Best Credit Monitoring Services - Keep Your Credit Safe

When I was buying my first place, I got a surprise from my mortgage company: They couldn't complete the closing until I rectified an unpaid debt discovered on my credit report. It turned out a parking ticket I had received while traveling to San Diego three years prior (and completely forgot about) was reported as unpaid. It was less than $100, yet it appeared on my credit report. I had to quickly pay the bill and receive proof of payment, submit it to the credit reporting agencies - TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian - and have my report corrected to close on my new townhouse. It was one big pain in the you-know-what and delayed my closing, and it could have been avoided if I checked my credit report first.
This is where credit monitoring services can come in handy. Not only can you stay current on your creditworthiness and learn of any mistakes or issues that need immediate attention with a company keeping an eye on things, but they can also spot identity theft. If a new card or loans appear, you'll know right away and can stop the theft before it gets worse.
So, which are the best credit monitoring services if you want total protection from identity fraud? These credit and identity monitoring services are some of the best out there.

Overview of the best credit monitoring services

Credit monitoring serviceWho it’s best for
Experian BoostPeople looking to monitor and improve their credit score for free
IdentityForceUncompromising consumers willing to pay for credit and identity monitoring
UltraSecureConsumers who will pay for identity monitoring tools
AnnualCreditReport.comBarebones option for checking your credit report infrequently
PrivacyGuardConsumers who value choice and are willing to pay for credit and identity monitoring
IdentityGuardBudget-conscious consumers interested in a menu of options
Credit KarmaUsers repairing their credit who want free tools in an easy-to-use package
LifeLockSerious users who also want Norton360 cybersecurity

See How Much Experian Boost™ Can Raise Your Credit Scores Instantly

  • Experian® is one of the three credit bureaus providing your credit scores
  • Experian Boost is a free feature that can help you increase your credit scores for making on-time payments for your phone, utility, or streaming service bills for 100% free and in minutes
  • Average users who received a boost improved their FICO® Score 8 based on Experian Data by 13 points. Some may not see improved scores or approval odds. Not all lenders use credit information impacted by Experian Boost™.
  • Credit score calculated based on FICO® Score 8 model. Your lender or insurer may use a different FICO® Score than FICO® Score 8, or another type of credit score altogether.

Best credit monitoring services

Experian Boost

If you already monitor your credit score for free on Experian’s website, then you'll want to enroll in Experian Boost. Experian Boost is a way to improve your credit score by including on-time rent and utility payments. Timeliness is a significant component of your credit report, so if you’re trying to build your credit history beyond your monthly credit card statement, Experian Boost is a must.
It’s also worth noting that Experian Boost provides you with additional credit monitoring tools beyond just letting you link up phone bills or on-time payments to streaming services to your Experian credit report. Being able to monitor your FICO Score and your Experian-reported score can help you ensure that your score is where you want it to be before making a big purchase on a house or a car.
Part of credit protection is playing a good offense and a good defense—something Experian Boost lets you do simultaneously. From getting alerts about suspicious activity to rewarding you for paying regular bills on time, Experian Boost offers the best of both worlds in a free package. While the Boost only affects your Experian score, it’s still worth doing for most individuals.
Perhaps best of all, Experian Boost is offered for free as part of Experian’s basic plan. This means that you don’t have to pay additional fees to use the feature and can utilize Boost to transform your more basic credit history into something a bit more robust without opening a new credit line.

IdentityForce

IdentityForce is a Sontiq brand and has a few different credit and identity monitoring services in its portfolio. UltraSecure, the lower-tiered version of its products, gets its review below, so we’ll focus on their top-of-the-line identity monitoring tool in this section, UltraSecure+Credit.
IdentityForce’s UltraSecure+Credit package comes chock full of features to help protect your personal information as well as your reputation online. From social media monitoring to quarterly VantageScore reports and details from each of the three big credit bureaus, IdentityForce’s UltraSecure+Credit service certainly rolls many different services into one package. IdentityForce even offers dark web monitoring and alerts you to change address forms or new credit line applications using your name or social security number.
Beyond this docket of personal information and notice of various alerts, IdentityForce also provides up to $1 million in insurance should you lose wages or need to cover other expenses resulting from identity theft.
All of these features are appealing, but they do come with a price tag. Unlike free services on this list—which admittedly offer fewer services—UltraSecure+Credit will run you about $24 a month, or $240 annually. Sometimes, you can qualify for a specific promotion that lowers this cost; however, your luck may vary. Even so, for people who want an immense array of fraud protection tools, IdentityForce is a robust, albeit pricy, option.

