If you haven’t been monitoring your credit up to this point, there’s no time like the present. Your credit score isn’t just a tool to help you get a loan. It’s also a barometer of the health and security of your overall credit situation.
First, by monitoring your credit on a regular basis, you’ll have an opportunity to raise your credit score over time. That could include a combination of continuing to pay all your obligations on time, lowering your loan and credit card balances, and disputing or correcting credit errors.
But just as important, credit monitoring is your first line of defense for detecting identity theft. This is usually discovered when your credit report reveals a new loan or some other suspicious activity taken in your name. Credit monitoring gives you an opportunity to intervene in those situations, which will help to at least limit the damage.
For that reason, you should select the best credit monitoring service for your needs, and keep an eye on the situation from now on.
The 9 Best Credit Monitoring Services of 2021
Here are the 9 best credit monitoring services you can start using today:
- PrivacyGuard: Best Overall Credit Monitoring Service
- Credit Karma: Best Free Option
- IdentityForce: Best for Additional Features
- Identity Guard: Best for Plan Options
- Experian IdentityWorks: Best for Annual Discount
- myFICO Ultimate 3B Credit Monitoring: Best Comprehensive Plan
- Transunion Credit Monitoring: Best One Bureau Monitoring
- LifeLock: Best for Security Features
- Credit Sesame: Best Alternative Free Option
PrivacyGuard provides your VantageScore credit scores for each of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. It’s not your actual FICO Score, but an educational score meant to approximate your FICO Score. They will accurately track the activity on your credit reports, and alert you to changes in your credit score and the activity on your reports.
But PrivacyGuard goes well beyond credit monitoring. They provide monitoring of nearly all aspects of your financial and online existence. And they even have personnel available to help you with an identity theft situation, as well as ID theft insurance to cover you for certain losses. They offer three different plans, each with its own monthly fee and special features.
- Number of credit bureaus monitored: All three
- Credit score monitoring: Yes, the frequency depends on the plan selected
- Credit alerts: Yes
- Other features: Public and Dark Web scanning, monitoring of your Social Security number, driver’s license and passport, bank accounts, debit and credit cards, USPS address change, email, phone, name, date of birth, public records, and ID/application verification; also provides online fraud assistance, $1 million in ID theft insurance, lost and stolen wallet protection, secure browser and keyboard apps, and an annual public records report
- Cost: Identity Protection, $9.99 per month; Credit Protection, $19.99 per month; Total Protection, $24.99 per month; all plans start at $1 for the first 14 days, and will automatically renew for the plan selected unless canceled during the trial period
Credit Karma is the largest and best-known of the free credit score providers. And free means free. They don’t even require you to put a credit card on file. In exchange, you’ll be presented with offers for credit cards and loans you’re likely to qualify for. Credit Karma will receive compensation from those lenders if you secure financing through one of them.
Overall, this is a solid credit monitoring service, providing most of the features you’ll need to keep track of your credit score and credit profile. Like most free credit score providers, Credit Karma doesn’t provide your actual FICO Scores, but your VantageScore 3.0, which is an educational score meant to approximate your FICO Score.
- Number of credit bureaus monitored: TransUnion and Equifax
- Credit score updates: Yes
- Credit alerts: Yes
- Other features: Recommends loan and credit card offers you’re likely to qualify for; free tax preparation service
- Cost: Free
Learn More: Read our full Credit Karma Review.
IdentityForce has grown to become one of the most popular credit monitoring and ID theft protection services in the industry. They offer two different plans, and while their fee structure is higher than many other services, they offer more features and protections than most.
They offer two plans, UltraSecure and UltraSecure+Credit, but only the latter plan offers credit reports, monitoring, and scores from all three bureaus. (The UltraSecure plan doesn’t offer credit monitoring.) UltraSecure+Credit also offers a credit score tracker to track your credit scores with a month-by-month graph, and a credit score simulator that will allow you to run credit scenarios to determine the impact that certain changes will have on your credit scores.
