Are you looking for a way to protect your credit information? Data breaches and identity theft are all too common. As a result, it’s up to you to protect your identity.
Are you a credit card fraud victim? If so, credit monitoring is one of the first steps to repair your credit score. Even if you aren’t a fraud victim yet, it’s never too soon to monitor your credit.
You can monitor your credit yourself for free. You’re entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the three credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian) at AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also get a free credit score online including many credit cards.
Still, I have used credit monitoring services for almost 10 years. That’s because you enjoy more benefits when you pay for monitoring.
Table of Contents
- Consider These Credit Monitoring Services
- FAQs About Credit Monitoring Services
Consider These Credit Monitoring Services
Each service monitors your credit report for unusual activity. You can receive alerts for new credit cards and loans. However, each service provide different benefits and features.
Most companies offer several premium plans. For instance, $20 a month might let you monitor your credit reports. But $25 a month might also get you identity theft monitoring. These deluxe plans look for fraud outside your credit report.
1. Credit Karma
Credit Karma is one of the best free credit monitoring services. For starters, you get a free VantageScore 3.0 credit score and credit report. This information updates weekly from Equifax and TransUnion.
The VantageScore 3.0 credit score isn’t nearly as widely used by lenders as FICO credit scores. But it gives you a firm idea of how healthy your credit profile is.
I also use Credit Karma to monitor my credit reports for reporting errors. Also take time to see if there are any accounts you don’t recognize.
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You will receive credit monitoring alerts when questionable events happen. For instance, I got an alert after opening a new online savings account. They also send alerts when you repay a loan in full.
Credit Karma also offers free data breach monitoring. Since 2012, I know of two leaked passwords stemming from nine public data breaches.
At this time, Credit Karma doesn’t offer family monitoring plans. You will need to pay for a premium plan from another service.
Why We Like Credit Karma
- Free credit monitoring alerts
- Free data breach and stolen password tracking
- Access credit score for free
- Free credit report from Equifax and TransUnion
Read our full Credit Karma review to see all the credit tools available.
2. Credit Sesame
Free credit monitoring is available with Credit Sesame. But their paid plans offer more extensive protection. Each month, your TransUnion VantageScore credit score updates.
All members get $50,000 of identity theft insurance for free. You don’t get this perk at Credit Karma. Unlike Credit Karma, you can’t see public data breach alerts.
Free Credit Monitoring
A free monitoring service can be good to start with. Although you may upgrade to a paid plan for extra protection.
You will get credit report alerts when unusual activity happens on your TransUnion report.
For peace of mind, Credit Sesame offers $50,000 of free protection when these events happen:
- Fraud or embezzlement
- Data breach
- Stolen identity event
However, this insurance doesn’t cover every expense. Like any insurance policy, review the policy terms to know what’s covered and what isn’t. Still, it’s not every day that you can get $50,000 in free identity theft insurance.
Premium Credit Monitoring
Credit Sesame has three monitoring plans with a monthly fee:
- Advanced Credit: $9.95 per month
- Pro Credit: $15.95 per month
- Platinum Protection: $19.95 per month
These plans can be a good option if you are an identity theft victim. And also if you want more peace of mind.
All paid plans come with $1 million identity theft insurance instead of the $50,000 coverage you get with the free plan.
The Advanced and Pro plans monitor all three credit bureaus. However, these two plans aren’t ideal if you want identity theft protection.
The Platinum Protection plan has these identity protection benefits:
- Black market website monitoring
- Public records monitoring
- Social Security number monitoring
Identity monitoring helps find events that don’t appear on your credit report. It’s possible to spot payday loans, court records and improper Social Security number use.
Why We Like Credit Sesame
- Free $50,000 identity theft protection insurance
- Free TransUnion credit score
- Three premium monitoring plans if free coverage isn’t enough
Read our Credit Sesame review to decide if it’s the best option.
MoneyTips provides personal advice for building credit and getting out of debt. You can also monitor your credit while building credit. The three credit monitoring plans cost $0, $11.95 or $29.95 per month.
