Credit Repair

Best Credit Monitoring Services

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Today, scammers are coming up with elaborate schemes to steal your entire identity. And after getting a hold of your information, they can then open credit accounts in your name and go on a shopping spree, wreaking havoc on your credit profile. That’s where credit monitoring services can help, by alerting you to new credit accounts so you can react swiftly.

In 2019, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received 650,572 identity theft reports. More than 4 in 10 of those reports were related to credit card fraud, where scammers used existing accounts or opened new accounts under the victim’s name.

Stopping a thief before they cause too much damage can save you countless hours of stress trying to undo the potential harm to your credit files. We take a look at how credit monitoring services can help, and highlight some top free and paid options.

What is credit monitoring?

Credit monitoring is a service that notifies you of changes to your credit report, such as new accounts or unusual account transactions. Responding at the first sign of unauthorized activity can limit the damage a thief can do to your credit.

Besides helping you catch fraud, signing up for credit monitoring can be smart when you’re trying to improve your score. Maybe you’re trying to buy a car next year or a house in three years: A credit monitoring service that comes with regular credit score updates can help you track score growth. And don’t worry, signing up for credit monitoring won’t negatively affect your credit score — it counts as a soft inquiry.

The services included in credit monitoring can vary depending on the provider. Paid services are usually the ones that come with expanded identity theft features.

Here’s an overview of the different features you may find in a credit monitoring service:

  • Credit report alerts: Depending on the company, you could get an email alert or phone push notification when there’s a change to your credit report. The service may monitor credit reports from one, two or all three major credit bureaus.
  • Monthly credit scores: Credit monitoring may come with periodic FICO Score or VantageScore updates.
  • Credit locks: If you suspect someone has accessed your personal information, you may be able to lock and unlock your credit reports with a credit monitoring app, preventing anyone from opening a new account in your name.
  • Identity monitoring: The credit monitoring company may scan the dark web and notify you if your information is being bought or sold. Credit monitoring services may also track the use of your Social Security number (SSN), address and other personal information.
  • Fraud resolution: If your identity is stolen, customer support may be available to help you dispute credit report records and unauthorized charges to restore your identity.
    Identity theft protection: Some service packages come with identity theft insurance that covers the cost of identity restoration. It’s typical to see $1 million of coverage offered under paid subscription plans.

Pros and cons of credit monitoring

Not sure if credit monitoring is worth it? Here are a few of the pros and cons:

Pros

  • Alerts you to credit report changes and fraud.
  • May offer credit score updates that are helpful when building or rebuilding credit.
  • May scan the dark web, forums and marketplaces for your name, social security number and address.
  • May come with identity theft insurance and identity restoration support.

Cons

  • Paid credit monitoring services can be expensive.
  • Credit monitoring can’t prevent identity theft; instead, it’s a tool to help spot it.
  • Free credit monitoring services typically offer alerts from just one or two credit bureaus, instead of all three.
  • Monitoring your credit is not a quick fix if your identity has already been stolen, but can help you keep tabs on your credit, especially if you’ve been a victim of identity theft in the past. When ID theft is detected, you may need to file a report with the FTC, dispute accounts with the credit bureaus and add a fraud alert to your credit file (unless you hire a company to handle this for you).

The best free credit monitoring services

After a careful review of the free services available, we selected three free credit monitoring services below that offer free credit scores and credit report alerts on a user-friendly platform. If you’re not ready to commit to a paid monthly subscription, these companies are worth considering, because you get a lot of value for free.

CreditWise® from Capital One®

Cost Credit bureaus monitored VantageScore or FICO Score Dark web scan Identity insurance
Free TransUnion and Experian VantageScore Yes No

 

Who is it best for? CreditWise from Capital One is a free service that comes with a dark web scan feature. CreditWise will track your SSN and address and notify you if it appears online.

CreditWise monitors both your TransUnion and Experian credit reports to alert you of new credit inquiries and delinquent accounts, as well as tracking when your SSN is associated with a new address or name. You also get access to your VantageScore provided by TransUnion, and there’s a score simulator that tells you how different financial moves will impact your credit.

Experian

Cost Credit bureaus monitored VantageScore or FICO Score Dark web scan Identity insurance
Free Experian FICO Score No No

 

Who is it best for? If your main priority is tracking credit score growth, Experian’s free credit monitoring service should be at the top of your list. Experian gives you a free FICO Score, which is most commonly used by lenders to make credit decisions. The service also offers credit report change alerts about new accounts, suspicious activity and any changes to your personal information (although Experian’s paid subscription service mentioned below has more identity theft features).

If you find an error on your Experian credit report, you can dispute and track your disputes with this service. You can also take advantage of Experian Boost, a free Experian service that lets you add on-time utility, cell phone and Netflix account payments to your credit report. According to Experian, the average user who sees an increase from Experian Boost gets a 13 point boost.

Subscribers can also benefit from receiving an updated credit report every 30 days, as well as tracking of your credit balances as they rise and fall.

LendingTree

Cost Credit bureaus monitored VantageScore or FICO Score Dark web scan Identity insurance
Free TransUnion VantageScore Yes No

 

Who is it best for? LendingTree offers in-app credit monitoring through My LendingTree, available for free through the Apple and Google Play app stores. This service provides anytime access to your credit report and VantageScore provided by TransUnion. Your credit report is regularly checked for new activity, and you’re notified of changes within a day. My LendingTree also includes free dark web and identity monitoring.

