A credit monitoring service should make monitoring your credit 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 differences.
Each credit monitoring service charges different fees (or no fees) and provides a unique combination of services. So choosing a product 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 of 2020
Here are the 9 best credit monitoring services:
- 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. The best thing about this service is that 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 credit line 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 (least 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 short list 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 costs more, at $21.95 monthly but you can claim a 7-day trial for $1 if you want to check it out before making a bigger monthly commitment.
- 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.
But there’s more to your identity than your credit score. IdentityForce is a service focusing 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 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 not only monitors but also helps you recover from a 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 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 4 free credit bureau reports and scores
- Automatic credit score tracker
- 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 $24.99 a month for individuals and $14.99 to $34.99 for families.
All plans 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 (Total and Premier plans) and will send alerts via email or text about changes to your scores. With the Value plan, you can choose one credit bureau for Identity Guard to check.
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 Premiere plans ($19.99 and $24.99 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 credit monitoring without a fee. You can set up an account online or on the Credit Sesame 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 subscription?
Those are good questions, but Credit Sesame is not a scam. Rather than relying on user’s 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 service, expect regular emails suggesting credit cards along with email alerts about your credit score.
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 need to 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: $39.950 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 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 personal data is safe. 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 hackers from having the opportunity to steal our 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 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 about the breach, you’ll be giving hackers and their customers abundant time to wreck your credit score and your family budget.