Credit monitoring services will alert you of erroneous account activity and help you identify both mistakes on your report and fraudulent attempts. Identity theft is more common than you might think; there were a record 3.2 million reports of fraud in 2019, according to the Federal Trade Commission. And anyone is at risk of having their sensitive information stolen. With credit monitoring, you can rest a little easier at night knowing that you’ll be warned of fraudsters trying to wreak havoc on your finances.
Most credit monitoring services come with a suite of features. Whether you’re looking to lock your credit file for greater protection or achieve access to your credit scores, a credit monitoring service can help. To help you narrow down your options, we’ve rounded up the best credit monitoring services of 2020, using our SimpleScore methodology to make recommendations by comparing basic plan costs, premium plan costs, mobile app ratings, perks and customer support.
The 5 best credit monitoring services of 2020
- Best Overall: Identity Guard
- Best for Identity Protection: LifeLock
- Best Family Plan: IdentityForce
- Best for Triple-Bureau Credit Monitoring: Experian
- Best for One-Time Credit Report: TransUnion
Best credit monitoring services at a glance
|Provider||Basic Plan Cost||What’s Included in Basic||Premium Plan Cost||What’s Included in Premium||Key Benefit|
|Identity Guard||$8.99 per month billed monthly, $7.50 per month billed annually||$1 million in insurance, risk management score, certain alerts, and more||$29.99 per month billed monthly, $24.99 per month billed annually||Monthly credit score, 3-bureau credit report, social insight report, and more||Online identity dashboard and mobile app|
|LifeLock||$9.99 per month for the first year||Up to $25,000 in stolen funds reimbursement, up to $1 million for lawyers, identity and social security number alerts, dark web monitoring, and more||$29.99 per month for the first year||Up to $1 million in stolen funds reimbursement, three-bureau annual credit reports and scores, one-bureau monthly credit score tracking, and more||Good coverage for lawyers|
|IdentityForce||$9.99 per month or $99.90 per year||Fraud monitoring, dark web monitoring, account alerts, $1 million identity theft insurance, and more||$19.99 per month or $199.90 per year||Three-bureau credit monitoring, reports, and scores||Robust insurance coverage|
|Experian||$9.99 per month after 30 day trial or $99.99 per year||Up to $500,000 in identity theft insurance, one-bureau credit monitoring, score tracking, and more||$19.99 per month after 30 day trial or $199.99 per year||Up to $1 million in identity theft insurance, three-bureau credit monitoring and score tracking||Unlock and lock credit file at any time|
|Transunion||$24.95 per month||Up to $1 million in identity theft insurance, unlimited credit reports and scores, three-bureau credit monitoring, and more||N/A||N/A||Personalized debt analysis|
*Data accurate as of July, 2020. Mobile app rating is an average of Apple App Store and Google Play Store ratings.
Best overall – Identity Guard
Identity Guard has protected 47 million identities with plans that cater to different budgets and circumstances.
Identity Guard uses sophisticated artificial intelligence technology, and its identity theft protection programs are comprehensive.
Our Two Cents — Identity Guard’s plans offer fantastic value for money. If you’re after both credit monitoring and identity theft protection, go with the Total or Ultra plan.
Best for identity protection – Lifelock
LifeLock works with Norton to provide “all-in-one” protection to block, detect and resolve identity theft issues.
If you’re using LifeLock for credit monitoring though, the Standard, Select and Advantage plan only comes with credit monitoring of one bureau. The Ultimate Plus will give you triple-bureau credit monitoring and monthly VantageScore tracking.
Our Two Cents — LifeLock’s Ultimate Plus is a great choice if you want thorough credit monitoring alongside identity protection.
Best family plan – Identity Force
With over 40 years of experience in identity protection solutions, IdentityForce aims to offer individuals and families 100% peace of mind.
For credit monitoring, the UltraSecure+Credit offers triple-credit bureau monitoring, reports and scores. You’ll also have access to a credit score tracker and simulator. Its ChildWatch product includes ongoing identity monitoring, SSN tracking and a social media monitoring suite.
Our Two Cents — IdentityForce is strong on customer service, but you’ll need to go with the premium plan for credit monitoring.
Best for triple-bureau credit monitoring – Experian
A “big three” national credit reporting agency, Experian offers triple-bureau credit monitoring services and one-time access to a credit report.
A great thing about Experian is its range of products. You can subscribe to free credit monitoring or premium plans, get one-time access to either your Experian credit report and FICO score or reports and scores from all three bureaus. There are separate identity theft protection plans, too.
Our Two Cents — Experian has options to suit every budget. Product features are clearly identified, making it easy to compare and find the right plan.
Best for one-time credit report – TransUnion
Another major credit agency, TransUnion offers credit monitoring subscription and one-time access to your credit report and VantageScore.
Having served more than 12 million members, TransUnion is highly reputable and offers credit monitoring and identity protection tools for subscribers. However, TransUnion’s website is somewhat difficult to navigate, and subscription benefits aren’t clear compared to competitors' websites. Although it offers one-time access to your TransUnion credit report, and you could order your VantageScore as an add-on, information on how to do this is difficult to find.
Our Two Cents — TransUnion will give you one-time access to your TransUnion credit report for $11.50. It’s a thrifty option if you don’t need other credit monitoring or identity protection features.
