By the time you turn 18 in America, you know that a lot can hang on the balance of your credit score from loan eligibility, to insurance rates, to even your ability to open a phone service account. Unfortunately, over 16 million American were victims of identity theft or credit card fraud in 2019, which can wreak havoc on a credit score.
Keeping a close eye on your credit score and report is not a luxury -- it's a necessity. You need to be watching it closely. Doing so, will help you detect identity theft or misuse of your credit before someone throws your entire financial life into a tailspin.
If you have a goal to buy a house or take out some other type of loan in the near future, monitoring your credit can help you improve your score so you can qualify for better interest rates. And if you'd like to refinance your student loans down the road, strong credit will, again, be important.
Thankfully, there are several strong credit monitoring services that can help you stay on top of your credit. The best credit monitoring services will notify you whenever they notice anything suspicious on your reports and may even offer advice on how to improve your score. Keep reading to see which credit monitoring services we like the most.
The 6 Best Credit Monitoring Services
There are two key factors to consider when you’re choosing a credit monitoring service. First, you'll want to pay attention to the cost. Some credit monitoring services are free, while others require that you pay a monthly or annual fee.
It’s also important to check to see if the monitoring service covers only one credit reporting bureau, two, or all three. Let’s jump into talking about six of the best credit monitoring services that will help you watch your credit so you don’t become a victim.
1. Credit Karma
Credit Karma is one the best credit monitoring services on the market today. And a big reason is that it's one of the only services that's truly FREE.
While many credit monitoring services charge $10+ per month to show your credit report and scores, Credit Karma never even asks for a credit card number. Their free service even includes helpful credit advice and will notify you if it's been discovered that you personal information was exposed in a data breach.
How are they able to do offer all of this for free? Credit Karma's has an advertising business model. When you use their platform, they will recommend credit cards or loans that they think you'd be a good fit for. But by no means are you forced to apply with any of their partners. You can happily use Credit Karma for free forever.
Credit Karma allows you to monitor your TransUnion and Equifax credit reports. Every time you sign into the Credit Karma portal, you'll also see your credit score which is based on the VantageScore 3.0 model. However, if you're wanting to see your Experian report and score, you'll need to use a different service.
2. Credit Sesame
Next on our list of best credit monitoring services is Credit Sesame. Like Credit Karma, you can use Credit Sesame completely for free -- no credit card required.
In addition to helping you keep tabs on your credit, Credit Sesame offer free identity theft insurance coverage. Here's what the free insurance covers:
Credit Sesame's free plan only provides your TransUnion credit report and score. But if you'd like monitoring for all three of the major credit bureaus, you can upgrade to one of their paid plans which start at $9.95 per month.
3. Experian IdentityWorks
If you are looking for a credit monitoring service that can protect you and your family, Experian IdentityWorks may be worth considering. Their credit monitoring covers all three of the major bureaus in the United States. You can try Experian IdentityWorks free for 30 days and then it starts at $9.99 per month for one adult.
If you have a spouse and kids and would like to monitor your credit as a family (a spouse and up to 10 children), Experian IdentityWorks has a $19.99 per month plan you can sign up for. Or if you’re a single parent, you can monitor your credit and that of up to 10 children for $14.99 per month.
Experian IdentityWorks offers identity theft monitoring with dark web surveillance and alerts. They also offer fraud resolution with up to $1 million of identity theft insurance. This coverage could replace stolen funds linked to unauthorized electronic transactions and lost wages.
IdentityForce takes credit monitoring and brings it to a whole new level. They not only monitor your credit, but your entire identity to make sure you're protected.
IdentityForce will keep an eye on your credit, but also look for fraud, people trying to change your address, bank alerts, dark web monitoring of your information, and more. Of course, you also get the basics like your credit score once a month.
The basic plan starts at $14.99 per month, but if you want the credit monitoring, you need the UltraSecure+Credit Plan, which is $19.99 per month (if you sign up for a year of service – you get two months for free).
5. FICO Ultimate 3B Credit Monitoring
Most of the credit monitoring services we've covered base the credit scores they provide on the VantageScore 3.0 model. But if you'd like to see your actual FICO® score, you can go right to the source. For $29.95 per month, FICO® Ultimate 3B credit monitoring gives you quarterly access to a new credit report from all 3 bureaus.
As a consumer, it’s important for you to know that your credit score is calculated in very different ways depending on the industry that is pulling your credit. For example, the score that FICO® provides to mortgage banks can can be slightly different than the one that auto loan lenders see.
FICO® Ultimate 3B gives you access to 28 of the most commonly used FICO® score versions. This makes it easier for you to monitor your credit and improve on it where necessary depending on the type of loan you plan to apply for.
You can expect to find your most reliable credit score with FICO® Ultimate 3B because of this model. FICO® Ultimate 3B will also provide you with identity theft insurance of up to $1 million.
6. Identity Guard
Identity Guard credit monitoring starts at $7.50 per month for individuals and $12.50 per month for the entire family. They're the only one of the credit monitoring services that offers identity theft protection powered by IBM Watson Artificial Intelligence.
Identity Guard's plans offer features like 3-bureau monthly credit scores and reports and a personalized risk management score. They also have tools to help you browse the internet safely and anti-phishing software that will pick up on emails trying to steal your information.
Bonus tip: your bank may offer credit monitoring services too. Several major banks, such as Chase Bank, Capital One, and Wells Fargo offer free credit scores and reporting to their customers.
However, these free products usually lack features like identity theft reporting and insurance. So while it is okay to start with your bank, the credit monitoring services we mentioned in this post offer the best blend of the robust monitoring that you really need at prices you can afford.
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.