Finding the best credit monitoring service helps us keep things under control, as most of us are fairly cognizant of the fact that maintaining a solid credit score is of the utmost importance.
A couple of ways to maintain a reputable credit score are by making on-time payments and keeping balances low to limit the negative marks made on your credit report. But like most things in life, there are often matters beyond our control that we must be aware of, and that is why credit monitoring is of such great importance.
Some services monitor your reports from each of the big three credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax), while others may only monitor activities from one or two of the three credit bureaus. I took the time to review the top credit monitoring services revealing the pros and cons of each.
Best Credit Score Monitoring Services: What to Consider
When deciding on the top credit monitoring services, there are many factors to consider. Here are a few I believe you should consider when reaching a decision.
Monitored Credit Bureaus - This is likely the most important factor in your decision. If a provider you're interested in doesn't monitor your report for each of the three major bureaus, you may be at an elevated risk of missing unauthorized activity.
Cost - While no one can't really assign a numeric value to something as significant as a credit report, we all want to receive the best value for our hard-earned dollars.
Identity Theft Insurance - Does your credit monitoring provider offer identity theft insurance? You may want to continue shopping around if a provider doesn't offer protection. And if the provider does offer protection, what will they insure and at what cost?
Frequency of Credit Alerts - Catching suspicious, unauthorized activity early is essential to avoiding surprises and clearing it from your history. This makes the frequency offered by the credit monitoring service, which should provide you with detailed updates of your credit report, absolutely vital.
What Do the Best Credit Monitoring Companies Exactly Monitor?
Think of a credit monitoring service as your personal (and virtual) guard dog who doubles up as an assistant, keeping a close eye on all of your credit activity. Like any faithful guard dog, you'll be notified when any changes, such as a credit balance increase, a new account opening under your name, or a late payment alert, appear on your account.
These services aid you in your goals of maintaining a great record, protecting your score from falling due to unexpected and potentially negative changes. Though do keep in mind that when you do settle in with a credit monitoring service, it won't act as a bullet-proof vest. It will not prevent you from succumbing to online scams or from being targeted by fraudsters.
How the Best Credit Monitoring Service Can Ease Your Mind (and Your Wallet)
In the aforementioned section, no one is safe from identity theft. It can happen anytime, anywhere. So it's important to reiterate that the best credit monitoring services exist to give you peace of mind.
It can take days, weeks, or even months to discover a fraud-related incident.
It's always a great idea to check your credit report at least once a year, but there could be incidents that might prompt you to check sooner. Sometimes the incidence occurs in between your check-ins. For example, say you checked your credit score on January 1st to begin the new year. Yet, a new credit card account was opened under your name on January 10th, which racked up thousands of dollars in debt over the course of a few days.
The fraudulent incident goes unnoticed for a month or two (when you finally receive a heart-wrenching bill) but by then, it's considered too late - the damage has already been done. A great credit monitoring service would alert you in a prompt and timely fashion, preventing such a circumstance from occurring.
You should consider a top credit monitoring service if you often fret at the thought of your credit card being declined or a loan being denied.
It's okay if your palms sweat and your knees tremble at the thought of your credit card being declined or your loan being denied. Mine certainly do. Identity theft, after all, is an extremely serious matter.
The following are just some of the companies with accounts that have been compromised throughout this year alone:
- Internal Revenue Service
- Premier Healthcare
- Verizon Enterprise Solutions
So again, your information is never safe, even in the hands of who you trust. At least with top credit monitoring services, you can take the proactive approach and be able to stop the fraud incident from occurring.
It takes an excessive amount of work to repair the damage caused by the incident.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, the process of recovering from identity theft averages at six months and 200 hours of work. Most of the workload involves denying the fact that you're responsible for the debt racked up from the incident. So basically you'd be contacting not only businesses but creditors as well.
Top rated credit monitoring services offer identity theft recovery assistance, which would save you time and money that could instead be used for a fun vacation.
The Best Credit Monitoring Services
Lifelock Credit Monitoring Review
- Service is comprehensive, especially at the highest tier.
- 24-hour support
- Daily activity reports
- $1 million identity theft insurance
- Service is pricey
LifeLock is probably one of the most well-recognized credit monitoring providers around. And for good reason. They offer excellent service at affordable rates.
