Even if you can’t recite the exact numbers off the top of your head, you probably know the general range of your credit score. But what’s scary is that one out of every five consumers has an error on at least one of their credit reports, according to the FTC. Even worse, 5 percent of those errors “could lead to… paying more for products such as auto loans and insurance.” So even if you’re confident in your credit profile, you need to be checking your three credit reports for errors.
The following are some of the best credit report sites that will help you improve — and protect — your credit.
The Simple Dollar’s Top Picks for Best Credit Report Site for 2020
- Identity Guard: Best for people who want identity theft protection with a focus on credit monitoring.
- MyFICO: Best for people who want to improve their credit right now.
- Bankrate: Best for people who are new to credit monitoring.
- Honorable mentions: AnnualCreditReport.com and IdentityForce
The best credit report sites provide a complete set of credit reports and credit scores. Dan Crimmins, financial coach with New Jersey-based Crimmins Wealth Management and author of the award-winning financial blog Roots of Wealth, explains: “A good service should provide credit scores and credit reports from all three credit agencies: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. These reports allow you to verify that the information is correct and that no one is stealing your identity or committing fraud using your accounts, Social Security number, or other personal information.”
Crimmins is referencing both credit monitoring and identity theft monitoring, both of which are essential components of a top-level credit report site. Here’s a deeper look at our top picks for the best credit report sites.
Identity Guard: Best for People Who Just Want to Monitor Their Credit
Identity Guard is a credit report site for people who want set-it-and-forget-it protection. MyFICO is ready to make you an active participant in your heroic journey toward better credit, but Identity Guard is perfectly happy to let you check in once a month or so. It’s $25 per month for all three credit bureaus and includes an alert system that notifies you when changes have been made to your bank account.
This isn’t to say you can’t use Identity Guard to improve your credit. The service includes a credit analyzer that lets you test different scenarios and their effect on your credit score, including scenarios that can be completed in the next month.
Although you don’t get myFICO’s simple credit report overview, Identity Guard does let you view all three of your credit reports side by side, which is a good way to see if they’re all showing the same information or if one of them might have an error.
Identity Guard’s mobile app is pretty basic — just your credit scores, a news feed, and the option to receive alerts. However, the app is still useful because it gives you a summary of the factors that influence your credit score, in case you want to see if any of those factors can be improved.
Here are a few of Identity Guard’s other strengths:
- Identity Guard makes it easy to see if you’re fully protected. Identity Guard’s dashboard provides a quick and easy overview of your protection with a one-stop check-in.
- Identity Guard gives you thorough instructions. MyFICO and Identity Guard are both good at providing instructions and explanations, but Identity Guard is the only site to thoroughly explain the credit report dispute process, how long the process might take to complete, and what to do if the credit bureaus don’t respond within the required 30 days.
Where Identity Guard comes up short: Identity Guard doesn’t offer transaction monitoring. Identity Guard tracks black market sites differently, and only considers “notable activity.”
Bankrate: Best for People Who Are New to Credit Monitoring
Bankrate is the best credit report site for those who are new to monitoring their credit. That’s because it’s free: There’s no setup fee to use their service, and no credit card required.
New users will gain access to their TransUnion credit report, plus an analysis of their current VantageScore credit score, weekly credit report updates, and advice on how to increase their score.
The Bankrate app is clean and simple to navigate, with plenty of educational resources to help you achieve various financial goals, from improving your credit to investing or saving for retirement.
Where Bankrate falls short: Unfortunately, you won’t get your FICO score with Bankrate’s free service, and it only offers your TransUnion credit report. (However, you can still pull your other two credit reports for free once a year.) But for the price — or lack thereof — Bankrate’s credit service still gives you a quick, easy-to-understand, and up-to-date snapshot of your credit standing.
MyFICO: Best for People Who Want to Improve Their Credit
The Fair Isaac Corporation, now known as FICO, is one of the biggest names in credit scores. Its credit report service is focused on helping you get that FICO score as high as possible. While myFICO is pricey at $30 per month, which is more expensive than other three-bureau options, it’s also the best for tracking and improving your credit score. Here are a few reasons why:
MyFICO contextualizes your credit reports. Credit reports are not designed to be understood at a glance. You have to figure out, on your own, that “COMENITY BANK/ATYLRLMC” means “Ann Taylor MasterCard.” Then you have to look at every box representing every month that you’ve had that card open, to make sure there aren’t any errors, like a reported late payment when you’ve always paid on time.
