The 5 Best Credit Monitoring Services of 2019

Best for Thorough Coverage
IdentityForce
Plans start at  
$23.95
/mo.
Pro Bullet Comprehensive coverage
Pro Bullet Credit score simulator
Best Low-Cost Option
Credit Sesame
Plans start at  
$9.95
/mo.
Pro Bullet Free option
Pro Bullet Monthly updates from 3 bureaus
Best for Building Credit
Experian CreditWorks
Plans start at  
$24.99
/mo.
Pro Bullet FICO credit scores
Pro Bullet Credit scores based on loan type
Best for Families
IDShield
Plans start at  
$12.95
/mo.
Pro Bullet Affordable family plans
Pro Bullet Unlimited ID theft consultations
Runner-Up
Identity Guard
Plans start at  
$19.99
/mo.
Pro Bullet Family plan options
Pro Bullet AI credit alerts
*Base price for plans with credit monitoring—cheaper plans do not offer credit monitoring. Data effective 10/02/2019. Offers and availability subject to change.

Overview

Knowing what’s in your credit report is a crucial part of maintaining your financial health. Checking your credit report at least once a year makes it easier to improve your credit score, fix errors, and spot ID theft.

Sometimes your credit needs more than a yearly checkup. If you need a little help looking after your credit score, consider signing up for a credit monitoring service. These services check your credit file often, send fraud alerts, and provide full credit reports on a monthly or quarterly basis.

While most credit monitoring services also provide identity theft protection, some monitor only your credit. We found that IdentityForce offers the best balance of these two services.

Read on to learn more about the best credit monitoring companies and how to choose the best plan for you.

Best credit monitoring services

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*Base price for plans with credit monitoring—cheaper plans do not offer credit monitoring. **Extremely limited monitoring. One bureau only. No additional protection. ***Top-tier plan only. Data effective 10/02/2019. Offers and availability subject to change.

IdentityForce: Best for thorough coverage

Best for thorough coverage
IdentityForce
Starting from 
$23.95
/mo.

    IdentityForce offers comprehensive credit and ID theft monitoring for a competitive price.

    IdentityForce pros and cons

    Pros
    • Pro BulletCredit monitoring from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion
    • Pro BulletCredit score simulator
    • Pro BulletBanking and credit card alerts
    • Pro BulletComprehensive identity protection
    Cons
    • Con BulletFamily plan available over the phone only
    • Con BulletMore expensive plans than average

    Why we recommend IdentityForce

    IdentityForce has the most complete list of credit monitoring and identity theft protection features among the companies we looked at. It’s a good choice if you don’t want to choose between building your credit more effectively and fighting off identity thieves.

    Features

    IdentityForce continuously monitors your credit using information from all three credit bureaus and gives you access to quarterly credit reports. While this isn’t as often as the monthly reports you get from Credit Sesame, it’s still a big improvement over an annual report.

    IdentityForce also monitors Social Security numbers, bank accounts, social media, and public records to protect you against identity theft. For example, you’ll get a personalized alert if suspicious activity shows up in your bank or credit card account so you can take quick action. And if someone does steal your identity, you get up to $1 million of insurance to cover legal fees needed to regain control over your identity.

    IdentityForce also monitors Social Security numbers, bank accounts, social media, and public records to protect you against identity theft.
    We like that IdentityForce also has a credit score simulator. It helps you see how your credit might change after financial milestones like paying off a loan, buying a car, or getting a new credit card.

    Price

    IdentityForce is one of the more expensive credit monitoring services because it offers credit monitoring only with its top-tier plan, UltraSecure+Credit. Although this plan costs $23.95 a month, it includes more ID theft prevention features than comparable plans from competitors.

    If you want to get credit monitoring for more than one person, you have to call IdentityForce to set up a family plan. While it’s nice to have the option, it’s disappointing that you can’t do this through the website.

    ASecureLife’s recommendation: If you want to go beyond credit monitoring with robust ID theft protection, choose the UltraSecure+Credit plan from IdentityForce.

    >>Learn more: Read our IdentityForce review


    Credit Sesame: Best low-cost option

    Best low-cost option
    Credit Sesame
    Plans start at  
    $9.95
    /mo.
      Credit Sesame is an affordable credit monitoring service that gives you ID theft monitoring only when you want it.