UltraSecure

If IdentityForce’s UltraSecure+Credit seems a little too rich for your taste, it’s worth looking into UltraSecure, a lesser version of the more fully-featured option. UltraSecure sacrifices credit reporting to lower its price, which may be the difference you need to make the membership cost work with your budget. Mainly if you’re already using another free service on this list, you may not mind that sort of compromise.
While you can’t monitor your credit lines and scores with UltraSecure, it still gives you many tools to monitor and control your identity, including a smart SSN tracker, social media monitoring, and real-time fraud monitoring. You’ll also have access to all of its features in an easy-to-use mobile app, so that even if you’re away from your computer, you can take charge of a potential identity theft case.
Another beneficial feature of its more expensive cousin that you can enjoy with UltraSecure is the $1 million worth of fraud insurance. While not everyone will be in a situation where this feature is useful when you need it, you need it, so it’s nice that IdentityForce still includes it on the lower-tiered version of its service.
These features add up to the tune of $18 per month, or $180 a year. Again, that cost may be too rich for some. Still, if you’re already monitoring your credit using a different service and only need the identity tools, it’s a choice that doesn’t cause you to pay for redundant features.

Annualcreditreport.com

When searching for a service on Google, it’s not always the best sign when Google auto-fills your search query with phrases like “legit or a scam?” Even so, while Annualcreditreport.com’s user interface may remind you of the dawn of the internet, it’s a government-approved way to access your credit reports each year for free.
Using AnnualCreditReport.com doesn’t require signing up or anything. Instead, you’ll just fill out some personal information and answer a few security questions to verify your identity. From there, you can download your credit report from each of the major credit bureaus. Especially if you’re looking for discrepancies between each report, this tool can be pretty beneficial.
Unlike other services on this list, you’re only able to use AnnualCreditReport.com on an annual basis. It also doesn’t have any alerts or other identity fraud monitoring tools other services have. If you’re at low risk for identity theft and already have a high credit score, that’s probably not a problem, but it’s worth noting that this website (like its aesthetic) is pretty bare bones.
If you don’t need to monitor your credit report often, Annualcreditreport.com is an excellent option for checking in on your score on an annual basis. Plus, thanks to various bills passed as part of the CARES Act in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, you pull reports from all three bureaus free of charge weekly until April of 2022.

PrivacyGuard

PrivacyGuard offers a few different services for consumers wanting to monitor their credit and personal information. As such, it’s a good option for users interested in only one service who may at some point wish to purchase both credit monitoring and identity theft from a company they already have an account with.
PrivacyGuard’s Credit Protection plan offers monitoring and score tracking with each of the three major bureaus, as well as financial calculators and a credit score simulator. Should you be the victim of ID fraud, you’ll also be paired with a dedicated agent to help you navigate your fraud case. PrivacyGuard Credit Protection will cost you about $20 a month.
On the other end of the spectrum of services offered is PrivacyGuard’s Identity Protection plan. This plan provides dark web scanning and a host of monitoring tools for your social security number, as well as information on your driver’s license and passport. You can sign up to receive alerts via text or email, and PrivacyGuard’s Identity Protection plan also comes with $1 million in fraud insurance. You’ll pay $10 a month for Identity Protection from PrivacyGuard.
If you’re looking to get the best of both worlds, you can combine both services and only pay $25 a month. In addition to all of the features included in PrivacyGuard’s Credit Protection and Identity Protection services, you also get a few other add-ons when you bundle both services together. These include things like reports about your neighborhood and emergency travel assistance and fewer preapproved credit card offers.

