What's The Best Credit Monitoring Service?
The best credit monitoring service cover these four categories of features:
- Keeping tabs on your credit
- Detecting signs of identity theft and financial fraud
- Proactively protecting your personal and financial information
- Resolving and recovering from identity theft and financial fraud
While most credit monitoring services will have some sort of offering for each of these areas, they don’t all offer the same thing.
For example, some companies only monitor your credit file at one credit bureau rather than across all three of the major credit bureaus (i.e., Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax), which leaves gaps in your credit history and protection.
Additionally, many free credit monitoring services skip one or more of these categories.
In this guide: We provide eight factors to consider when choosing the right credit monitoring service for your needs. We also cover the differences between free and paid services. Then, we compare 11 credit monitoring services, starting with a deep dive into our solution, Aura.
How to Choose the Best Credit Monitoring Service for You
Every credit monitoring service will provide you with some version of your credit score.
Although financial institutions use many official credit score models, the most common are VantageScore® and FICO®. Both will give you a good indication of your credit health, but here’s the difference:
The VantageScore® model was developed by the three major credit bureaus — Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. While FICO® scores were developed by private citizens (Bill Fair and Earl Isaac).
Ultimately, monitoring your credit score is just one small piece of the puzzle when it comes to protecting your finances and identity.
Here are eight factors to consider to help you understand the differences and benefits of various credit monitoring services:
- Credit monitoring: Will the service monitor just one or all three of your credit reports?
- Credit lock: Will you be able to lock your credit file?
- Financial account monitoring: Will you be alerted to changes in your financial accounts?
- Identity theft protection: Will the service monitor the Dark Web and public records for signs of identity theft?
- Proactive digital security: Will you be able to proactively protect your information from being stolen?
- Customer support: Will you get the assistance you need, when you need it?
- Insurance: Will you be reimbursed for legal expenses, stolen funds, and other financial losses?
- Pricing: Can you get the protection you need for a reasonable price?
Credit monitoring: Will the service monitor just one or all three of your credit reports?
Your credit reports at Experian, TransUnion and Equifax aren’t always identical. This is because not all lenders report to all three credit bureaus.
If an identity thief takes out a loan that is only reported to one of the credit bureaus, you’ll only be able to catch the fraudulent activity if you’re monitoring that credit report.
Unfortunately, many credit monitoring services only offer three-bureau credit monitoring in their highest priced plan. Additionally, many free credit monitoring services only alert you to major changes to your credit report instead of all changes. This means you may miss signs of financial fraud.
The bottom line: Look for affordable, three-bureau credit monitoring that alerts you to all changes in your credit score.
Credit lock: Will you be able to lock your credit file?
A credit lock prevents creditors from accessing your credit file. Creditors will typically run an inquiry into your credit file to determine whether or not to grant a loan. If your credit is locked and a criminal tries to take out a loan in your name, they will likely be denied the loan.
Credit locks are available from the main credit bureaus — but usually at a price.
The bottom line: Choose a credit monitoring service that lets you lock and unlock your credit at a moment's notice. Most free services don’t offer credit locks.
Financial account monitoring: Will you be alerted to changes to your financial accounts?
There are many types of financial fraud that won’t show up on your credit report. For example, criminals will add their name to your home title to try to improve their own credit score, which would likely bring down your credit score.
The bottom line: Check what other accounts your credit monitoring service also monitors. Ideally, it should monitor at least your credit, bank, and investment accounts.
Identity theft protection: Can you monitor the Dark Web and public records for signs of identity theft?
Most free credit monitoring services focus almost entirely on monitoring your credit score and credit report for errors.
While this is helpful for understanding the health of your credit, errors on your credit report often mean that someone has already stolen your identity and committed financial fraud. Instead, you want a service that can help catch the thief before they have the chance to do too much damage.
Identity monitoring — which includes Social Security monitoring and Dark Web monitoring — deals with scanning various platforms for signs of your personal information. If your information is found in a place it shouldn’t be — court records, for example — chances are your identity has been stolen. Knowing this as soon as possible gives you the chance to stop the fraudster from using your identity to commit crimes that could damage your financial health.
The bottom line: Pay close attention to what platforms a credit monitoring service monitors (the Dark Web, public records, social media, etc).
Make sure you’re able to add all of your sensitive information to their monitoring watchlist. This includes your:
- Social Security number (SSN),
- Driver’s license,
- Multiple phone numbers and email addresses
Many free services will only scan a few places on the Dark Web for signs of just your SSN.
Proactive digital security: Will you be able to protect your information from being stolen?