All three plans offer free financial planning tools. These tools tach you about credit and getting out of debt. For example, you can see “how much house you can afford.” Or compare interest rates before getting a loan.
The free “Essentials Plan” provides your TransUnion credit score and credit report for free each month. You also receive text and email credit report alerts.
You get free instructions to restore your stolen identity as well. To receive a more guided service, you must upgrade to a paid plan.
The Premium Plan costs $11.95 a month after a 7-day free trial. First, your credit score and report updates four times monthly. Alerts also include Social Security Number and court records monitoring. MoneyTips also alerts you if someone directs your mail to another address.
This plan provides up to $1 million in theft insurance.
For $24.95 monthly, the Elite Plan monitors all three credit bureau scores and reports. Alerts broadcast for unusual bank account activity. For instance, thieves can hack into your bank and investment accounts.
You also receive credit monitoring alerts from all three bureaus.
This plan also has a credit score simulator and score tracker. These tools help monitor your credit-building progress.
Why We Like MoneyTips
- Free TransUnion credit score monitoring
- Up to $1 million identity theft insurance
- Three-bureau monitoring is available
- Offers personal tips for improving credit and getting out of debt
Maybe the best-known identity monitoring service is LifeLock. Their plans also provide credit monitoring.
The more expensive plans offer more in-depth credit monitoring:
- Standard: $9.99 per month
- Advantage: $19.99 per month
- Ultimate Plus: $29.99 per month
All three plans offer up to $1 million in lawyers and experts coverage. Each plan offers reimbursement for stolen funds and personal expenses.
You will also get dark web monitoring, credit alerts and the LifeLock Privacy Monitor with all three plans.
Lifelock Standard Plan
Credit report alerts come from changes to your Equifax credit report. The Lifelock Standard Plan also has Social Security number alerts.
Social Security number alerts come from these unusual business transactions:
- Financial identity theft. False applications for loans, credit cards and bank accounts
- Government identity theft. False tax returns filed in order to get a tax refund
- Criminal identity theft. A criminal provides your personal information to law enforcement instead of their own
- Medical identity theft. A criminal uses your information for medical expenses
- Utility fraud. Your information is used to start new water, gas, electric or phone services
This plan only shows your credit score and credit report once a year. One choice is ugrading to the Advantage Plan. Another option is using a free credit score site.
Lifelock Advantage Plan
The Advantage Plan also includes benefits:
- Bank and credit card activity alerts
- Data breach alerts
- An annual viewing of your VantageScore and Equifax credit report
- Fictitious identity monitoring, which scans for names and addresses connected to your Social Security number.
- Alerts about crimes committed in your name
Lifelock Ultimate Plus
The Ultimate Plus plan offers these advanced alerts:
- 401k and investment activity alerts
- Bank account takeover and new account alerts
- File-sharing network searches
- Sex offender registry reports
You also get monthly VantageScore credit score tracking from Equifax. Every year, you can see your credit report from each bureau. Plus, LifeLock shows your credit score from Experian and TransUnion once a year.
Why We Like LifeLock
- Up to $1 million in identity theft protection
- Can add Norton Security to protect electronic devices
- One of the oldest credit monitoring services
You might consider MyFICO for accessing your FICO credit score.
Many monitoring services show your VantageScore credit score. But most lenders use the FICO credit score to approve your credit request. MyFICO lets you see the same scores the lender sees.
You get monthly updates for 10 different FICO score versions. Ten different credit scores might seem excessive. However, each score version is for different types of credit requests.
For instance, auto lenders might use the FICO Auto Score 8. It emphasizes your past auto loan payments more than your other loan payments. On the other hand, online mortgage companies might use the Experian FICO Score 5. This score version is less forgiving of unpaid collection accounts. As a result, larger loans can be harder to qualify for.
FICO Basics 1B vs. FICO Ultimate 3B
Our full MyFICO review looks at these services in more detail. For now, here is a basic overview of the three monitoring plans. The plan either offer to monitor from one or three bureaus.
Each plan includes $1 million in identity theft insurance. Identity theft support is available 24/7.
