Your credit score influences more than you might realize. From interest rates to the cost of insurance, your score is an invisible hand that can quietly chart a course for your life.
It’s important to keep an eye on your credit activity with the best credit monitoring service that can alert you to changes in your score as well as provide early warnings of fraud.
Quick Look: The Best Credit Monitoring Services
- Best Overall: MyFico
- Identity Guard
- Privacy Guard
- Credit Karm
What Credit Monitoring Services Do
Every place you use credit, make non-cash purchases or share certain types of personal information is a potential risk. No matter how careful you are with your data in your home and on your devices, the data and personally identifying information in the hands of third parties are at risk, as seen in recent high-profile data breaches.
Credit monitoring services can provide you with an overview of your credit, give you detailed reporting and send alerts if your credit information has changed. New inquiries or requests for new credit in your name can appear, for example.
A credit monitoring service can show you your overall credit score from one or more credit bureaus but many services don’t offer access to the individual sub-scores specific to one type of credit. Across the three credit bureaus, there are nearly 30 types of individual scores. You have a credit card score, an auto loan score, mortgage score and more.
MyFico, the provider used by most lenders, shows 28 individual scores with its Advanced and Premier packages, whereas the company’s Basic package only provides 10 individual scores. Other providers may not offer these individual scores or may provide a more limited scope.
Access to Credit Scores and Reports
There are three major credit bureaus for consumer credit reporting: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. A credit monitoring service gives you access to your reports from these bureaus.
Some services provide all three and others only provide data from one or two. Ideally, access to all three is better because while the data from each is similar, each may contain unique credit items or items may appear on the reports at different times.
Some credit reporting services provide more granular information and may even include additional credit scores specific to a certain type of credit.
For example, before applying for a mortgage or a refinance, you might find that access to your mortgage credit score is useful. The level of detail and types of reports available can vary considerably from one service to the next, so you’ll want to consider your needs carefully before choosing a credit monitoring service.
Identity Theft Protection
It’s common to find identity theft protection bundled with credit monitoring services or sold as an add-on. The level of protection can range from simple alerts to insurance to cover your losses or even identity restoration services provided by identity theft experts.
Alerts to Changes in Your Credit
Not every change to your credit report indicates fraud. It’s often useful to know about small changes to your score or new inquiries, especially if you’re working on building your score prior to a home or auto purchase.
Dark Web Scan Alerts
Some credit monitoring packages scan the dark web to see if your identity or personal information have been compromised and are being traded or sold. These alerts allow you to take action before your identity is used to open new credit accounts or your existing credit accounts are used to make fraudulent purchases.
Score Simulation and Score Insights
Some credit monitoring services give you a chance to experiment in a virtual sandbox and see the possible effects on your score before you make any real changes to your accounts.
For tracking purposes and direct efficiency, it’s probably best to make a dispute directly with the credit bureau if there’s a mistake on your credit report, but a handful of credit monitoring services have built this functionality into their platform.
What to Look for in a Credit Monitoring Service
Some credit monitoring services may offer more options than you need and some may not offer enough information or features. Consider your needs before choosing.
If you’re considering a service just to keep an eye on things, your needs will differ from someone preparing for a mortgage or rebuilding bad credit.
- Access to all scores: Many services only offer access to your credit score from one bureau. However, it’s common to find slightly different information on each credit report from each respective credit bureau. For in-depth reporting, you may also want access to the individual scores for various credit types, like your credit card score or your auto loan score.
- Easy-to-use reports: Can you print out your report and bring it to a loan broker or save to read your credit report at the monthly family budget meeting? Believe it or not, some reporting services make this difficult.
- Mobile and desktop apps: Depending on the devices you use, you may want access to alerts when you’re on the go. Not all providers offer a mobile app, so this may be a deciding factor.
- Easy to cancel: Your needs for credit monitoring software may be temporary or you may not need a premium service forever. Maybe you’re working to improve your credit prior to buying a home. After the mortgage is approved, a service with fewer features may be adequate. Make sure you can get out easily when you’re ready and consider your needs carefully before agreeing to a lengthy or expensive contract.
- Trusted name: The consumer credit space is littered with companies that don’t offer much value — even for free — or who may be trying to sell your information to other marketing partners. Some are more candid about how they make money. For example, Credit Karma recommends products and earns a commission when you buy and other free services may bury the details deep inside their terms of service agreements.
Our Picks for Best Credit Monitoring Software
Choosing the best credit monitoring service requires that you match the features to your needs. Some providers offer a basic service like fraud monitoring or ID theft protection.