There are certain circumstances where a paid credit monitoring service is what you need. Perhaps your wallet was stolen or you lost important documents during a cross-country move — the paid services below offer triple-bureau monitoring and expanded identity theft features. We selected three paid credit monitoring services based on what you get for the price.

Experian IdentityWorks Premium

Cost Credit bureaus monitored VantageScore or FICO Score Dark web scan Identity insurance
Free for 30 days and then starting at $19.99 per month (or $199.99 per year) Equifax, Experian and TransUnion FICO Score Yes Yes

 

Who is it best for? Experian IdentityWorks Premium is one of the most comprehensive services around for families. You get triple-bureau credit reports and credit score updates, and there are different packages available depending on the size of your household. You can sign up for a plan as a single adult, or for a plan package that covers two adults and up to 10 kids.

IdentityWorks Premium comes with dark web scans, SSN tracking and several other premium features, including change of address alerts, public record updates and payday loan alerts. You can lock and unlock your Experian credit profile from within the account, which prevents new accounts being opened in your name by lenders who use that credit bureau. Plus, customers are covered by up to $1 million in identity theft insurance, and there’s fraud resolution support on offer.

Experian IdentityWorks Premium has a 30-day free trial, and the price bumps up to $19.99 when the free trial is over. There’s a cheaper IdentityWorks Plus plan that’s $9.99 per month (also with a 30-day free trial) for those who are looking for credit monitoring on a budget. This plan comes with credit monitoring and daily FICO Score updates from Experian data only, rather than all three credit bureaus. Instead of up to $1 million in identity theft insurance, you get up to $500,000 in insurance.

PrivacyGuard Total Protection

Cost Credit bureaus monitored VantageScore or FICO Score Dark web scan Identity insurance
$24.99 Equifax, Experian and TransUnion VantageScore Yes Yes

 

Who is it best for? PrivacyGuard is worth considering if you want to pick and choose the services you need. PrivacyGuard gives you tiered subscription options: You can sign up for triple-bureau credit monitoring ($19.99 per month) or just identity protection ($9.99 per month). There’s also the all-inclusive Total Protection package that combines both offers and more into one service for $24.99 a month. Each plan gives you a trial for just $1 for the first 14 days and the plan automatically renews for the standard price unless you cancel.

Under the Total Protection plan, PrivacyGuard offers VantageScore tracking, 24/7 credit monitoring and a score simulator. PrivacyGuard will monitor your SSN, driver’s license, public records, bank account and debit cards, and will also monitor your children’s SSNs. Customers get lost or stolen wallet protection, up to $1 million in identity theft insurance and one-on-one fraud resolution. Plus, customers are assigned to a dedicated fraud resolution specialist should issues arise.

IdentityForce UltraSecure+Credit

Cost Credit bureaus monitored VantageScore or FICO Score Dark web scan Identity insurance
$23.95 per month or $239.50 per year Equifax, Experian and TransUnion VantageScore Yes Yes

 

Who is it best for? IdentityForce is for anyone looking for advanced identity recovery services. IdentityForce offers the UltraSecure plan for $17.95 per month (with a 14-day free trial) and the UltraSecure+Credit plan for $23.95 per month. You can get two months free if you sign up for an annual plan (at a cost of $179.50 and $239.50, respectively). Both plans come with a “white-glove” identity theft restoration services that are available to all of the people in your household, including parents, siblings and children of the primary account holder. With this service, a dedicated expert will handle making the calls and doing the paperwork necessary to restore your identity, which could save you hours of time.

To help you catch identity theft, both IdentityForce plans come with dark web scans and court records, payday loans and social media identity monitoring, while information like your SSN and address will be tracked regularly as well. Subscribers get medical ID fraud protection, lost wallet assistance and online protection tools that can protect your data while browsing the internet. IdentifyForce will also alert you to unusual bank and investment account transactions, and you get $1 million in fraud protection insurance.

Customers under the UltraSecure+ Credit plan get all of the above in addition to daily credit monitoring, VantageScores and credit reports from all three credit bureaus. The UltraSecure+Credit plan also comes with credit freezes, which lets you limit access to your credit report so thieves can’t take out credit in your name. Plus, there’s a score tracker and simulator that can help you build credit.

The bottom line

Signing up for credit monitoring can help you keep track of your score and stay on top of accounts in your name so you can nip unauthorized activity in the bud.

If you’re concerned about identity theft because your documents were stolen, you lost a Social Security card or have been a data breach victim, a credit freeze is something you can do right now to protect your identity.

A credit freeze is when you tell credit bureaus not to allow creditors to pull your credit, which can stop thieves from opening new accounts in your name. This precautionary measure could help you prevent anyone from opening new accounts in your name, but know that you’ll have to unfreeze your credit reports when you want to apply for new credit.

While it’s easy and quick to unfreeze your credit files, it can be a sticking point if you need immediate access, as you’ll have to log into your account at each bureau to request the “thaw” and how long you want the freeze to be lifted before your reports become frozen again.

 

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