Instant Checkmate Review 2020: Cost, Pros, and Cons

Best Trial
Plans start at $1.00 for 5 days
Pro Bullet Easy-to-navigate user interface
Pro Bullet Extensive public information in a single search
Con Bullet Slow report loading
The bottom line

Instant Checkmate runs a bit pricier than its competitors, but it offers a five-day trial. It has social media, an app, and clear disclaimers, though customers may run into issues with the automatic membership renewal.

We’ve checked this page to make sure everything is up to date and we still stand by our recommendation.

Have a first date coming up? Looking for an estranged relative?

Instant Checkmate is a background check service that provides a person’s available public record information—email addresses, phone numbers, mailing addresses, social media profiles, criminal records, and more. Any of this information could be found by searching individual databases, but Instant Checkmate takes out all the tedious legwork and does it for you in a single, simple search.
What makes Instant Checkmate different from the rest is its $1 five-day trial period and easy user experience.

Most background check companies do similar things, so there’s not much room for variation. What makes Instant Checkmate different from the rest is its $1 five-day trial period and easy user experience.

Instant Checkmate pros and cons

  • Pro BulletEasy-to-navigate user interface
  • Pro BulletExtensive public information in a single search
  • Pro BulletAffordable $1 five-day trial
  • Pro BulletMultiple search method options
  • Pro BulletMobile app
  • Pro BulletSocial media included
  • Pro BulletClear explanations of how information can be used
  • Con BulletSlow report loading
  • Con BulletPolicy of refunding only one year of accidental charges
  • Con BulletNo option to purchase individual reports
  • Con BulletPoor customer service reviews

What we like about Instant Checkmate

All these informal background check services have access to the same data available in public records and on social media, so the quantity or accuracy of the information doesn’t differ much from product to product. The main differences among companies are in pricing, user interface, and bonus features.

User interface

Instant Checkmate has an exceptional site user interface. It’s good-looking, easy to navigate, and reliable. We knew exactly where to click at each step in the process. Our favorite feature is the ability to look up a person by their email address or phone number. This is important for people who research individuals they meet on dating apps or classifieds websites.

Before you meet in real life, enter the person’s phone number in Instant Checkmate to find out their real name and whether they have a criminal record. This isn’t a foolproof method, but it’s a step further than most tricksters are prepared for.

Useful information

Web-based background check services like Instant Checkmate aren’t accredited by the CRA (Consumer Reporting Agency). That means they can’t be legally used for some things, like hiring employees or screening tenants. Instant Checkmate’s transparent about this. It makes users check a box stating they won’t use background check information for employment or tenancy decisions.

Also, Instant Checkmate’s background check reports include social media accounts. These can yield a lot of information to verify if you’ve found the right person.

How Instant Checkmate could improve

Instant Checkmate could and should be more transparent about their services and the associated costs. We weren’t able to find a page that broke down the different plans. You have to try to run a background report before the company informs you of the cost.

Also, the $1 five-day trial is apparently offered only to consumers who pause for too long on the checkout page. Instant Checkmate wants to know if you’ll balk at forking over $25+ before offering you a discount. Sneaky!
Instant Checkmate wants to know if you’ll balk at forking over $25+ before offering you a discount.
Refunds on accidental charges
Our Choice
The biggest issue in Instant Checkmate reviews is getting refunds. The service automatically renews after you sign up for a trial or an account. Some users, thinking they’ve signed up for only a month, are shocked and outraged to see recurring charges to their credit cards. Be warned: if this happens to you, Instant Checkmate will refund only twelve months of charges, even if the company’s charged you monthly for years.
One more thing we’re not a fan of: at the end of a person’s report, you can check your horoscope sign against theirs and find out if your stars align. This might sound fun, but we think it’s a big undercut of the site’s otherwise serious nature.

How much does Instant Checkmate cost?

Instant Checkmate offers monthly and one-time report options, but its monthly pricing is a bit higher than most of its competitors. Most users will be interested in a standard report membership, which allows search by name or location.

For report memberships, your credit card or PayPal account will be billed automatically at the end of each agreed-upon period. For example, if you sign up for the three-month subscription, after the first three months are up, you’ll be automatically billed another $83.47 for the next three months.

Remember, if you hang around the site long enough, you’ll be offered a $1 five-day trial membership. This is a great way to test out Instant Checkmate’s services without a major financial commitment. But if you don’t cancel your membership before the end of the five days, your credit card will be automatically billed for a one-month membership.

Once you get through the paywall and run a report, you can upgrade to a premium report. Premium reports are supposed to contain more information, though you have no way of knowing whether yours will until after you purchase it. Either way, you pay $19.99 for each premium report you choose to view.

