Worried about the impact a data breach or case of identity theft could have on your credit report and score? Enrolling in a credit monitoring service is an option to stay on top of your credit profile. It can also help minimize your losses if your personal information is compromised.
But what exactly is a credit monitoring service, and how do you find a provider? And is it worth the investment, or can you perform the same services on your own?
Read on to learn the answers to these questions and explore what the top providers have to offer.
What is credit monitoring?
Credit monitoring services keep a close watch on your credit profile around the clock. And if any changes occur, you’re alerted right away. This could include any of the following:
- Changes to your identifying information, like your address and employer
- Credit score increases and decreases
- New accounts
- New authorized users
- Payment activity
- Changes to existing accounts, including balance and credit line increases or decreases
- Account activity on dormant accounts
- New hard inquiries resulting from applications for credit
- New public record and collection accounts
- Status updates for public record and collection accounts, along with bankruptcies
- Dark web updates about your Social Security number
These services also monitor banking, credit card, and other personal information. Some credit monitoring packages also include identity theft monitoring and protection features.
How to choose a credit monitoring service provider
There are several service providers to choose from. When evaluating your options, here are some features you want to be on the lookout for:
- Monitors credit data from all three bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion)
- Monitors the web to ensure banking credit card, and other personal information, including your Social Security number, isn’t compromised
- Facilitates credit card account disputes resulting from theft
- Provides assistance in the event your identity is compromised, including the filing of police reports, placing fraud alerts, notifying the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and working with the creditor to close fraudulent accounts.
- Includes identity theft insurance to minimize your losses if you’re victimized by fraud
- Offers free copies of credit reports and assists with the filing of disputes with credit bureaus.
Below is a list of reputable providers in the next section to help you get started with your search.
Best credit monitoring services
Equifax 3-in-1 Monitoring with 4 FICO Scores
For only $14.95 per month, you can have a peace of mind knowing your credit data from the three bureaus is being monitored 24/7. As a subscriber, you’ll receive updates on any changes to your credit profiles within 24 hours. And if you’ve been victimized by identity theft, you can take advantage of the Automatic Fraud Alerts feature. This feature automatically places a fraud alert on your credit file at Equifax, sends requests for fraud alerts to Experian and TransUnion, and renews alerts and resubmits requests quarterly.
This service also grants you access to four variations of your FICO score and corresponding reports on a monthly basis. There’s no monthly contract and your subscription can be canceled at any time.
Experian offers credit monitoring and identity theft insurance as a combo deal through their CreditWorks plan. As a member, you’ll receive instant alerts anytime activity occurs in your credit profiles at each of the three credit bureaus. Your membership also includes up to $1 million in identity theft insurance coverage in the event your identity is compromised.
Other member perks include monthly credit reports and score updates, along with the ability to lock your Experian profile at the tap of a fingertip to avoid unwanted access to your credit report.
One of the best features of the service is the ability to view a new credit report and FICO Score 8 from Experian daily on the dashboard. You’ll also be able to view your credit reports and scores from Equifax and TransUnion, but they are updated every 30 days. Experian also keeps historic credit reports and scores on file from Equifax and TransUnion, so you can go back and view data from prior months as long as you’re a member. This service also includes assistance with credit and fraud related issues.
The monthly subscription fee is $24.99, but Experian lets you try out the service for only $4.99 during the first month. And if you wish to unsubscribe, you can cancel without incurring a penalty.
Similar to Experian, TransUnion’s credit monitoring service provides instant alerts and offers up to $1 million in identity theft insurance coverage. Your monthly subscription, which comes at a cost of $19.99, also includes tools to help you boost your score. Even better, there are representatives standing by to assist should your identity be compromised.
However, this service does not monitor your Equifax or Experian credit profiles. For this reason, you may want to forgo this service in favor of a more comprehensive option. But you can view your Equifax credit report on a monthly basis.
Identity Force offers two membership plans, UltraSecure and UltraSecure+Credit, to choose from. Both plans help protect you against identity theft and come with a $1 million identity theft insurance policy. However, the UltraSecure+Credit also includes 3-bureau credit monitoring along with access to your credit reports and scores. You can also track your credit score over time from the dashboard or use the simulator to determine how certain actions could help or hurt your score.
This service is $23.95 per month, or you could pay in full for the year and get two months free ($239.50).
myFICO allows you to access your FICO scores and receive ongoing credit reports through their credit monitoring services. Their offerings are as follows:
- FICO Basics 1B ($19.95 per month or $219 for the year): includes Experian credit monitoring, monthly Experian score and report updates, lost wallet protection, and $1 million in identity theft insurance
- FICO Ultimate 3B ($29.95 per month or $329 for the year): includes three bureau credit monitoring, quarterly score and report updates, identity theft monitoring, lost wallet protection, and $1 million in identity theft insurance
LifeLock is arguably one of the top identity theft protection providers in the industry. But they’ve also coupled credit monitoring services with their offerings and packaged them into three plans that are designed for every budget.
All plans include the Million Dollar Protection Package, identity theft alerts, and compensation for stolen funds, personal expenses, and lawyer fees. However, the credit monitoring services vary by plan, as detailed below:
- Standard Plan ($9.99 per month): includes credit monitoring from Equifax
- Advantage Plan ($19.99 per month): includes credit monitoring and a copy of your annual credit report and score from Equifax
- Ultimate Plus ($29.99 per month): includes credit monitoring and a copy of your annual credit report and score from the three credit bureaus, along with monthly credit score tracking from Equifax
Is credit monitoring worth it?
While you can monitor your own credit for free, credit monitoring may be a smart investment. Given the increasing number of large-scale system hacks and fraudulent activity occurring on the web, credit monitoring will keep watch over your credit profile when you can’t. That means you won’t have to wait several days or even months to realize that a scammer has hijacked your personal information, opened fraudulent credit cards in your name, and destroyed your credit.
If you’ve been victimized by fraud or identity theft, credit monitoring could also give you an added layer of protection and peace of mind. You’ll have the credit monitoring service as an extra set of eyes.
Another reason to invest in credit monitoring is if you don’t want to deal with security freezes. They’re a great way to protect your credit profile from being compromised, but require you to initiate a request for it to be lifted at each bureau each time you wish to apply for credit. But if you purchase credit monitoring, you won’t have to go through all the hassle because the service will alert you anytime there’s activity in your profile.
But keep in mind that credit monitoring doesn’t necessarily prevent fraud. It just gives you the heads up that your information has been accessed so you can act swiftly before too much damage is done.
The bottom line
Credit monitoring service is an ideal way to stay on top of the activity that occurs in your credit profiles at Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. And in the event issues arise, you’ll have assistance to find resolutions in the most timely manner possible.