LifeLock's services are offered in three tiers. LifeLock Standard is $9.99 per month and $109.89 annually. The LifeLock Advantage Plan starts at $19.99 per month and $219.89 annually and the highest-tiered plan, LifeLock Ultimate Plus is $29.99 per month and $329.99 annually.
Each of these tiers offers excellent protection, but naturally, the highest-tiered plan is the most comprehensive. Each of these plans offer identity theft recovery, featuring monitoring websites to see if your private information has been put up for sale. Additionally, the service offers 24-hour support over the phone.
The two highest tiers add some credit report monitoring, bank account alerts, data breach alerts, and public records scanning, but the highest tier offers reports from each of the three major credit bureaus in addition to online monitoring, sex offender reports, and additional financial alerts. Also, only the highest tier plan offers monthly credit score tracking.
Furthermore, each tier insures customers for up to $1 million if they are a victim of identity theft. These funds will go towards hiring experts, lawyers, investigators, consultants, and whatever else it takes to remove fraudulent accounts and activities from your report. Lastly, each tier offers daily activity reports which you can check via their website or mobile app.
LifeLock offers excellent service and is a top provider for a reason. If you can afford the highest-tiered plan, you would be hard-pressed to find more comprehensive protection. However, if LifeLock Ultimate Plus is out of your price range, you may want to consider another provider if you want to receive reports from all three credit bureaus and monthly credit reports.
Identity Force Credit Monitoring Review
- Affordable pricing and comprehensive protection
- High user responsiveness and autonomy
- $1 million identity theft insurance
- 24-hour customer service from certified protection experts
- Expensive credit monitoring features
Identity Force is another top provider that offers excellent service. One of the perks which separates Identity Force from their competitors is their trial period. If you're unsure of their services or simply want to try their product firsthand, Identity Force offers a 14-day free trial that you can take advantage of before committing their services. Once your trial period concludes, you can select between two tiers of credit monitoring that Identity Force provides.
The lower tier is Identity Force Ultra Secure, which is the version offered as the free trial (you will be given the option to upgrade once the trial is complete).This tier costs $17.95 per month, though you can save and select the$179.50-per-year option. The higher tier protection, known as Identity Force Ultra Secure + Credit, costs $23.95 per month or $239.50 per year.
While both tiers offer some essential protections, there are some notable differences. Each tier offers comprehensive public records monitoring, which includes criminal, court, and sex offender records. Additionally, both tiers provide instant alerts when irregular activity takes place. Moreover, both tiers give customers great autonomy in being able to control certain actions.
With Identity Force, customers have the power to act (and stop) unauthorized accounts and purchases before they occur. Lastly, each plan is backed by $1 million insurance policy in the event that your identity is stolen during you time as an Identity Force customer.
However, the main difference between the two tiers is rather significant. Only Identity Force Ultra Secure + Credit customers may enjoy reports and scores from each of the big three credit bureaus, a monthly tracker, and a credit score simulator.
Identity Force offers thorough protection and is affordably priced. Their services are on par with their primary competitors and their prices are reasonable as well. This is certainly a quality purchase, with the only negative being that you need to purchase the highest tier monitoring service in order to receive full protection.
Identity Guard Credit Monitoring Review
- Daily scans and reports of changes in your credit report
- $1 million identity theft insurance
- Thorough protection of personal information
- Offers family protection
- Expensive credit monitoring features
- Does not offer 24/7 customer service
With its variety of features and plethora of protection services, Identity Guard is a strong credit monitoring provider. This provider's greatest strength lies in its goal of keeping your name and personal information safe from websites where they can be stolen by cyber thieves.
Identity Guard offers three tiers of service, each of which is very affordably priced. The basic tier is Identity Guard Essentials, which costs just $9.99 per month. The mid-tier protection is Identity Guard Total Protection, which is only $19.99 per month. And the premium protection is Identity Guard Platinum, which is priced at $24.99 per month.
Identity Guard Essentials offers basic protection against such as Social Security number monitoring, ID Verification alerts, and $1 million identity theft insurance.