You can also buy a PDF version of a report for $2.99. While these PDFs are a cleaner way to keep track of records, just taking a screenshot will suffice for the average user.

Getting prank calls? Want to look up someone with a common name? You can also search for someone by phone number. These search options are separate from the unlimited standard reports package. You can get a month of unlimited phone reports for $4.99.

Instant Checkmate used to also offer a separate email address reverse lookup. However, it looks like that’s now available only as part of a standard membership.

Instant Checkmate vs. TruthFinder

Word on the web is that Instant Checkmate and TruthFinder are owned by the same company and their search engines pull from the same databases. We researched this and can verify that both sites are owned by Joey Rocco.1, 2

So how do these sister sites compare? Instant Checkmate shares some of TruthFinder’s standout features. It’s transparent about how information can be used. It also includes links to social media accounts and has an app so you can use it on the go.

It also has a few things that TruthFinder doesn’t. Instant Checkmate offers a discount trial, something TruthFinder lacks. Instant Checkmate also doesn’t have as many red herring messages about how juicy a report may be. There are some of the same pop ups here and there, but the site doesn’t go overboard and make every search subject sound like a potential serial killer.

Instant Checkmate FAQs

Still have questions about Instant Checkmate? We might be able to help you out.

How can I use this information?

Instant Checkmate or any similar service isn’t an official channel through which legal decisions can be made. Information from the site won’t hold up as evidence in a court of law. Any information uncovered in these reports should be double-checked and verified against official records (such as criminal offenses).

Before you sign up, make sure you don’t need to use Instant Checkmate for anything that requires Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) compliance, including decisions about the following:

  • Consumer credit
  • Employment
  • Insurance
  • Tenant screening
  • Household help (nannies, etc.) screening

This information can be used for personal research, like for the following examples:

  • Finding contact information for long-lost friends and relatives
  • Researching potential romantic partners
  • Researching your kids’ friends’ parents
  • Finding sex offenders in your neighborhood

How can I get the most out of Instant Checkmate?

We took advantage of the $1 five-day trial and ran several different types of searches in order to test its accuracy and experience the full array of features. We searched team member names, people we know a lot about, people we know only a little about, and people we know have a criminal history. The information turned up by each search was fairly accurate, but it’s a good idea to cross-check any data points before jumping to conclusions.

Here are two main takeaways from the search experience:

  • A person using the same email address for several social media accounts will have more information available than a person without social media or who uses different email addresses for accounts. Because of this, the reports for younger people tend to be more thorough than for non-digital natives.
  • The service isn’t good at differentiating between two people with the same name. We looked up pairs of fathers and sons with the same name, and all their information was mixed together in the same single report. We expect the same is true of people with common first and last names, like “Sarah Smith.” In these instances, to increase your chances of finding the right person, we recommend reverse-looking them up using a phone number or email address if you have one.

When we canceled the subscription, the process was easy. We simply went to account settings and clicked a button that said “cancel my subscription.” There was no form to fill out. We just selected a reason for canceling and confirmed the action. We got an instant email from PayPal saying Instant Checkmate had even refunded our $1.

What do customers have to say about Instant Checkmate?

Instant Checkmate has an A+ Better Business Bureau rating. The reviews about the site interface and the available information are standard for a site that uses public information. On the other hand, there are lots of reviews about the lack of transparency in membership renewals and pricing. Make sure you cancel your membership to avoid recurring credit card charges.

Instant Checkmate has an A+ Better Business Bureau rating.

The customer service also isn’t meeting consumer needs. On Consumer Affairs and the Better Business Bureau website, the customer service rep responses tend to be rote and unhelpful. On one complaint, the user requested that the company not include a disclaimer about sex offenders in their response. They felt this piece of text didn’t address their issue and also implied they were a sex offender. The request was ignored, making us wonder whether reps adequately read the reviews.

Our recommendation

We recommend Instant Checkmate for basic people research. The company is just as reliable as other similar services and makes finding out about a person so much easier. Instant Checkmate does have some nice features that set it apart from the competition:

  • Its $1 five-day trial is the lowest introductory price out there.
  • Its phone number and email lookup is ideal for online dating and Craigslist transactions.

Instant Checkmate is also valuable to those who are trying to get in contact with a long-lost friend or relative. It pulls available mailing addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses from public records, giving you multiple channels for connection. While the customer service isn’t getting great reviews, the product is solid. Instant Checkmate is a reliable and simple way to find who you’re looking for. Get a $1 trial and see for yourself.

Contributing author: Brianne Sandorf


  1. Better Business Bureau, “Instant Checkmate Inc
  2. Better Business Bureau, “TruthFinder