Best Credit Monitoring Service for 2019

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In a digital world awash in personal data, identity theft is already rampant and only growing more commonplace. If you’re worried you or your family could become a victim to fraud, the best credit monitoring services can help protect your personal information and alert you to signs of fraud.

Identity theft is a problem that continues to change and evolve with technology, so there’s no reason to expect hackers to give up on stealing identities in 2019. Based on this unfortunate fact, we conducted some serious research on the best credit monitoring services available today. The focus was mainly on comprehensive credit monitoring with identity theft protection, but we also found some great options that work well for low-cost credit report monitoring.

According to a a study by the Insurance Information Institute, $16 billion in wealth was stolen from 15.4 million consumers through various forms of identity theft in 2016. You’ve probably heard about the data breaches at high-profile companies, including JPMorgan, Target, Home Depot, and eBay. In 2018, the personal information of more than 140 million consumers was compromised — by a single breach at credit bureau Equifax. And several years ago, health-insurance giant Anthem even suffered a data breach attack that impacted over 80 million patient and employee records, potentially exposing vital information like names, birth dates, and even Social Security numbers. That data breach cost Anthem $115 million to settle the lawsuits.

If all that worries you — and it probably should, because the problem is getting worse, not better — enlisting a service to keep an eye on your credit profile may be a good idea.

The Simple Dollar’s Top Picks for Best Credit Monitoring Services

Featured Credit Monitoring Services:

IdentityForce
IdentityForce
866-356-5924Learn More
LifeLock
LifeLock
Identity Theft ProtectionLearn More

The services above are at the top of their class, and if you’re concerned about your personal data falling into the wrong hands, the best credit monitoring services can help ease your mind. Identity theft keeps becoming more of a problem. Account takeovers tripled from 2016 to 2017, according to the III, and losses were at $5.1 billion. While technology is improving our lives in many respects, it’s also making us more susceptible to online theft.

Best Comprehensive Credit Monitoring Services

The first three products listed below offer full credit monitoring services, plus identity theft protection and access to your credit report. If you’re looking for the most comprehensive services to stay protected in 2019, these are your best options.

Best Overall: Identity Guard®

Based on our research, Identity Guard is the best credit monitoring service currently on the market. Not only is it a comprehensive program that monitors certain changes in your credit, but it also provides some of the best ID theft protection in the industry.

The company’s Individual Total and Premier Plans ($19.99 per month and $24.99 per month, respectively) monitor all three major credit bureaus for changes to your reports, helping you make more informed financial decisions. On top of this, they monitor personal information like your name and Social Security number across thousands of databases. The Premier and Total Plans provide a credit score monthly. There is also an $8.99-per-month Value Plan that omits three-bureau monitoring, credit score updates, and certain other features.

There are also family plans that can keep your children’s information safe. The Value Family Plan is $14.99 per month, the Total Family Plan is $29.99 per month, and the Premier Family Plan is $34.99 per month. All of them monitor your child’s information on the dark web. The Total Family Plan adds features like three-bureau credit change notification, and the Premier Family Plan adds alerts about potential cyber-bullying on social media and three-bureau credit reporting.

Available with every plan, high-risk transaction alerts proactively notify you when certain online account information has been accessed or changed. This way, you can quickly take action if your accounts were accessed fraudulently.

If you happen to become a victim of ID theft, Identity Guard offers services to get you back on your feet fast. A victim hotline gives you access to a trained expert who can help you put the pieces together. Meanwhile, $1 million in ID theft insurance covers all losses you incur as the result of identity theft.

Highlights:

  • Social Security Number Monitoring
  • ID Verification Alerts
  • Account Takeover Alerts
  • Identity Theft Victim Assistance
  • $1 Million Identity Theft Insurance
  • 3-Bureau Credit Monitoring (Total and Premier plans only)
  • ID Vault® Password Protection

On the downside, it would be nice if the company included address-change monitoring in its base Value plan like many of its competitors. That being said, Identity Guard still offers the best product – and the best protection – money can buy.