If you’re building or rebuilding your credit or if you have a credit goal in mind, like getting a great mortgage rate or a low lease rate, you’ll probably want a full-featured credit monitoring service with more tools.
Best Overall: MyFico
When you apply for an auto loan or a home loan, there’s a good chance that your lender uses MyFico to pull your credit report and scores. The good news is that you can have the same information that lenders use when you choose MyFico as your credit monitoring service.
MyFico offers three credit monitoring products ranging from $19.95 per month up to $39.95 per month. MyFico Premier is a good choice if you’re rebuilding your credit or working toward a loan goal. It provides monthly updates for your three credit bureau scores as well as individual credit scores such as mortgage and credit card scores. A total of 28 individual reports are available.
Identity theft monitoring is also included with Advanced and Premier plans and both plans offer up to $1 million of ID theft insurance. Fraud resolution is also included with premium plans and MyFico keeps a watchful eye on the dark web for you, alerting you to potential risks.
Mobile apps are available for Android and iOS.
Identity Guard’s Value package pricing is hard to beat, at $8.99 per month for basic credit monitoring, including dark web monitoring and identity theft coverage for up to $1 million.
Consider Identity Guard’s Premier plan, which offers the most comprehensive tools, for $24.99 per month. It gives you a suite of credit monitoring tools, phishing protection, monthly credit scores and reports from all three credit bureaus.
Identity Guard brings enhanced value, but if you need detailed individual reports for each type of credit, MyFico is a better choice.
As an affordable alternative for those who need basic credit monitoring and scores from all three credit bureaus, Identity Guard deserves consideration. The Premier plan can cover the whole family for $34.99 per month and cancellation is a breeze if your credit monitoring needs to change after you’ve enrolled in a plan.
Access your account on the go with mobile apps for Android and iOS.
Pricing starts at $9.99 per month with PrivacyGuard, another affordable choice if your credit monitoring needs are less complex but you still want data from all three bureaus.
Daily credit monitoring is available and scans all three credit bureaus for new inquiries, derogatory information, new accounts and other changes that can trigger an alert.
ID theft insurance is only available with PrivacyGuard’s Total Protection plan and the feature-limited ID protection plan, priced at $24.99 per month and $9.99 per month, respectively. The first 14 days are free.
Expect a more robust set of features with the Total Protection plan, including monthly credit reports and scores from all three bureaus, 24/7 credit monitoring and a credit score simulator feature.
PrivacyGuard’s mobile-friendly website gives you access to your account whether on your PC or using a mobile device.
LifeLock places its focus on identity theft protection and broadens its scope to include protection for other threats like ransomware and online scams.
If your goal is security with built-in reimbursement coverage for personal funds, related personal expenses and legal or expert assistance, LifeLock is a solid choice. If you need detailed credit score reporting and credit score simulation, MyFico is a better alternative.
LifeLock offers three membership options which range from $9.99 per month for standard protection up to $29.99 per month for LifeLock Ultimate Plus with its Million Dollar Protection Package. Prices jump slightly higher after your first year with LifeLock.
Credit monitoring from all three bureaus is included with all LifeLock membership levels but monthly credit score tracking is only available with the Ultimate Plus membership and is limited to your VantageScore 3.0 credit score based on Equifax data.
LifeLock uses proprietary software that’s installed directly on your PC or Mac. Mobile apps are also available for Android and iOS and provide protection for up to 5 devices.
For those with budget constraints, it’s tough to beat free. Credit Karma is candid about how it makes money and still offers free credit scores and free credit monitoring. If you take advantage of a finance offer suggested through the platform, Credit Karma earns a commission.
Credit monitoring is limited to your TransUnion credit report, which may be enough for consumers who just want a simple solution.
Credit scores are provided by both Equifax and TransUnion and are updated weekly, providing you with a more up-to-date snapshot of your credit than paid competitors.
Many of the detailed reports available with paid providers aren’t available with Credit Karma (remember, it’s free) but there are still a number of features that make the service attractive, including:
- Credit simulator
- TransUnion credit score
- Equifax credit score
- Details of factors that help or hurt your score
- Tools to track spending
Apps are available for Android and iOS.
Choose the Best Credit Monitoring Service
It’s important to mention that AnnualCreditReport.com is a free option that provides all three credit reports once per year as required by federal law. However, the government-authorized site doesn’t give you a score, just the reports, nor does it provide credit monitoring.
Cost-conscious consumers can choose from several lower-cost credit monitoring plans starting at about $10 per month from the list above or take advantage of Credit Karma’s free credit monitoring system.
For the most detailed reporting, it’s tough to beat MyFico’s Premier plan, which is pricier than competitors but provides the same reports used by most lenders, along with a wealth of tools and report options.