- Number of credit bureaus updated: All three credit bureaus on the UltraSecure+Credit plan
- Credit score monitoring: Yes, on the UltraSecure+Credit plan
- Credit alerts: Yes, on the UltraSecure+Credit
- Other features: Monitoring of advanced fraud, change of address, court records, Dark Web, mobile attack, payday loans, sex offender registry, and social media identity; alerts for bank and credit card activity, investment accounts, identity threats, fraud, and smart Social Security number tracker; medical ID fraud protection, online personal computer protection tools, lost wallet assistance; identity theft insurance for $1 million, fully managed identity restoration, and toll-free customer service
- Cost: UltraSecure, $17.99 per month, or $179.90 per year (comes with a 30 day free trial); UltraSecure+Credit, $23.99 per month or $239.90 per year
Identity Guard is another of the biggest names in identity theft protection, but a company that also offers complete credit monitoring. They have three plans to fit just about any budget, but only two offer credit monitoring.
The Total plan provides one-bureau monthly credit scores and three-bureau credit monitoring. The Ultra plan has a three-bureau annual credit report added to the menu. But both plans, as well as the basic Value plan, offer extensive monitoring and ID theft protection services. Monthly credit scores are provided as an educational score issued by TransUnion. Since it only covers a single bureau, Identity Guard is not recommended if you are primarily looking for a credit monitoring service.
- Number of credit bureaus monitored: All three on the Total and Ultra plans
- Credit score updates: Yes, on the Total and Ultra plans
- Credit alerts: Yes, on the Total and Ultra plans
- Other features: Risk management report, data breach notifications, monitoring, high-risk transaction monitoring, safe browsing tool, $1 million identity theft insurance, Dark Web monitoring; bank account monitoring on the Total plan; white glove resolution concierge, bank account monitoring, social media insights report, credit and debit card monitoring, 401(k) investment account monitoring, criminal and sex offense monitoring, home title monitoring, and USPS address change monitoring on Ultra plan
- Cost: Value plan (no credit monitoring), $8.99 per month; Total plan, $19.99 per month; Ultra plan $29.99 per month; all three plans offer a 17% discount if you pay annually
Experian IdentityWorks has the advantage of providing complete credit monitoring and ID theft protection services from Experian, which is the largest of the three major credit bureaus. But in addition to monitoring your Experian credit report, they also monitor your reports from Equifax and TransUnion, giving you comprehensive credit monitoring coverage.
They offer two plans, IdentityWorks Plus and IdentityWorks Premium. Each will provide you with your Experian FICO Scores on a daily basis. But the Premium plan will also add quarterly three-bureau FICO Scores. Each plan also comes with credit score tracking, use of the FICO Score Simulator (to run credit “what if” scenarios), and access to different credit scores, such as those for auto, home, and credit card loans.
- Number of credit bureaus monitored: One only on the Plus Plan, All three on the Premium Plan
- Credit score updates: Daily for your Experian FICO Score
- Credit alerts: Yes
- Other features: Dark Web surveillance, identity theft insurance, US-based fraud resolution specialist, lost wallet assistance, multiple identity theft monitoring and alerts, real-time alerts on attempted credit inquiries, and lock and unlock your Experian credit file with Experian CreditLock
- Cost: Plus plan, $9.99 per month; Premium plan, $19.99 per month; each plan is offered free for the first 30 days, and also gives you an opportunity to save 17% off the subscription price if you pay in full annually
myFICO Ultimate 3B Credit Monitoring
One of the advantages with myFICO Ultimate 3B Credit Monitoring is that myFICO is part of the organization that is behind FICO Score. It’s like going right to the source. They offer a single plan — Ultimate 3B — that monitors your identity, your credit, and FICO Scores for all three major credit bureaus.
For a single monthly fee, you’ll have regular access to your FICO Score from all three major credit bureaus. But you’ll also have access to up to 28 different versions of your FICO Score (if you weren’t already aware, there are different FICO scores for different loan types, including credit cards, car loans, mortgages, and other financing arrangements). The service also comes with identity theft monitoring, much like many of the other services on this list.