LifeLock

LifeLock identity theft protection helps proactively safeguard your identity and your credit. LifeLock actively monitors applications for credit cards, bank accounts, utilities, and other services within an extensive network for attempts to use your personal information. Whenever suspicious activity is detected, you receive an alert via email or phone. If your wallet goes missing, LifeLock helps cancel or replace the contents quickly.

LifeLock® also monitors thousands of black-market websites where ID thieves buy and sell stolen information. If your personal information shows up there, you are alerted. They also work with the credit bureaus to reduce the number of annoying preapproved credit card offers by taking your name off mailing lists.

Both features are available at all plan levels, including the $8.99 a month Standard Plan. Upgrading to the $17.99 Advantage Plan adds features including fictitious identity monitoring, court records scanning, data breach notifications, and annual credit reports from one credit bureau. The $26.99 Ultimate Plus Plan includes reports from all three credit bureaus, credit-inquiry alerts, sex-offender registry reports, and monthly credit score tracking, among other features.

With the LifeLock Junior add-on, you can also protect your child’s identity, which makes LifeLock perfect for families. A child’s credit profile can be a gold mine for thieves because it’s generally a blank slate and largely unmonitored. If your child’s information was stolen and used, it may go undetected for years and do lasting damage. Note that this protection cannot be purchased on its own, and must be bundled with another plan.

Highlights:

  • Identity Threat Detection and Alerts
  • Black-Market Website Monitoring
  • Lost-Wallet Protection
  • Sex Offender Registry Reports (Ultimate Plus plan only)
  • Monthly Credit Score Tracking (Ultimate Plus plan only)

LifeLock would be an even stronger service if it had a separate child-focused plan instead of offering this as an add-on. Reports from all three credit bureaus are also only available with the highest-priced plan.

IdentityForce

IdentityForce is another top service for credit monitoring. For $19.95 per month, their premium UltraSecure+Credit plan monitors all three credit bureaus and notifies you by email if any changes occur on your reports. A monthly statement comes in handy to help keep you informed of what’s going on with your credit files.

On the ID protection front, IdentityForce also offers a variety of tools available to protect your personal information. Their comprehensive monitoring feature keeps tabs on any address changes, court records, credit reports, payday loans, and sex offender lists to make sure your information is not being used without your knowing. All of these features are available with the UltraSecure+Credit plan as well as the more basic UltraSecure plan for $12.95 a month.

In the event a problem occurs, you have 24/7 access to Certified Protection Experts who save you lots of time and headaches by completing all the paperwork, making calls, and doing all the heavy lifting to make sure your identity is restored.

IdentityForce is another great choice for families. Like LifeLock, this company can protect your children from identity thieves. Their Child Watch service delivers proactive credit monitoring, identity monitoring, and ID theft insurance for your kids. It is an add-on to their UltraSecure and UltraSecure+Credit plans.

Highlights:

  • Identity Threat Detection and Alerts
  • Lost-Wallet Protection
  • $1 Million in ID Theft Insurance
  • Identity Restoration Specialists
  • Court Records and Sex-Offender Monitoring
  • 3-Bureau Credit Monitoring (UltraSecure+Credit plan only)

As with LifeLock, it would be nice if IdentityForce offered a separate child-focused plan, not just an add-on.

The Best Credit Monitoring Services: Credit Reporting Bureaus

If you’re less concerned with ID theft protection, credit monitoring services from one of the main credit reporting bureaus is a great place to start.

These options can be more affordable and have flat fees for one-time access to your credit report if you just want to know where you stand before applying for a loan. Here are the top two options:

Experian

Experian makes the list of the best credit monitoring services by offering triple-bureau credit monitoring with a variety of options for one-time access to your credit report. You can purchase your Experian credit report and FICO Score for $19.99 or get all three credit bureau reports and your FICO scores for $39.99. This feature is great if you just need to check in on your credit score once in a while.