To help you pick the best plan, answer these two questions:
- Do you want to monitor your report from one bureau or three bureaus?
- Do you want MyFICO to provide monthly or quarterly updates?
FICO Basics 1B
The Basics 1B (one bureau) plan costs $19.95 per month. You get a monthly update of your credit score from Experian.
It’s important to note this plan doesn’t provide dark web monitoring. If you want that added protection and don’t mind receiving your VantageScore instead of your FICO score, the Credit Sesame Platinum Protection costs the same amount and offers dark web monitoring.
Otherwise, you must enroll in a three bureau (3B) plan for dark web monitoring.
FICO Ultimate 3B
For $29.95 a month, the Ultimate 3B plan has quarterly credit score and credit report updates. These updates come from all three credit bureaus. But all the other plan benefits are the same.
Finally, dark web monitoring comes with all 3B plans.
FICO Ultimate 3B+
The Ultimate 3B+ plan has identical monitoring benefits as the Ultimate 3B. Although you get monthly credit bureau updates instead. This plan costs $39.95 a month.
Why We Like MyFICO
- Can view your FICO credit score
- Up to $1 million in identity theft insurance
- Dark web monitoring with either 3B plan
It’s possible going directly to the credit bureau is your best option. Experian provides your FICO credit score. All plans have identity theft monitoring.
Single person and family plans are available. Family plans monitor up to 10 children.
The other two credit bureaus — Equifax and TransUnion — also offer credit monitoring services. But Experian may have the strongest plan benefits. This is because you can see your FICO credit score.
Going directly through Experian lets you request a credit freeze faster. In a moment, you can freeze or unfreeze your Experian credit report.
You still need to call Equifax and TransUnion to freeze and unfreeze your reports from those agencies. However, it’s still faster than having to contact all three bureaus, which is what you have to do if you go with an independent monitoring service.
Experian’s basic IdentityWorks Plus plan costs $9.99 monthly and offers these benefits:
- Daily FICO credit score updates
- Credit report alerts for your Experian credit report only
- Social Security number and address change monitoring
- Up to $500,000 in identity theft insurance
Family plans cost $14.99 monthly for one adult and $24.99 monthly for two adults. Either family plan covers up to 10 children.
For $19.99 a month you get daily FICO credit score updates from Experian, plus:
- Quarterly FICO credit score updates from Equifax and TransUnion
- Credit report alerts from all three credit bureaus
- Dark web monitoring
- Up to $1 million in identity theft insurance
Family plans cost $19.99 monthly for one adult and $29.99 monthly for two adults. With either plan, you can add up to 10 children.
Why We Like Experian
- FICO credit score updates
- Identity theft monitoring, plus Experian credit report monitoring
- Can quickly request an Experian credit freeze
- Family plans monitor up to 10 children
7. Identity Guard
Identity Guard has three plans to protect your identity. Only the mid-tier and top-tier plans credit monitoring. This is only a good option if you can spend at least $19.99 monthly.
Identity Guard is one of the few companies that offer family plans.
All plans use IBM Watson technology to monitor your online information. You may see alerts when your personal information is used for high-risk activities like payday loan applications, wire transfers and tax refunds. Finally, all plans reimburse stolen funds and have $1 million in identity theft insurance.
Obviously, the individual plans cost less than family plans:
- Value: $8.99 per month
- Total: $19.99 per month
- Premier: $24.99 per month
Credit monitoring only comes with the Total or Premier plan.
With the Total Plan, you can access your TransUnion VantageScore 3.0 credit score. You also receive credit report alerts from all three bureaus. Identity Guard provides credit alerts from Experian and TransUnion.
The Premier Plan shows your credit reports from all three bureaus once a year. The two cheaper plans don’t let you view your credit reports. But you can request them for free once a year from AnnualCreditReport.com.
Premier members also get Facebook timeline. Expect an alert if providing too much information.
The family plans make it easy to protect your entire family.
All three family plans monitor your children’s information on the dark web. The Premier plan monitors social media accounts for cyberbullying.