- Number of credit bureaus monitored: All three credit bureaus
- Credit score updates: Yes, daily
- Credit alerts: Yes
- Other features: One-time identity analysis report, black-market websites surveillance alerts, detailed FICO Score analysis, Social Security number alias watch, quarterly access to a new three-bureau credit report, identity theft monitoring, lost wallet protection, 24/7 identity restoration, $1 million ID theft insurance
- Cost: $29.95 per month
Transunion Credit Monitoring
Like Experian, TransUnion is one of the three major credit bureaus. That’s why Transunion Credit Monitoring may be of special interest to you. As a credit bureau, they offer some advanced credit services. This includes credit protection, a credit score simulator, a credit lock feature for your TransUnion and Equifax credit reports, and identity protection.
The disadvantage with TransUnion Credit Monitoring is that it doesn’t extend to either Equifax or Experian. And as the smallest of the three major credit bureaus, the information contained in your TransUnion credit report may not be as comprehensive as the other two.
- Number of credit bureaus monitored: TransUnion only
- Credit score updates: Yes, monthly
- Credit alerts: Yes
- Other features: $25,000 in identity theft insurance
- Cost: $24.95 per month
Due to its extensive advertising campaign on both TV and the Web, LifeLock is almost certainly the best-known identity theft protection service in the industry. LifeLock has joined forces with Norton, one of the top names in Internet security. But they also offer regular credit monitoring with their identity theft protection service. They also offer more plan levels than their competitors, allowing you to choose the program that works best for you.
Each of the four plans provides some level of credit monitoring that becomes more comprehensive on the premium plans. The credit score provided is the educational score, VantageScore 3.0, and not your actual FICO Score. Three of the four plans offer credit monitoring of a single bureau, while only the Ultimate Plus plan covers all three.
It’s important to remember that LifeLock is primarily an identity theft protection service, and not necessarily the right choice for someone who is primarily interested in credit monitoring.
- Number of credit bureaus monitored: One bureau on all plans, except the Ultimate Plus plan that includes all three major credit bureaus
- Credit score updates: Not offered on Standard and Select plans; annual credit score on one bureau on the Advantage plan, and on all three bureaus on the Ultimate Plus plan
- Credit alerts: Yes, one bureau
- Other features: Probably the most extensive identity theft protection suite in the industry
- Cost: $9.99 per month for both the Standard and Select plans; $17.99 per month for the Advantage plan; $25.99 per month for the Ultimate Plus plan; however, be aware that all prices are for the first year and will increase in the second year
Much like Credit Karma, Credit Sesame provides your credit score free. You don’t even need to put a credit card on file, since you will never be charged. And again, like Credit Karma, the service is compensated by providing loan and credit card offers from third parties, for which Credit Sesame will be paid should you choose to sign up for any.
Your credit score will be provided by TransUnion only, so the coverage may not be entirely comprehensive. But if you’re only looking for a simple, no-cost, credit-monitoring service, Credit Sesame is one of the best in the business.
- Number of credit bureaus monitored: One, TransUnion
- Credit score updates: Yes, as they become available
- Credit alerts: Yes, in real-time
- Other features: Factors affecting your credit score will be provided, in addition to $50,000 in identity theft protection and restoration
- Cost: Free
Which is the Best Credit Monitoring Service?
There’s probably no definitive answer to that question. What really matters is the level of credit monitoring you’re looking for. If you’re only looking to monitor your credit casually, you can get the job done using one of the free credit-monitoring services listed below.
If you want enhanced credit monitoring, you can choose a premium service. There are several on this list, and each offers a different service level. The most comprehensive will include monitoring of all three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Most, however, will cover only one or two bureaus.
You should also be aware that there is a close connection between credit monitoring and identity theft protection services. Several of the companies on this list specialize in identity theft protection but also provide credit-monitoring services, sometimes extensively.
There’s no single best credit-monitoring service for everyone, so we’re presenting what we believe to be the nine best credit-monitoring services of 2021. Scan the reviews we’ve included for each, and choose the one that will work best for you.
Which Credit Monitoring Service Is Best For You?
Given how important your credit score is — not just in getting financing, but also when applying for employment, an insurance policy or an apartment — you should be monitoring your credit on a regular basis.
There are plenty of options out there to do so, whether you want a free service that provides basic monitoring, or a premium service with more comprehensive coverage.
Choose a service and sign up for it today. Your credit score is one of the most important numbers in your financial life, and you should be aware of major developments as they happen. Credit monitoring is the way to do that.
(Product costs updated as of 1/27/21)