You can also get your Experian free credit report through CreditWorks Basic. You get a new one every 30 days. There is no credit card required to get your Experian free credit report, either.

Experian also has a paid plan: CreditWorks Premium has more advanced features like a daily Experian credit report and a monthly three-bureau credit report. The Premium plan is $4.99 for the first month and then $24.99 per month after that.

Experian does have some ID protection features, but they fall short of the more comprehensive services like Identity Guard. The Experian IdentityWorks service takes the Experian Credit Tracker features and adds daily Internet ID scanning to look for your personal information that may be publicly available on the Internet, lost-wallet protection, change of address monitoring, and fraud resolution. Experian has a $9.99 per month Plus Plan and a $19.99 per month Premium Plan. The Premium Plan adds additional monitoring features of Payday loans, sex offender registry, and social networks, as a few examples.

Finally, Experian also offers credit reports and credit monitoring for your small business. This is a rare service offered only by the major credit bureaus.

Highlights:

  • 3-Bureau Credit Report Monitoring
  • Credit Report Change Alerts
  • One-Time Access to Credit Report
  • Dedicated Fraud Resolution Support
  • Lost-Wallet Protection (CreditWorks Premium only)
  • ID Theft Insurance (CreditWorks Premium only)

Experian offers a good range of services, and its upselling of the monthly credit-monitoring service is less aggressive than competitors. However, if you do choose this service, it’s a bit pricier than comparable options, as is Experian’s identity-theft service.

TransUnion

Like Experian, TransUnion is another credit reporting bureau that provides some of the best credit monitoring services. As a member, you have access to credit monitoring alerts from both TransUnion and Equifax, so you’ll be notified of any suspicious activity. (TransUnion used to monitor only their own report, which kept them from being one of the best credit monitoring services in the past.)

If you’re looking to get one-time access to your TransUnion Credit Report, you can receive your TransUnion score for free and credit report for just $1 by signing up for a free seven-day trial. Cancel at any time during the seven days and you won’t be charged the $19.95 monthly membership fee, which includes your FICO score, credit and debt analysis tools, and the ability to lock down your TransUnion Credit Report to protect it from identity thieves.

You can add some ID theft protection by signing up for the free service True Identity. This service monitors many of the same public records as other services and alerts you if your information shows up there. Other features include lost-wallet protection, address-change monitoring, and access to identity restoration specialists. True Identity also gives alerts in case of credit information changes. It also offers $25,000 in ID theft insurance.

If you believe you’ve been a victim of identity fraud, the security freeze feature prevents lenders from accessing your TransUnion credit report entirely. This makes it less likely that a lender will extend credit to someone posing as you. Tools like these offer you peace of mind since they allow you a greater level of control over your account.

Highlights:

  • Two-Bureau Credit Report Monitoring
  • Credit Report Change Alerts
  • One-Time Access to Credit Report
  • Identity Restoration Services (True Identity only)
  • Lost-Wallet Protection (True Identity only)
  • ID Theft Insurance (True Identity only)
  • Security Freeze

As for downsides, it’s unclear whether you can buy your credit report from TransUnion without signing on for a monthly fee. That makes it especially important to cancel your service before the seven-day trial period ends if you don’t want to pay for monthly access.

What is credit monitoring?

Credit monitoring tracks your credit reports and notifies you of any significant changes. Since all things financial flow to your credit report, including loans, credit cards, and payment histories, your credit report is a major factor that financial companies use to extend you any type of loan.

There are two main reasons you’d want to use a credit monitoring service:

  1. You’re concerned about identity theft and want to protect against it.
  2. You need to improve or repair your credit score.

Many times, people are unaware of derogatory reports that show up on their credit report until they actually apply for a loan — when it’s already too late. Knowing what’s in your credit report is extremely important for this reason. Derogatory reports like a delinquency from a creditor can affect your credit score for years. You’ll also want to know your score prior to applying for any credit cards so you know you’ll be accepted.

