 to $39.99 for families.
All plans (Value, Total, and Ultra) offer $1 million in ID theft protection and a counselor to help you sift through the mess if you are struck by identity theft.
Identity Guard monitors all three credit bureaus with the Total and Ultra plans and will send alerts via email or text about changes to your scores.
Identity Guard Features
All three Identity Guard plans offer:
- $1 million in ID theft insurance
- Dark Web monitoring
- A customized risk management report
- Tools (web & smartphone) to help avoid online scams
To get a monthly credit score reflecting all three bureaus you’d need to opt for the Total or Ultra plans ($19.99 and $29.99 a month, respectively).
Learn More: Read our full Identity Guard Review.
Privacy Guard has emerged as another leader as more and more people opt for regular credit monitoring.
You can get a 14-day trial for $1 before committing to a monthly subscription which ranges from $9.99 for the simplest to $24.99 for the most elaborate plan.
Privacy Guard is simple and thorough: You can customize your email or text alerts to avoid getting false alarms about minor changes.
And, most importantly, Privacy Guard monitors all three of the major credit bureaus every day — if you get the most expensive plan.
Privacy Guard Features
- Dark Web monitoring to detect ID theft
- $1 million ID theft insurance
- Public record monitoring
- Credit score simulator to help anticipate changes
Learn More: Read our full Privacy Guard Review.
Credit Sesame is one of several newer services offering free credit monitoring. You can set up an account online or on the Credit Sesame mobile app and then log in anytime to see your score.
So what’s the catch? How can Credit Sesame give you free credit monitoring while other leading services require a monthly fee?
Those are good questions, but Credit Sesame is not a scam. Rather than relying on user fees for revenue, the service gets commissions from the credit card offers they send members on a regular basis.
So, if you sign up for Credit Sesame or a similar free service, expect regular emails suggesting credit cards along with email alerts about your credit score. You don’t have to click on any of the credit offers, of course.
Speaking of your score, keep in mind Credit Sesame works only with your Experian credit score and not your broader FICO score.
Credit Sesame Features
- Free credit monitoring
- Top-notch online tools and apps
- Shows Experian score only
- Suggestions for credit cards designed to help improve your score
Learn More: Read our full Credit Sesame Review.
Credit Karma works a lot like Credit Sesame. In fact, it’s easy to confuse the two services which both offer free credit monitoring.
Credit Karma monitors your TransUnion and Equifax credit scores. The service will not monitor your Experian score (Credit Sesame monitors only Experian).
As with Credit Sesame, you won’t pay a monthly fee. As a result, expect to get a lot of emails and possibly text messages about credit card offers (and about changes to your credit score).
Credit Karma Features
- TransUnion & Equifax credit scores (no Experian)
- Alerts about credit score changes or credit checks
- Top-notch apps and online experience
Learn More: Read our full Credit Karma Review.
Just about all major lenders use your FICO score which is built from data gathered from all three credit reporting agencies.
FICO applies its own formula to your data from the credit bureaus to calculate your 3-digit FICO score.
Now, FICO has created a credit monitoring service, myFICO, which monitors only your FICO score.
Since so many banks and credit cards also use your FICO score, myFICO provides an efficient way to monitor your credit.
But with subscriptions ranging from $20 to $40 a month, myFICO does cost more than most other services:
- Basic Plan: $19.95 a month for access to your FICO score applied to data from one credit bureau each month.
- Advanced Plan: $29.95 a month to access your FICO score applied to all three credit bureaus four times a year.
- Premier Plan: $39.95 a month for monthly access to your FICO score applied to all three credit bureaus.
- Access to your proprietary FICO score
- $1 million in ID theft insurance
- Credit restoration and simulation tools
- One-time purchases available if you don’t want to join
Learn More: Read our full myFICO Review.
Why Every Adult Needs Credit Monitoring
Why this recent surge in credit monitoring and ID theft protection services? Because more and more people need this kind of protection.
If you aren’t monitoring your credit report with a credit monitoring service every month, you’re playing with fire. I would even say not actively monitoring your credit report is downright foolish.
It is easier than ever to at least review your credit report annually if nothing else by obtaining your free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com.
Recent and ongoing hacks, such as the enormous Equifax hack that affected most of the adult population in the U.S., has made credit and identity monitoring a necessity when just a few years ago it was a “nice to have.”
Don’t Assume Your Personal Data is Private
Routinely, companies we trust with our sensitive data have let us down, and we can no longer assume our credit history is safe from identity thieves. Sadly, we need to assume our data has or will be stolen at some point.
Aside from completely severing our lives from the modern consumer economy, we can’t prevent identity thieves from having the opportunity to steal our financial data.
Here’s what you can do: Make sure you have one of the above services in place to let you know as soon as possible that your data has been stolen. When you discover a data breach early, you can take quick action to limit its damage to your financial life.
If you wait for the company who got hacked to let you know someone has stolen your credit card numbers, you’ll be giving hackers and their customers abundant time to wreck your credit score and your family budget.
Free Credit Monitoring vs. Subscription Services
Is it OK to use a free credit monitoring service, or should you pay for a subscription-based service?
Free services are safe and reliable within the scope of what they do. To get a full range of identity theft protection services you’ll need a paid service.
A free service just can’t offer total protection for your credit information and Social Security number.
But here’s what you can do with a free service:
- Monitor the Big Picture: When someone applies for new credit in your name — or when your credit score experiences a big change — a free service can alert you. Then you can access your free annual credit report to see what’s up and whether you need a credit freeze. In other words, a free service can serve as a first alert system.
- Get Real-Time Alerts via Text or Mobile App: Free services like Credit Sesame and Credit Karma excel with providing seamless user experience. If your credit file takes a hard credit check, these apps will let you know via text message or app notification.
- Do-It-Yourself Credit Protection: Free services provide a perimeter fence around your personal finances. A fence isn’t enough security against identity fraud, but at least you’d know someone had crossed the fence.
- Credit Score Tracking: No, a free service won’t show your actual FICO score, but it can provide credit score tracking. Chances are good if your VantageScore (via Credit Karma) drops by 50 points in one day, your FICO has taken a similar hit. This sudden change could mean you’re a victim of identity theft, or it could mean you ran up your credit card balances last month and upended your credit utilization ratio. The point is you’d know to check.
So you can create your own daily credit monitoring with help from a free service. But you’d be missing an important piece of the puzzle: tools to help protect yourself against identity theft.
Only a paid service comes with total protection. Paid services can lock down your credit for you in response to a data breach or suspected identity theft.
Using the Credit Monitoring Service You Already Have
Financial institutions like your mortgage loan servicer or credit card company may already be providing you with a level of credit score tracking.
Next time you log into your bank account or credit accounts online, see if your financial institution has a free credit score built into your account. Some of these services even let you check your FICO score anytime.
It would be up to you to monitor your credit score because these services likely won’t send out fraud alerts if your score drops.
You’d need to set your own reminder to check in every few days. I’d recommend setting an alarm on your smartphone.
Just like with a free service, a drop in your score should prompt you to investigate further.
Through April 2021, the Federal Trade Commission will provide a free copy of your TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax credit report once a week.
Normally, you’d be entitled to a free copy of each credit report only once a year. Visit annualcreditreport.com to get your free copy.
- What To Do If Your Employer Wants To See Your Credit Report
- How To Use The Fair Credit Reporting Act To Your Advantage
- How To Freeze Your Credit
(product costs are current as of 3/9/2021)