      Credit Sesame pros and cons

      Pros
      • Pro BulletFree and low-cost monitoring plans
      • Pro BulletAffordable monthly updates from all three credit bureaus
      • Pro BulletHigher-tier packages that include basic ID monitoring services
      • Pro BulletMore positive customer reviews than most services
      Cons
      • Con BulletLess identity protection than competitors
      • Con BulletNo bank/credit account monitoring
      • Con BulletNo customer service phone number or online chat

      Why we recommend Credit Sesame

      Credit Sesame doesn’t have the same identity theft protection as most of the competition, but it is one of the most affordable ways to monitor your credit.

      Features

      While many credit monitoring services are premium features on ID theft plans, Credit Sesame starts by offering credit monitoring on its base packages and treats ID theft protection as the upgrade. You get monthly credit reports from all three bureaus on every paid plan, which is something competitors like IDShield charge extra for.

      You get monthly credit reports from all three bureaus on every paid plan, which is something competitors like IDShield charge extra for.

      All of Credit Sesame’s paid plans let you get credit monitoring, daily credit score updates, and alerts from TransUnion. The two high-tier plans also add daily monitoring from Experian and Equifax.

      If you pay for the top-tier plan, you get ID theft-prevention tools such as lost wallet assistance and Social Security number monitoring. It’s nice that they aren’t required to get credit monitoring.

      Credit Sesame doesn’t monitor bank and credit card accounts for fraud like the competition. Its credit monitoring checks only your credit report for problems. This is a disadvantage if you want help with these accounts, but it can be useful if you’re uncomfortable sharing sensitive account data.

      Price

      Credit Sesame’s paid plans start at $9.95 a month for monthly credit scores and credit reports across all three bureaus. The mid-tier plan, Pro Credit, costs $15.95 a month and adds three-bureau credit monitoring with alerts and a service to help you fix errors in your credit report.

      The top-tier plan, Platinum Protection, costs $19.95 a month and adds identity theft protection and insurance up to $1 million.

      There’s also a free plan that gives you one-bureau monitoring through TransUnion and one credit score update each month. While this won’t give you a credit report like the paid plans, it’s a nice way to keep tabs on your credit score for free. Credit Sesame doesn’t have any plans for families.

      ASecureLife’s recommendation: If you want credit monitoring on its own, without ID theft monitoring, get the Pro Credit plan from Credit Sesame.

      >>Learn more: Read our Credit Sesame review


      Experian CreditWorks: Best for building credit

      Best for building credit
      Experian
      Starting from 
      $24.99
      /mo.

        Experian CreditWorks uses the industry-standard FICO credit score, making it an excellent option if you want to build your credit ahead of a big purchase.

        Experian CreditWorks pros and cons

        Pros
        • Pro BulletFree basic services
        • Pro BulletFICO score tracking
        • Pro BulletExpansive identity theft protection in higher-tier package
        Cons
        • Con BulletExpensive subscription fees
        • Con BulletMore negative customer reviews than other services
        • Con BulletNo bank or credit card account monitoring

        Why we recommend Experian CreditWorks

        Experian CreditWorks is the only credit monitoring company in our comparison to use FICO credit scores, which is what most lenders use. This makes it a good choice for tracking and building your credit ahead of a big purchase.

        Free Experian credit monitoring
        Our Choice
        If you were one of the millions affected by the 2017 Equifax data breach, you qualify for free credit monitoring through Experian. However, you need to file a claim before January 22, 2020. See our FAQs below to learn more.

        Features

        Experian monitors your credit at each of the major credit bureaus and shows you an updated score each month. While this is similar to other credit monitoring services, Experian uses the industry-standard FICO Score 8 credit score. Because this score is standard among lenders, you can be sure that you have the same information when you need to apply for a new loan.

        Additionally, Experian CreditWorks gives you other types of credit scores specific to auto, home, and bankcard lines of credit. The advantage of these scores is that they calculate creditworthiness differently than a generic score so you have more information to help you qualify for a loan.

        Price

        Experian CreditWorks is the only credit monitoring service we looked at that costs $24.99 a month, making it more expensive than other plans that offer the same benefits. For example, IdentityForce offers a similar plan with comprehensive ID theft monitoring and credit monitoring for a dollar less a month than Experian CreditWorks. Experian CreditWorks also has a free plan, but this gives you access to only a monthly credit report from one bureau: Experian. The monitoring is also very limited in that it just tracks new accounts and when someone pulls your credit report.