The other important way people use credit monitoring services is to prevent identity theft. Any financial account that is opened in your name with your Social Security number will show up on this report. Identity thieves can steal your personal information, like a Social Security number, and use it to open new financial accounts in your name. Credit monitoring services notify you any time a new account is opened so you can respond quickly.

There are a number of steps you can take to better protect yourself, but having your credit monitored by a professional team can give you the greatest edge by letting you know — in near real time — what is affecting your credit.

What are identity thieves looking for?

Identity thieves look for specific pieces of personal information, including:

  • User names, passwords, and PIN numbers
  • Social Security numbers
  • Phone and utility account numbers
  • Bank and credit account numbers
  • Employment and student identification numbers
  • Driver’s license and passport numbers
  • Professional license numbers
  • Insurance identification numbers
  • College or university financial-aid form information

For most ID theft victims, having new accounts opened in their names is not the main issue, so credit report monitoring alone isn’t adequate. The big problem is that ID thieves use the above information to gain access to and control current bank, credit card, loan, and other accounts, which is where more proactive measures come in handy.

According to the Bureau of Justice, for 85% of identity theft victims, the most recent incident involved the unauthorized use of an existing account. This key statistic has great ramifications for determining which of the best credit monitoring service features have the most impact when it comes to combating ID theft.

How can the best credit monitoring services protect my existing accounts?

Simply monitoring a credit report only shows you when a new account has been opened, but doesn’t show you when your credit card has been used by someone else or when your bank account has been accessed.

The best credit monitoring services that make this list protect your open accounts with:

  • ID verification alerts
  • Account takeover alerts
  • Lost-wallet protection
  • ID theft victim assistance

How to Choose the Best Credit Monitoring Services

If you want to do your own research, start by compiling a comprehensive list of credit monitoring services. There are many credit monitoring companies out there — don’t be surprised to find upwards of two dozen companies that might seem worth looking into. However, keep an eye out for companies that are actually lead-generation sites for other companies on the list. Two examples are FreeCreditReport.com and FreeCreditScore.com, both owned by Experian. Take these companies off your list, since they don’t handle the actual process of credit monitoring.

The next step is segmentation. By this point in your research, all the companies on the list will provide some form of credit monitoring. You may notice that some are more focused on detecting and preventing ID theft, while others are more focused on tracking your credit score and providing a report to you detailing valuable information when applying for credit.

A good way to segment the companies is to choose between two categories:

  1. Comprehensive: These provide a set of credit monitoring services with a heavier emphasis on ID theft prevention.
  2. Credit Reporting Bureaus: These companies are more focused on monitoring your credit changes and less on ID theft.

Once you have the two categories, you can focus more on features. For the Comprehensive category, you may want to focus on features that could protect existing accounts because, for over 85% of identity theft victims, the most recent incident involved the unauthorized use of an existing account.

The must-have features for this category include:

  • ID verification alerts
  • Account takeover alerts
  • Lost-wallet protection
  • ID theft victim assistance

For the Credit Reporting Bureaus category, there are really only three options to choose from: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.

In this category, the distinguishing features that made Experian and TransUnion the best are:

  • Ease of monitoring credit reports from multiple bureaus
  • The alerting functions for changes to each report
  • Best options for one-time access to your credit score and credit report
  • Ability to add certain ID theft protection features

Wrapping Up the Search

The best credit monitoring service for you will depend on what you need from the service — whether you’re more concerned with protecting yourself and your family against identity theft, building your credit, or both.

However, if you want both comprehensive ID theft protection and credit monitoring, Identity Guard is the best credit monitoring service overall.

Looking for less-expensive ways to monitor your credit? Check out our guide to the Best Free Credit Report Sites.

Editorial Note: Compensation does not influence our rankings and recommendations. However, we may earn a commission on sales from the companies featured in this post. To view a list of partners, click here. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by our advertisers. Reasonable efforts are made to present accurate info, however all information is presented without warranty. Consult our advertiser's page for terms & conditions.