Identity Guard

Not to be confused with IdentityForce, Identity Guard is another identity monitoring service that harnesses the computing power of IBM’s Watson to search for changes in your credit report and personal information. This means they offer one of the fastest response times of all credit monitoring services across all three bureaus.
Another major perk of Identity Guard is its tools that proactively protect you when shopping online or browsing the web. This can keep your private data from getting stolen or compromised in the first place, saving you a lot of trouble. Of course, if your data does somehow get compromised due to a data breach before you subscribing to Identity Guard, you’ll be alerted when it surfaces online, thanks to the power of Watson.
If you only want basic identity theft monitoring, the basic plan offered by Identity Guard only costs $7.50 a month. The Total Plan from Identity Guard costs $16.67 a month and includes credit monitoring from each of the three major bureaus and a TransUnion-calculated monthly score. For $25 a month, you can purchase Identity Guard’s Ultra Plan, which features everything in the Value and Total Plans, plus tools to help you monitor your 401k, investment accounts, credit, and debit cards. You’ll also get credit reports from each bureau and monitoring for criminal offenses, among other offenses.
One perk of Identity Guard is that in addition to individual pricing, they also offer family prices at a discounted rate. This can save a family of four or a newly-married couple a lot of money each month since the pricing is significantly discounted. Family pricing for the Value Plan is $12.50 a month, with the Total and Ultra plans costing $25 and $33.33 a month, respectively.

Credit Karma

Credit Karma is probably the most heavily advertised of any credit monitoring service on this list. It offers many features free of charge but also comes with a lot of advertisements and credit card offers, which some users may find annoying.
Even so, Credit Karma makes understanding your credit report—and the factors that are most impacting it—plain and simple, with bright, colorful graphics. Credit Karma’s dashboard displays two different scores for you, one calculated with the TransUnion model, and one calculated with Equifax’s model. You can also view all accounts playing a role in your score, from credit accounts to auto and home loans.
One benefit of Credit Karma is that it makes suggestions for ways to improve your finances and better manage your debt. For example, many of its offers are curated based on your approval odds and other factors such as your timeliness of payments and existing credit accounts. This means that whether you’re looking at taking out a personal loan to consolidate debt or a new credit card with a 0% APR balance transfer offer, you know that when your credit gets checked, you’re unlikely to have your score impacted without getting approved.
As far as identity monitoring services, Credit Karma’s offerings are a bit scant. Even so, if you’re looking for a way to lock your credit and monitor your personal information for inclusion in data breaches, the free options through Credit Karma are better than nothing.

LifeLock

While all of the products on this list offer a mixture of identity theft monitoring and credit monitoring, LifeLock is one of the only companies that also provide antivirus services. This is thanks to a partnership with Norton, much like Identity Guard has a partnership with IBM’s Watson. While some folks may not be interested in antivirus software for their computer, it certainly gives LifeLock a little bit more bang for your buck.
Your options with LifeLock come in four tiers: LifeLock Standard, Norton 360 with LifeLock Select, Norton 360 with LifeLock Advantage, and Norton 360 with LifeLock Ultimate Plus. The least expensive option, LifeLock Standard, will cost you $9.99 a month and comes with SSN monitoring, credit monitoring through Equifax, and stolen funds reimbursement up to $25,000.
Norton360 with LifeLockSelect adds cybersecurity tools to the Standard option, like a password manager and VPN. Norton360 with LifeLockSelect also costs $9.99 a month, but after your first year, it renews at the cost of $14.99 a month. Norton 360 with LifeLock Advantage costs $19.99 a month but includes bank activity alerts, credit card alerts, and stolen funds reimbursement of $100,000.
The most expensive of all of LifeLock’s tiers, Norton 360 with LifeLock Ultimate Plus ups the ante by providing $1 million of stolen funds reimbursement and monitoring your credit report across all three bureaus. It includes all of the other features of lesser tiers and costs $29.99 a month for the first year, and $34.99 afterward.