MyFICO gives you everything you need to know about your credit reports on a single screen. If you want to see anything in more detail, you can click through and learn more about the positive and negative items on your credit reports — and whether you need to dispute anything.
Identity Guard and IdentityForce on the other hand, combine your three credit reports into a side-by-side comparison report, which makes it slightly easier to compare information collected by each bureau. However, the services don’t contextualize that information, which means you’re still doing the work of translating the credit report into comprehensible language.
AnnualCreditReport.com, of course, does none of that. You get your three credit reports for free, and you’re on your own.
MyFICO’s Score Simulator shows you what you can do right now to improve your credit. The Score Simulator allows you to test out various scenarios that might affect your credit, from applying for a new credit card to making your next few payments on time instead of late. If you’re thinking about applying for a home loan, myFICO gives you a list of credit-building actions to consider (and simulate) so you can see what your credit score might look like three months down the road.
As you use the Score Simulator, each of the three credit bureaus treats these actions slightly differently. Consolidating your credit card balances, for example, might make your TransUnion score go up by 10 points and your Experian score go down by 10 points.
If you’re wondering why a single action like consolidating your debt can make one credit score go up and another credit score go down, it’s because the three bureaus each analyze and value credit data differently.
If you want to get your credit score as high as possible, maybe because you’re apartment-hunting or shopping for a loan, take some time to figure out exactly which steps will get you there. The Score Simulator lets you combine actions into multi-step scenarios, like “pay down your debt” followed by “increase your credit limit.” Even if you only have one month to improve your credit, myFICO can help you boost that score.
Identity Guard and IdentityForce both offer credit simulator tools, but they don’t include myFICO’s graphics and they don’t give you as many simulation options. They also don’t suggest steps to take before applying for a mortgage or an auto loan. You can still test scenarios and their potential effects on your credit score, but the tools aren’t as versatile as the one myFICO offers.
MyFICO graphs your credit score’s ups and downs. MyFICO, Identity Guard, and Bankrate all include mobile apps that allow you to view your credit score and receive alerts, but myFICO’s app has an extra feature: a graph that illustrates how your credit score changes from day to day. (This graph is also available in the desktop interface.)
If you’re right between two credit categories (like “good” vs. “very good”), you can use these graphs — and the data they provide about why your credit score changed — to bump your credit score up into the higher category right before you apply for a car loan or do something else that might involve a credit score check. MyFICO is the only service tested that provided a credit score graph, which is one more reason it’s among our top picks.
MyFICO provides a quick link to the dispute process.All of the services tested include links or instructions to help you dispute errors on your credit report. MyFICO provided the most visible links, although Identity Guard provides the most thorough instructions.
MyFICO monitors your credit — and your day-to-day transactions. MyFICO keeps an eye on your credit report for any changes that might represent potential identity theft, such as a new credit inquiry or an address change. It also tracks your day-to-day transactions, kind of like Mint, YNAB, or other personal finance tools — but myFICO doesn’t care if you stick to your budget. MyFICO just wants to make sure that every transaction that hits your credit cards or bank accounts is actually yours.
Both myFICO and IdentityForce offer transaction monitoring — Identity Guard does not — after getting credit monitoring set up, but myFICO offers the superior monitoring tool.
With myFICO, you can set up alerts to notify you every time one of your accounts has a transaction over a certain dollar amount. That’s what IdentityForce offers, too, but here’s where myFICO does it one better: With myFICO, you can also set up balance change alerts to flag any unusual spending patterns. The idea is that if you usually put $200 to $250 on your credit card every month, myFICO will let you know if there are charges over that amount. Those charges just might be from an identity thief.
MyFICO alerts you of potential identity theft threats. On the subject of identity theft: MyFICO also constantly searches black market websites for your personal information. Identity Guard and IdentityForce also scan black market websites, but myFICO is the only service that sends black market alerts.
Where myFICO falls short: The downside, of course, is that myFICO is pricey. But you get what you pay for: between its Score Simulator and other resources, and the tight watch it keeps on your transactions and personal information, myFICO is ready to be the credit mentor you’ve always wanted.