Identity Guard Total Protection monitors your personal information as well. In addition to protecting standard items such as your full name, phone number, social security number, address, and credit card information, this service scans bank account information and even medical insurance cards. Lastly, this tier monitors your identifying information on loan and lease applications, as well as public records.
Identity Guard Platinum is the most comprehensive plan, as it includes the services offered in the lower-tiered plans as well as monthly credit score and bureau credit report updates from the three major bureaus.
Each of Identity Guard's tiers offers daily scans of your credit reports and activity and instantly notify you of any changes.
Overall, Identity Guard offers excellent identity theft protection. The premium service is as thorough as any you'll find on the market and it is competitively priced. This provider's only significant drawback is that customer service hours are not 24 hours. Instead, the service is available from Monday through Friday between 8am and 11pm EST, and Saturday between 9am and 6pm EST.
Experian Credit Monitoring Review
- Even at the full rate, Experian is significantly more affordable than the industry's primary providers
- Offers monthly credit and activity reports
- Customer service is available seven days a week
- Identity theft insurance is only $50,000
- Limited to only viewing Experian Credit Report
In addition to being one of the three major credit bureaus, Experian also offers credit monitoring services, which makes purchasing credit monitoring services directly from them an appealing option for many.
Furthermore, Experian offers services at significantly cheaper rates compared to their counterparts. First, Experian offers a seven-day trial for only $1 so you can try their services out for yourself. Once you're a full member, Experian's credit monitoring services begin at $4.95 for the first month, though members will be charged $14.95 thereafter.
Experian also offers a variety of protective services. First, Experian offers unlimited online access to your Experian credit report and FICO score.
Additionally,the service also monitors your Experian credit report daily and instantly reports any irregular actions or activity. Moreover, Experian offers a monthly statement that includes your FICO score, a report of recent activities, and a summary of financial information that lenders consider when evaluating your creditworthiness.
Lastly, in the event that you are the victim of identity theft while an Experian customer, the service offers a $50,000 Experian Credit Tracker Guarantee. This guarantee effectively serves as Experian's version of identity theft insurance and is a significantly lower guarantee compared to its primary competitors. However, the Experian Credit Tracker Guarantee also includes a fraud resolutions specialist to aid you in resolving the issue.
While Experian does offer decent service at a very good price, there are significantly better options out there, especially if you're willing to invest a bit more. While receiving reports and protection directly from a major bureau does hold some appeal, being locked from seeing your report with the other two bureaus is a significant drawback. This is compounded by the fact that their identity theft insurance is paltry when compared to the three previous providers.
So while you may be saving a bit of money by opting for Experian's credit monitoring services, it could be costlier down the line if you become a victim.
Transunion Credit Monitoring Review
- Access to Vantage Credit Score
- Alerts reflecting each of the three major bureaus
- Financial management resources
- Monthly report and credit score reflects TransUnion
- TransUnion only offers a value of $25,000 in insurance
- Consumer reviews are concerning
Like Experian, TransUnion is another major bureau that offers credit monitoring, offering affordable and decent protection. Like Experian, TransUnion offers a seven-day trial for just $1. After the trial, the price jumps to $17.95 per month.
TransUnion also offers a variety of services. Primarily, of course, this service monitors your credit. If you choose to sign up for TransUnion's credit monitoring service, you are able to view alerts all associated with your credit scores for any of the three major credit reporting agencies. However, this is not to be confused with reports and scores each individual bureau produces.
In the event that someone does attempt to steal your identity or open an unauthorized account, your alerts will come from all three. But your monthly report and credit score will only reflect TransUnion.
Another perk of using TransUnion's credit monitoring service is that they provide you with your Vantage Credit Score in addition to your TransUnion score. For those who are unaware, Vantage Scores were created by the three major credit bureaus in 2006 to compete with FICO. While it is less commonly used than FICO, many lenders do check it to determine your creditworthiness.
Lastly, TransUnion offers helpful financial management resources. With TransUnion Plus Money Manager, customers can track their credit scores and receive alerts when changes are made to your accounts. Additionally, you can also set up mobile and email alerts for when your bills are due to help avoid missing payments. TransUnion does offer identity theft insurance in the event that your identity is stolen. However, the service only covers $25,000 of related expenses.