        ASecureLife’s recommendation: If you want access to industry-standard credit scores to help you build your credit, choose the CreditWorks Premium plan from Experian CreditWorks.

        >>Learn more: Read our Experian CreditWorks review


        IDShield: Best for families

        Best for families
        IDShield
        Plans start at  
        $12.95
        /mo.
          IDShield has competitive prices for individuals but stands out when you need to cover the whole family.

          IDShield pros and cons

          Pros
          • Pro BulletAffordable family monitoring
          • Pro BulletUnlimited ID theft consultations
          Cons
          • Con BulletNo option to cancel online or over the phone; must mail a written notice

          Why we recommend IDShield

          IDShield's three-bureau plans for individuals are indeed cheaper than those from IdentityForce. But we think that IDShield is a better value when you get the family plans to monitor more than one person.

          Features

          You have the option of one- or three-bureau monitoring plans with IDShield, though three-bureau plans ensure you don’t miss important details in your credit reports.

          IDShield monitors your bank accounts and credit cards for fraudulent activity. It also keeps tabs on sensitive personal information as part of its ID theft monitoring. This means you don’t have to buy separate identity theft protection and that you can save a little money in the long term.

          One of the major disadvantages that we found is that you must cancel your plan by mail. It seems archaic compared to other companies that let you cancel online or over the phone. This isn’t a problem as long as you want the service but makes it harder to cancel.

          Fraud on the rise
          Our Choice

          According to the Federal Trade Commission, “People reported losing $1.48 billion (with a ‘b’) to fraud last year—an increase of 38% over 2017.”1

          Price

          Because IDShield’s three-bureau family plan covers two adults and up to 10 children under age 18, you get a lot of value even with just two people. At $32.95 a month, you save about $3 compared to buying two separate plans for you and your partner, and the savings stack up the more people you have on the plan.

          If you’re shopping just for an individual three-bureau plan, it’s still affordably priced. You pay only $17.95 a month—cheaper than IdentityForce, though not as affordable as Credit Sesame.

          ASecureLife’s recommendation: If you want to monitor credit reports for multiple family members, choose the Three Bureau Family plan from IDShield.

          >>Learn more: Read our IDShield review


          Identity Guard: Runner-up

          Runner-up
          Plans start at  
          $19.99
          /mo.
            Identity Guard has competitive prices and is a good alternative if you don’t want one of our other picks for the best credit monitoring services.

            Identity Guard pros and cons

            Pros
            • Pro BulletOptions for family plans
            • Pro BulletIBM® Watson™ AI for risk alerts
            Cons
            • Con BulletCredit reports offered only with higher-tier package
            • Con BulletHigher price than many credit monitoring services

            Why we recommend Identity Guard

            Identity Guard is a solid choice for ID theft monitoring and credit protection, but nothing makes it stand out above the other companies we included in our comparison. We do think it’s a better choice than the companies that didn’t make it into our lineup.

            Features

            Identity Guard offers three-bureau credit monitoring only on its two high-tier plans, making it average among credit monitoring services. It’s expensive if you want credit reports, which come only with the top-tier plan.

            Identity Guard gives you only one credit report from each bureau per year, which you can already get for free. Essentially, you’re paying for credit monitoring, alerts, and ID theft monitoring. We think the ID theft monitoring is quite good with its risk management reports, dark web monitoring, and social media assessments. Unfortunately for Identity Guard, other competitors offer better credit monitoring services for less money.

            One interesting thing is that Identity Guard uses IBM® Watson AI to analyze your credit report and send alerts for fraudulent activity. However, we’re not sure if it’s much better than the competition or just a marketing gimmick.

            Price

            You need to buy one of the more expensive plans from Identity Guard to get credit monitoring. These plans start at $19.99 a month, which is average for services that provide monitoring for both credit and ID theft.

            ASecureLife’s recommendation: If you want an alternative to IdentityForce, choose the Premier Plan from Identity Guard.

            >>Learn more: Read our Identity Guard review


            Buying tips

            As you look for a credit monitoring service to fit your needs, we recommend looking for the following features:

            • Credit scores and reports on a quarterly or monthly basis
            • Three-bureau credit monitoring
            • Basic identity theft protection services like Social Security number monitoring and lost wallet assistance

            How we choose

            We started by looking at standalone credit monitoring companies, but there aren’t many of these. Then we branched out to identity theft protection services, which also offer credit monitoring. In total, we evaluated 12 companies for this comparison.