What are credit monitoring services?
Credit monitoring services regularly look for errors on your credit report and suspicious account activity. If you know about mistakes on your credit report, you’ll be able to repair your credit and keep your credit score in check. And if you’re alerted of potential fraud, it can help you recover losses. You’ll be notified if someone tries to open a new account with your information, for example. Most credit monitoring services offer insurance that entitles you to reimbursement for costs to reclaim your identity, and most premium plans also give you access to your credit reports and scores.
How credit monitoring companies work
Credit monitoring companies provide two distinct benefits to consumers: First, they watch your credit file and alert you if someone tries to open a new account with your information, make a large purchase or change the address on one of your credit cards. That way, you can determine if new information on your credit report has appeared due to fraud. Without these alerts, you may not recognize identity theft until it has already ruined your credit.
Second, credit monitoring companies provide access to credit reports and scores, helping consumers understand the impact of their borrowing and spending behavior on their credit score. Increasing your credit score can save you thousands on interest rates and insurance premiums, so using a credit monitoring service could be well worth the cost for you if it allows you to improve your score.
What’s included in credit monitoring?
In addition to alerts of activity on your credit file and access to credit reports and scores, some credit monitoring services offer:
- Insurance coverage for identity theft
- Dark web monitoring
- Instant credit freezing
- Court records monitoring
- Payday loan monitoring
- Sex offender monitoring of nearby residents
- Social media monitoring of children’s accounts
- Score simulator: Estimate the impact of different factors on your credit score
Some credit monitoring services only provide access to scores and reports from one bureau, while others offer three-bureau credit monitoring. But most credit monitoring companies check for newly opened accounts or credit inquiries through at least one bureau.
How your accounts are protected with credit monitoring services
Credit monitoring services only provide alerts about activity on your credit report. While they won’t warn you about all possible instances of identity theft, they will watch out for:
- Hard credit inquiries
- New accounts
- Late payments
- Unusually large purchases
- Bankruptcy records
- Legal records
- Changes in credit limits
- Changes to contact information
If you notice that activity on your credit report doesn’t match your recent borrowing behavior (e.g., you find a hard credit inquiry but never applied for a credit card), you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and put a freeze on your credit so no one can open a new account in your name.
Pros and cons of credit monitoring services
How to choose the best credit monitoring company for you
- Decide if you need identity protection, credit report access, or both.
- Decide who you need covered. Do you need protection for just you, or your spouse and children as well? Consider the value of different family plans.
- Decide what additional features are important to you. Do you want identity monitoring outside of your credit profile, such as dark web monitoring or payday loan monitoring? Many services offer these protections in addition to basic features.
- Read the fine print. On your shortlist of choices, be sure to compare what’s actually covered under identity theft insurance, and make sure you fully understand what you’re getting for the cost.
- Sort your choices by value. Once you have selected plans that cover everything you need, list them in order of total price, including any billing discounts or other offers, to find the best deal.
- Test it out. Some credit monitoring companies offer a free trial or allow you to cancel after a month. You might want to test out the service to make sure it provides everything you need and is worth the cost.
Credit monitoring FAQs
How much do credit monitoring services cost?
It depends on the service provider and the plan you choose. You can get a value plan with Identity Guard for just $7.50 per month when billed annually, while more robust services will set you back closer to $30 per month. Some plans come with a free trial, and most offer billing discounts if you pay annually.
Are there free credit monitoring services?
Free credit monitoring is available through companies like Credit Karma and Credit Sesame. However, the features of these services are limited when compared to paid plans. You can also monitor your credit yourself by accessing a free annual report from each of the credit bureaus, although you won’t be able to catch errors or fraud attempts in real-time.
Is credit monitoring worth it?
Some people believe credit monitoring services are worth it for the peace of mind, while others think they provide educational benefits that can lead to healthier credit. If you need help with your credit score and would feel safer with someone looking after your credit report, a credit monitoring service will probably be worth it for you. Just know there are steps you can take on your own that will also mitigate your risk. Whether you hire a service or DIY, there’s no surefire way to prevent identity theft.
Too long, didn’t read?
Credit monitoring services can help you catch errors that could hurt your credit score and identify fraudulent behavior using your information. With these services, you may be able to respond more quickly to identity theft attempts. However, credit monitoring services can’t prevent identity theft, and there are steps you can take on your own to reduce your risk.
- Use a Free Credit Freeze to Stop Identity Thieves Cold
- How to Raise Your Credit Score
- Can Personal Loans Improve Your Credit Score?
The SimpleScore is our proprietary scoring metric to compare products and services at The Simple Dollar in a transparent, evidence-based way. Our editorial team identifies five quantifiable aspects to compare for every brand, determines the rating criteria for each aspect score, then averages the five aspect scores to produce a single SimpleScore. For the best credit monitoring companies, we compared basic plan costs, premium plan costs, mobile app ratings, perks and customer support. Our ratings are meant to be a directional tool to help you in the process of choosing a credit monitoring company. Be sure to continue your research and shop around for the best credit monitoring company that fits your specific needs.
Last updated July 29, 2020 – Updated editorial guide for credit monitoring recommendations.
We welcome your feedback on this article and would love to hear about your experience with the credit monitoring companies we recommend. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with comments or questions.