TransUnion offers fairly good credit monitoring services, but at $17.95 it isn't significantly cheaper than other providers who offer far more comprehensive protections. The biggest point in TransUnion's favor is that it gives you access to your Vantage Score, which is increasingly being used.
However, that bonus is somewhat negated by their identity theft insurance, which only covers up to $25,000 worth of damages. What can also be a concern with TransUnion are the consumer complaints, discovered on both Consumer Affairs and the BBB. Customers have had issues with the service offered, namely with the poor (and aggravating) customer service.
The Best Credit Monitoring Services Should Include Identity Theft Protection
Credit monitoring services are the best way to keep tabs on your credit report. All of us (yes, even you and me) are at risk for identity theft, which is both costly and stressful to deal with. According to the Federal Trade Commission, 42% of all frauds are identity theft-related.
Furthermore, as of 2015, Javelin Strategy reported that when the U.S. switched to EMV (Europay, Mastercard, and Visa) in an effort to reduce in-person fraud and counterfeit card operations, fraudsters turned their attention to new account fraud, driving up incidences by 113 percent.
New account fraud now accounts for 20 percent of all fraud losses. In other words, thieves continue to be very difficult to combat, even when new security measures and changes are in place.
Overall, an identity thief can steal your personal information, open a number of unauthorized accounts, and go on a shopping spree - a shopping spree that will cost you more than you're willing to pay. Worst case scenario? One day - several weeks or even months later - you'll attempt to apply for a credit card or loan, only to discover that you've been declined and your credit has been ruined.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report back in 2012, 26 percent of the 1,001 participants in the study found "at least one potentially material error on at least one of their three credit reports."
A top credit monitoring service enables you to immediately catch any incorrect or unauthorized accounts and promptly address them. The earlier you address any incorrect activity, the faster and easier the removal process will be.
Relying on the Best Credit Monitoring Services Is Less Costly than a Theft Incident
Monthly credit monitoring fees should not be a concern, especially since the cost of identity theft is so much greater. From the U.S. Department of Justice, in 2012 and 2014, identity theft victims who experienced "a direct and indirect financial loss of at least $1 lost an average of $1,343, with a median loss of $300."
In 2014, of the victims who suffered from multiple types of identity theft, "74% reported a direct financial loss associated with the incident."
Referring to the same report:
"Among those who reported a direct financial loss, victims of personal information fraud lost an average of $7,761 or a median of $2,000 per victim, compared to victims of existing bank fraud who lost an average of $780 or a median of $200 per victim."
When credit monitoring services are roughly $20 a month, you really can't beat that price when you could instead lose so much more in an identity theft incident.
How We Crafted Our Best Credit Monitoring Service Review
Here's how I came to the conclusion of selecting the top rated credit monitoring services of 2016:
1. I began with intensive research of the credit monitoring services available, relying on multiple internet sources sought via Google.
2. I then whittled down the companies that wouldn't fit the credit monitoring review. For instance, FreeCreditReport.com was crossed off the list due to the fact that it's owned by Experian. Experian itself offers a Credit Monitoring service that is vastly superior.
3. Finally, I narrowed down the selection further by analyzing the costs, ease of monitoring reports, the availability of customer service, the promptness of alerts, the amount offered in identity theft insurance, as well as any additional benefits. Using this information, I rated the finalists, eventually reaching my conclusion of what should be included in the credit monitoring service review.
Free Credit Monitoring Options
At the end of the day, you might be strapped for cash, unable to purchase a credit monitoring service to watch over your reports. Fortunately, you can always check your credit score and request an annual report for free from Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian.
You can always order your reports from all three bureaus simultaneously or request one every few months. However, if you want to be proactive in the event of identity theft, it is highly recommended to go with a credit monitoring service.
Best Credit Monitoring Services Recap
If you are worried about your credit security, then know that there are a variety of companies and options available to you. While each of these providers will monitor your credit and transactions, it's important to consider all factors and choose the one that is best for you.
Identity theft is no laughing matter. It's best to suit up and defend yourself with one of the best identity theft protection services. If you wish to find a service that allows you to monitor your own credit report and give you the most bang for your buck, then be sure to check out the best credit report sites.