            Ultimately, we chose five standout services based on price, features, and reputation. We feel that the top five picks are the best options for most people that primarily want credit monitoring.

            Companies we ruled out

            We narrowed our list by eliminating services that didn’t offer as much value as our top picks. Here are some other companies we researched but ultimately left out of our credit monitoring comparison:

            FAQs

            What is a credit monitoring service?

            A credit monitoring service checks your credit report and bank accounts for errors and suspicious activity. When it finds a problem, you get an alert so you can take action.

            You can use a credit monitoring service to check your credit report more often than a free annual report from each of the three credit bureaus. You also get regular updates about your credit score.

            Most credit monitoring services include ID theft protection, but it’s not a requirement.

            Does credit monitoring affect my credit score?

            No. Credit monitoring services use a soft inquiry to check your credit file. A soft inquiry doesn’t affect your score in the same way as a hard inquiry, which involves applying for credit like getting a loan or credit card.

            Do I need credit monitoring if my credit is frozen?

            It depends on the situation. Even though a credit freeze prevents criminals from applying for new lines of credit with your stolen information, it doesn’t prevent access to your existing accounts. Many credit monitoring services can also monitor your bank, insurance, and credit accounts.2

            What are the three credit bureaus?

            Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion are the three credit bureaus. Each of these reporting agencies provides a free credit report every 12 months and offers credit monitoring services.

            Experian Logo
            Equifax Logo
            Transunion Logo

            Are credit monitoring services worth it?

            It’s a trade-off. You pay for the convenience and time saved versus monitoring on your own.

            Credit monitoring services offer greater convenience to get all three credit scores and reports in one place. They also provide alerts and assistance when fraudulent activity occurs.

            You likely don’t need credit monitoring if you’re proactive about checking your credit. Simply check the free reports from all three credit bureaus on an annual basis and keep a close eye on your existing accounts.

            Do I need credit monitoring after a data breach?

            After a major data breach, companies often assist with repairing your credit, usually by offering free credit or identity monitoring.

            How to check if you were affected by the Equifax breach?

            Visit equifaxbreachsettlement.com. You may qualify for a cash payment or free credit monitoring through Experian.

            Do any bank accounts and credit cards come with credit monitoring?

            Many banks and credit card issuers let you check your credit score when you log into your account online. Check with your bank or credit card company to see if it offers any additional monitoring.

            Is Credit Karma reliable?

            Yes, but you get credit scores from only two bureaus: TransUnion and Equifax. Credit Karma uses VantageScore 3.0 to provide credit scores. This is the same system used by many paid credit monitoring services including Credit Sesame, IDShield, LifeLock, and Identity Guard.

            Even though Credit Karma is a free, reliable service, we don’t recommend it as a substitute for paid credit monitoring. It relies on advertising to make money, so you’re trading financial privacy for targeted ads.

            How do I protect my child’s credit?

            The FTC has a helpful guide on Child Identity Theft. It has tips to help you spot warning signs and fix problems if a criminal steals your child’s identity.

            Since your child is a minor, they can’t enter into any contracts without you. This makes the process for fixing fraud as simple as providing a copy of a birth certificate to the lender or credit bureau.3

            You can also sign up for a family plan from a service like IDShield, IdentityForce, or Identity Guard.


            Our recommendation

            Credit monitoring services can help you track your credit score and watch for fraudulent activity, and they often provide comprehensive identity theft protection. While you can do most of these things for free, it’s a lot of work for one person to keep up with.

            Ultimately, you should choose the service that best fits your needs. To help with that decision, here are the brands we recommend:

            • IdentityForce: Comprehensive three-bureau monitoring and identity theft monitoring
            • Credit Sesame: Most affordable credit monitoring, especially if you don’t want ID theft protection
            • Experian CreditWorks: Uses industry-standard FICO scores, which is great for building your credit over time
            • IDShield: Excellent value to protect your entire family
            • Identity Guard: Good alternative to other top services
            For another way to check on your data, particularly court records, head to our list of the best background check services.

            Sources

            1. FTC, The top frauds of 2018
            2. FTC, Credit Freeze FAQs
            3. FTC, Child Identity Theft