Best Credit Report Site, Honorable Mentions
AnnualCreditReport.com is the free credit report site developed as a response to the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, aka FACTA. The federal government and the credit bureaus agreed that everyone has the right to one free credit report from each of the three bureaus every year, and AnnualCreditReport.com is where you go to get them.
Can you get by with just AnnualCreditReport.com? Absolutely. If you’re able to get a copy from each of the credit reporting agencies every few months, you should be able to spot any errors or issues with your report in a timely manner.
But be prepared for a more labor-intensive process. AnnualCreditReport.com is super bare-bones, and the website looks like it hasn’t been updated much since 2003. The site provides a few educational resources, but you have to do the work of pulling your credit reports — which only takes about 10 minutes, but still — and scanning them for errors and potential identity theft issues yourself. You also have to remember to check one of your three credit reports every four months, if that’s your plan.
IdentityForce provides all of the essential tools you need to monitor your credit report and boost your credit score. It’s got credit report monitoring, transaction monitoring, identity theft monitoring, and a simulator to let you see how opening new credit cards or transferring balances might affect your credit score. But none of its features are better than the competitors, and at $19.99 per month for the package that offers daily credit monitoring, it’s about the same as Identity Guard and less than myFICO. It offers transaction monitoring, but not balance change monitoring; it has a credit simulator, but the simulator doesn’t have graphics, and it doesn’t have a mobile app.
Are paid credit report sites worth the cost?
Don’t discount paid credit report sites just because you’re on a budget. The best credit report sites are worth the money — and you may not need to pay that much to use them.
Since myFICO, Identity Guard, and IdentityForce all offer monthly subscriptions, you could sign up for a credit report site for just a few months, check your credit report, dispute errors, and run a few simulations. That would be the thrifty way to get the benefits of a credit report site without paying for a long-term subscription. If you like what you’re getting, or want to spend more time focusing on improving your credit score, you might decide that the credit report site is worth the money.
Think of credit report sites as ‘preventative maintenance.’
Even if your credit is good, you can still benefit from a credit report site. By starting, early you’ll accomplish a few things:
- You’ll know how credit works, so you’ll be less likely to get into trouble or be surprised later.
- You’ll take actions that improve your credit intentionally, instead of accidentally backing into good credit.
- When you need credit, it will be available to you.
Don’t let a credit repair company ruin your credit.
If you’re considering using a credit repair company to improve your credit, be aware that there are a lot of unscrupulous credit repair services out there. It will also cost you hundreds of dollars for a service that might not actually do you that much good. The Simple Dollar has a guide explaining how to tell if a credit repair company is a scam, and we’d suggest reading that thoroughly before signing up with any sites. (Beware of any company that claims it can give you a “new credit identity,” because that identity is very likely to be stolen.)
Even the good credit repair companies are only going to be able to do the same kinds of things you can do on your own, like analyzing your report for errors and starting the dispute process.
You can improve your credit in the short term, but it’s also important to think long term.
When you start poking around a credit report site, you’re probably interested in how to get that credit score up as soon as possible. There are ways to improve your credit score quickly, but it’s important to know that your credit is also likely to slowly improve over the long term if you continue to practice good credit habits.
There’s also this thing called “aging your credit,” which essentially means that the longer you have a credit account open and in good standing, the more influence it has on your credit score. If you have negative items on your credit report, from late payments to bankruptcy, those items will have less influence on your credit score over time, and many negative items disappear completely after seven years.
So think of what you can do today to improve your credit, but also think of what you want to start doing now to make sure that your credit looks good as it ages. If you need help, use one of those credit simulator tools mentioned earlier, and see what might happen to your credit in the next few years.
The Bottom Line
Even if you’re already well-acquainted with your credit score, it’s still important to regularly review your credit report and monitor it for errors and potential identity theft. The best credit report sites take care of the monitoring for you while giving you tools and advice to help you improve your credit.
If you’re looking to power-level your credit score, try myFICO. If you’d like a general monitoring package, consider Identity Guard. If you’re on a budget, combine Bankrate’s free monitoring service with AnnualCreditReport.com for your free annual credit reports — but make sure to read them carefully, because one out of five is likely to find an error.