Credit monitoring is a crucial tool to protect against identity theft. If you don’t have one, fraudsters can receive a loan in your name, lenders can close your account by mistake or charge you with someone else’s debt, and you won’t even know about it until you see a significant drop in your FICO account.
The sooner you’re aware of such unwanted activity, the better chance you’ll be able to deal with it quickly. Besides, you can even sign up for this service for free and use it to provide yourself with credit security, so it’s definitely worth it.
Best free credit monitoring services
If you’ve never used a tool like this before, you should start by using one of the free offerings. Unfortunately, there aren’t many on the market; they may have limited functionality and don’t insure your identity if it’s compromised. However, they’re still enough for the first few months of using this tool.
CreditWise® from Capital One
First, we’ll look at Capital One, which offers credit monitoring services for free, even for users who are not yet bank customers.
CreditWise will help you track and monitor your VantageScore® 3.0, similar to a FICO score. Using it won’t affect your credit history, and all its tools are available from your computer and phone, anytime, day or night.
Since it’s free, it doesn’t have identity insurance, but it does have many valuable services:
- Credit Alerts.
You’ll get an email alert when someone uses your Social Security Number. In addition, if the program notices any significant changes in your credit report, it will send you an alert so you can div out their origins as quickly as possible.
- Credit Summary.
The app personalizes all the metrics to give you a better understanding of what your credit score is made up of. Then, it shows you a bottom-line plan of what’s best to do in your particular situation to raise your VantageScore.
- Dark Web Surveillance.
CreditWise is one of the few credit monitoring apps that track your data usage on the dark web. If, for example, your email or phone number gets there, the app will notify you so that you can change your password to prevent any problems.
- Credit Report.
With this app or website, you can view your report anytime. This is great for those who are actively improving the VantageScore® because you can usually only get one report a year for free through AnnualCreditReport.com, which doesn’t allow you to monitor your current situation.
There are only two disadvantages to this option – it has no insurance and allows you to monitor only the TransUnion report. However, it is by far the best offer you can come across because it has excellent functionality and is available to everyone for free.
Experian free credit monitoring
This website will allow you to monitor new inquiries, accounts opened in your name, and any suspicious activity that could harm your FICO account. Compared to the previous option, Experian has a few drawbacks:
- A dark web scan is only available once.
- You can get your report from Experian once every 30 days.
Like CreditWise, this option has no identity insurance and only allows you to monitor one credit bureau, Experian.
At the same time, however, it’s an excellent choice for those who want to try this tool for the first time because Experian has all the features you need. In addition, it has some interesting features, namely:
- Spending Control.
- The possibility to connect your bank account and use the app to track any changes in your account.
- Online disputes.
- If suddenly you need to contact the credit bureau to remove a mark or clarify information, you can do it through the company’s website.
- The ability to add phone and utility bills. These payments show lenders that you are a stable and reliable borrower and increase your FICO Score.
Overall, Experian credit monitoring is a good option for those not ready to pay for the tool yet, but it is a little worse than CreditWise.
Best paid credit monitoring services
You can use paid credit monitoring if you have the ability, desire, and need. So what do you get out of it?
First, you’ll have a lot more essential services. For example, if your information is stolen and a loan is taken out in your name, identity insurance, usually included in paid monitoring, will help you cover the costs.
Second, if you choose good paid monitoring, it will only cost $200-$300 a year, but it will help you increase your credit score and get better loan offers.
Let’s discuss what options you can pay for and what each one will give you.
For $139-$209 per year, depending on the package you choose, you can order IdentityForce. You can use it to keep track of your reports at all three credit bureaus and protect yourself from information theft on the dark net. In addition, all packages include $1 million in identity insurance, which will cover you if intruders manage to harm you.
As soon as someone tries to use your credit card, or medical ID, withdraw money from your investment account, change your address, or use your social security number, you will be notified by IdentityForce.
In addition, the company’s website will allow you to track changes to your account at any time and even predict how any actions you take (opening a new account, getting credit) will affect your VantageScore.
Overall this is a good option, with the only downside being the relatively high price. However, you can choose a cheaper alternative from the ones described below.
Depending on your chosen package, this service costs from $119.88 to $299.88. Like the previous option, this one allows you to track reports with all three credit bureaus, has $1 million for Identity, and uses VantageScore.
One benefit is the possibility of trying any of the plans for just $1 for the first 14 days. So what’s the difference between the three PrivacyGuard packages?
- The first costs $9.99 and includes insurance, dark web scanning, and notifications.
- The second costs $19.99 and allows you to track your credit reports daily (the above services are not included in this plan).
- The third combines both packages and costs $24.99 per month.
This option is best for those who don’t need to improve their credit score because the package without credit reports monitoring is cheaper than some other companies. However, if you need all the features, you can find an alternative solution that costs less.
This is the paid version of Experian credit monitoring, which is usually chosen by those who first used the free services of the bureau. This option, unlike the previous one, has a more logical and advantageous division of functions by tariff:
- The first package costs $9.99 to $19.99 (family option for five adults and ten children). It includes dark web scanning, notifications of any credit reports changes, $500,000 identity theft insurance, and tracking your FICO account with Experian.
- The second package costs $19.99 to $29.99 and includes all the same services, but with it, you can track your report not only from Experian but also from other credit bureaus.
Overall, Experian credit monitoring is best for larger families because it offers the best price for family packages. Also, if you don’t need to track information at all three credit bureaus, the first package is a better deal than PrivacyGuard, for example.
FICO® Basic, Advanced, and Premier
The latest option we’ll discuss helps you track 28 versions of your FICO score, including scores for different loans, from mortgages to credit cards.