See How Much Experian Boost™ Can Raise Your Credit Scores Instantly

  • Experian® is one of the three credit bureaus providing your credit scores
  • Experian Boost is a free feature that can help you increase your credit scores for making on-time payments for your phone, utility, or streaming service bills for 100% free and in minutes
  • Average users who received a boost improved their FICO® Score 8 based on Experian Data by 13 points. Some may not see improved scores or approval odds. Not all lenders use credit information impacted by Experian Boost™.
  • Credit score calculated based on FICO® Score 8 model. Your lender or insurer may use a different FICO® Score than FICO® Score 8, or another type of credit score altogether.

Summary of best credit monitoring services

Credit monitoring serviceCredit monitoringIdentity monitoringStolen Funds ReimbursementCost
Experian BoostYes, Equifax onlyNoNoFree
IdentityForceYesYesYes, up to $1 million$24/mo; $240/annually
UltraSecureNoYesYes, up to $1 million$18/mo; $180/annually
AnnualCreditReport.comYesNoNoFree
PrivacyGuardYes, depending on tierYes, depending on tierYes, up to $1 million$10-$25/mo, depending on tier
IdentityGuardYesYesNo$7.50-$24 depending on tier
Credit KarmaYes, Equifax and TransUnionYesNoFree
LifeLockYesYesYes, $25k-$1M, depending on tier$9.99-$34.99, depending on tier

FAQs

Do credit monitoring and identity monitoring services protect me from identity theft?
While the above services are helpful tools in lowering your risk of identity theft and addressing identity fraud as soon as it is detected, they cannot completely eliminate your risk of identity theft.
Do credit monitoring services fix bad credit?
No. Credit monitoring services can help you determine how to boost your credit score; however, they are not a replacement for credit repair services.
Are credit monitoring services safe to use?
It’s understandable to be cautious about sharing sensitive information like your SSN and driver’s license number. The above credit and identity monitoring services are secure to use and follow the latest in data encryption technology to keep your personal information safe.

Why you should (or shouldn’t) use credit monitoring services?

While you might not like the idea of paid services or premier plans for information that is part of many people’s public records, if you want convenience and peace-of-mind credit monitoring services can be worth the cost. Maintaining multiple accounts across the three major credit reporting agencies can be cumbersome, and the ease of seeing each score in one place as accurately as possible is definitely worth the money for some people.
When you add that some identity theft protection services also come with identity theft insurance and help with identity restoration, these sorts of products become even more valuable. Nobody wants to have to face a daunting task like filing for identity fraud by themselves, and the right identity theft insurance can not only help with reimbursement for stolen funds. Still, it can also help you file the appropriate court records.

The bottom line

Whether or not you use credit monitoring or identity monitoring services is ultimately up to you. Some people will find a lot of value using paid services and appreciate features like stolen funds reimbursement and the ability to see each credit bureau score in one dashboard. On the other hand, some people may not want to pay for the cost to see this information week to week. In that case, it makes more sense to use some of the free options on the above list.
Ultimately, there are situations where it will make sense for you to use a free or a paid version of any of the above credit monitoring and identity theft services. Just because one product doesn’t fit your needs now doesn’t mean that it won’t in the future, so it’s a good idea to keep the above information in mind should you ever need it.

See How Much Experian Boost™ Can Raise Your Credit Scores Instantly

  • Experian® is one of the three credit bureaus providing your credit scores
  • Experian Boost is a free feature that can help you increase your credit scores for making on-time payments for your phone, utility, or streaming service bills for 100% free and in minutes
  • Average users who received a boost improved their FICO® Score 8 based on Experian Data by 13 points. Some may not see improved scores or approval odds. Not all lenders use credit information impacted by Experian Boost™.
  • Credit score calculated based on FICO® Score 8 model. Your lender or insurer may use a different FICO® Score than FICO® Score 8, or another type of credit score altogether.
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