For credit monitoring, you still need the Total or Premier plan options:
- Value Family Plan: $14.99 per month
- Total Family Plan: $24.99 per month
- Premier Family Plan: $34.99 per month
Why We Like Identity Guard
- Family plans can save you money
- Credit monitoring sends you alerts from all three credit bureaus
- Can be one of the cheapest ways to get dark web monitoring
You have two different plan options with IdentityForce. But the basic plan doesn’t offer credit monitoring. Both plans offer identity monitoring.
The entry-level UltraSecure plan costs $17.95 per month but doesn’t provide credit monitoring.
For identity monitoring and credit monitoring, you need the UltraSecure+Credit. That plan costs $23.95 a month.
You can enjoy these services:
- Credit report monitoring for all three credit bureaus
- Real-time access to your VantageScore 3.0 credit score from all three bureaus
- Dark web monitoring
- $1 million identity theft insurance
Family plans are also available. However, you will need to call IdentityForce for a quote.
Why We Like IdentityForce
- Credit monitoring for all three credit bureaus
- Real-time access to your credit score and credit reports from all three bureaus
- $1 million identity theft insurance
FAQs About Credit Monitoring Services
Credit monitoring isn’t something we think of on a daily basis. Below are a few common questions you might have.
What is Credit Monitoring?
Credit monitoring is watching your credit report for possible fraud. They’ll send you an alert when they detect the following:
- Credit card applications
- Loan applications
- New bank account openings
- “Hard” credit checks that impact your credit score
Credit monitoring companies don’t know which actions you authorize. So they send alerts for you to verify unusual transactions. If you don’t recognize the transaction, contact the monitoring service. Most plans offer personal help to correct the problem.
Free credit monitoring services monitor at least one credit bureau. But you may not get identity monitoring. If you only want credit report alerts, this is probably all you need.
Paying for a plan can offer identity theft protection. Most services can monitor your credit report from all three bureaus. These extra benefits can help you spot fraud sooner instead of later.
Credit Monitoring vs. Identity Theft Protection
Many credit monitoring services offer identity protection.
It’s easy to confuse the two services but there are a few differences:
- Credit monitoring only looks for unusual activity on your credit report
- Identity monitoring looks for unusual activity that might not appear on your credit report
A new bank account, credit card or loan in your name creates a credit alert. These events and credit checks appear on your credit report.
But not every financial transaction lands your credit report. For instance, someone might use your Social Security number to get a payday loan. A thief may use your health insurance to get medical care. Without identity monitoring, you might not find out until you receive the bill in the mail.
Don’t forget, most premium plans offer a support line you can call. They will help you restore your identity.
Does Credit Monitoring Prevent Identity Theft?
By itself, credit monitoring doesn’t prevent identity theft. This is because it’s reactive. You don’t find out until the unauthorized activity happens.
Choosing strong and unique passwords is one way to prevent identity theft. Another option is using a different password for each account.
Requesting a credit freeze is the best protection. You will need to request a freeze from each credit bureau separately. You can freeze and unfreeze your credit by phone, mail or the credit bureau website.
What Is A Credit Freeze?
A credit freeze means banks can’t perform a credit check. With frozen credit, you can’t get a new loan or credit card. You will need to unfreeze your credit before authorizing a credit check.
Keep in mind that credit freezes don’t stop every misdeed. If the activity doesn’t appear on your credit report, then a credit freeze alone won’t trigger an alert.
Should I Get Credit Monitoring for Every Credit Bureau?
It’s best to get credit monitoring alerts from each bureau. But it depends on how much money you are willing to spend.
Free credit monitoring services don’t monitor all three bureaus.
So you must decide if these two free services meet your needs:
- Credit Karma: Monitors Equifax and TransUnion credit reports
- Credit Sesame: Monitors your TransUnion credit report
For three-bureau monitoring, Credit Sesame plans start at $15.95 monthly.
Credit monitoring services are an easy way to protect your credit. Monitoring your credit in real time can prevent stress and unpleasant surprises when you apply for credit.
What do you think is the best credit monitoring service? Are you willing to pay extra to have identity monitoring services, too? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page.