Like previous companies, this one offers you $1 million identity theft insurance, dark web scanning, and notifications of changes to your credit reports. However, its significant advantage is that FICO Basic, Advanced, and Premier not only notifies you of any suspicious activity but also has a team of experts ready to help you sort out the situation.
Fees vary slightly and range from $19.95 to $39.95 per month. Price is the only downside to this service.
Choosing the first plan will allow you to monitor your Experian credit report and track your bank account spending and fraud activity. You can access all three credit bureaus if you select the other two plans. The only difference is how often you can get that access because Advanced allows you to do it quarterly and Premier monthly.
Overall, this option is the most expensive of the ones we’ve listed, although it doesn’t have as many advantages. However, if you use different types of loans and it’s essential to keep track of all 28 FICO accounts, this might be ideal for you.
What Is Credit Monitoring?
It is a service that protects you from scammers by tracking changes in your report and borrower behavior. For example, imagine that someone has accessed your Social Security number and is trying to apply for a loan in your name. If you don’t use this tool, you may not even know about it until you see your credit score drop because of an unpaid loan.
In addition, credit monitoring services may offer you identity theft insurance, dark web surveillance, and a simulator showing how your actions will influence your credit account.
What Does Credit Monitoring Do?
It has two main functions:
- First, to protect you from thieves and scammers.
To this end, companies offer dark web surveillance notifications of using your ID or changes in your behavior.
- Second, to help you track and improve your credit score.
To that end, companies offer the ability to continuously review your credit reports, useful financial tools, and credit score simulators.
How does it work?
You sign up on a credit monitoring services company’s website with all your information: your first and last name, age, where you live and work, Social Security number, etc.
You connect to the monitoring service, and the company starts tracking signs of fraudulent behavior in your account. If something suspicious happens, it will notify you instantly. However, you should know that those alerts may not be as important as you think. For example, even if you move and change your address on your credit report, you will also receive a notification about it in the email.
What you do with that notifications next is up to you. If you didn’t do the action that the monitor said you did, you’d better pay attention to this information and ask financial experts what to do in such a case.
What’s Included In Credit Monitoring?
There are certain factors that credit monitoring service companies look at. Their main job is to track your history of receiving and paying back loans and to send you an email notification if any of these things happen:
- A new account is opened in your name.
- A new mark appears on your credit report.
- Your account changes address, name, age, or other information.
- Someone is trying to get credit in your name.
- Someone is using your ID or Social Security number.
- Your information appears on the dark web.
Of course, you can do some of these things on your own, but speed is the most important thing in such dangerous cases. You may not realize that someone is using your ID to get credit. You will likely only find out when you need to pay it off or when your FICO score drops drastically. That is why using at least free credit monitoring services is advisable.
What Credit Monitoring Can’t Stop
The main thing you should understand is that the monitoring functions are limited to sending you alerts. What you do next with these notifications is up to you to decide.
If suddenly you receive a message that someone is trying to take credit in your name, you have to contact the experts yourself and find out what to do in this situation – credit monitoring will not be able to help you. The same goes for any other problem – companies will send notifications about them, but if you don’t take action, the perpetrators will be able to scam you.
Here is a list of features that are not the responsibility of credit monitoring service companies:
- Protecting your information from being stolen.
- Notifications of withdrawals from your bank account.
- Sending any information to a credit bureau.
- Correcting errors on your credit report.
- Closing or opening bank accounts.
To protect yourself from these problems, you’ll need to plug in additional tools or get help from financial experts.
Do I Need Credit Monitoring?
Each of us can become a victim in a situation where scammers try to steal our information and use it for illegal purposes. To prevent this, you can always use credit monitoring services, but we recommend settling for one of the free options.
The only significant difference between paid and free monitoring is the availability of insurance. However, you should understand that you won’t need insurance if you respond quickly to the notice you receive from a free credit monitoring service.
There will be many advantages to such a decision:
- You will be able to check your credit reports and keep track of your score.
- You won’t have to verify on your own to see if fraudsters have taken advantage of your information.
- You’ll notice any mistakes on your report sooner and can correct them before they severely lower your credit score if you have this tool.
Only you have to decide if you need paid monitoring or not. Weigh up the pros and cons, read our descriptions of the options above again, and make the right decision for you.
Free Credit Monitoring vs. Paid Credit Monitoring
We should note that free monitoring is not much behind paid tracking in the number of valuable features and essential functions. Thus, the only significant difference between the former and the latter is the presence of insurance, which will cover your expenses if intruders manage to use your information.
However, it’s essential to understand that you won’t need insurance if you respond to the notice in time. Also, not every situation where abusers have taken advantage of your information falls into the category of an insurance claim and provides for reimbursement.
A definite benefit of paid monitoring is the ability to monitor your report in all three credit bureaus. In addition, some companies monitor typical fraud activities, balance changes, credit utilization, and dormant accounts, which is also helpful.
In general, however, if you are unable or unwilling to pay for such services, you may well settle for the free option.
Our selection requirements
We used the following criteria to choose which of the market offers are the best.
- Overview. You can decide based on the first few lines even if you don’t read the full description.
- Cost. We tried to choose the most affordable options, so you don’t overpay for the same functionality.
- Credit scoring model used. So many lenders use FICO Scores, so we thought it necessary to note which companies will help you monitor this particular indicator.
- Identity insurance. Insurance is extra security for you, so we chose companies that will cover you up to $1 million in certain situations.
- Pros & Cons. If you don’t have a chance to read the entire review, you can look at the pros and cons of each option and make your choice.
- Why we like it. We looked at many credit monitors and chose each one for a specific reason, which we named in the review.
To summarize a little, we always try to write about who the best option is for whom and in what situation, so it’s easier for you to make your choice.