Some credit monitoring services will offer features like VPNs and antivirus software to help keep your information secure. The more features you have to protect your information, the less likely it is that criminals will be able to steal it and use it for financial fraud.
The bottom line: Proactive security features, including a VPN, antivirus, password manager, and safe browsing tools, should be an essential part of any credit monitoring service you’re considering.
Customer support: Will you get the assistance you need, when you need it?
Identity theft is often very unsettling and can be complicated to resolve.
And yet, many free credit monitoring services will only alert you to suspicious activity, leaving you on your own to resolve it. Even paid credit monitoring services that offer 24/7 support rely almost entirely on automated phone messaging systems or outsource their customer support. This can make it really difficult to get the help you need.
The bottom line: Choose a service that provides 24/7 U.S.-based customer support and a dedicated agent for each instance of fraud.
Insurance: Will you be reimbursed for legal expenses, lost wages, stolen funds, and other financial losses?
The standard amount for identity theft insurance is $1 million. However, most identity theft insurance policies will only cover legal expenses or stolen funds and not other related expenses such as lost wages or additional childcare.
The bottom line: Make sure you understand what your identity theft insurance covers. We recommend choosing a credit monitoring and identity theft protection service with a $1 million insurance policy that covers legal expenses, private investigator expenses, lost wages, stolen funds, care for loved ones, and travel expenses.
It’s also worth noting that most credit monitoring providers won’t include identity theft insurance in their basic credit monitoring plans (or will only include a small amount of coverage).
Pricing: Can you get the protection you need for a reasonable price?
Most credit monitoring companies offer a different set of features in each plan. You’ll need to read each plan carefully to make sure you get the features you need. Additionally, some credit protection companies will charge more after the first year, so you’ll want to read the fine print.
The bottom line: Don’t get caught up in complicated pricing plans. Choose a service that offers all of their features for a single price so that you always have the coverage you need.
8 Paid Credit Monitoring Services
Most credit monitoring services will hit the mark on some, but not all of the features we listed above.
To help you choose the service that’s best suited to your needs, we’ll compare eight paid credit monitoring services and three free credit score apps.
1. Aura: Credit Monitoring & Identity Theft Protection
Aura was designed to help you monitor your credit and protect you against criminal activity that can affect your credit score and financial health. You can manage all features from a user-friendly dashboard on nearly any device.
Aura gives you access to monthly credit score updates using the VantageScore 3.0 model.
Here’s how Aura answers each factor to consider.
Credit monitoring: Get near real-time alerts with three-bureau credit monitoring
Most credit protection services wait for the credit bureaus to notify them of changes to your credit file before alerting you, which often causes significant delays. Aura, on the other hand, gives you near real-time alerts of changes to your credit file across all three credit bureaus.
Aura has direct integrations with each credit bureau. This means you’ll get alerts to any changes to your credit file at the same time the credit bureaus do — often up to 4x faster than competitors.
Credit lock: Lock and unlock your Experian credit file with just a tap
Aura lets you lock and unlock your Experian credit file with just a tap from nearly any device. You’ll receive near real-time alerts to new credit inquiries, even when your credit is locked.
Financial account monitoring: Prevent financial fraud with bank account and transaction alerts
Aura offers many ways to catch financial fraud that may not appear on your credit report:
- Bank account monitoring: Aura alerts you to any new accounts in your name as well as changes to your bank accounts, including change of address, name, date of birth, phone number, etc.
- Home title monitoring: Aura will alert you to any changes to your property titles and will alert you if any new property titles appear on public records in your name.
- Risky transaction monitoring: Some loan and credit card applications don’t require a background check to be approved (for example, PayDay loans). Aura monitors for signs that your SSN is being used to apply for these types of risky transactions and sends you alerts if something is found.
- Transaction threshold: With Aura, you can set transaction thresholds for your various debit and credit card accounts. If a transaction over that threshold takes place, you’ll receive fast alerts so that you can secure your account against further theft.
Identity theft protection: Monitor billions of data points for signs of identity theft
Aura scans public records and billions of data points on the Dark Web for signs of your personal information.
Your Aura “watchlist” can include your:
- SSN or Social Insurance number (SIN)
- Phone numbers
- Physical addresses
- Email addresses
- Health Insurance IDs
- Financial account numbers
- Drivers license number
- Birth date
- Credit and debit cards
- Loyalty cards
- National provider ID
Aura also monitors data broker lists for signs of your personal information.
Data brokers gather your personal information from public sites and build a profile on you to sell to whoever will buy — even identity thieves. If Aura finds your information on one of these sites, you’ll be notified, and Aura will request the removal of your information on your behalf.
Every Aura alert (whether it’s an identity theft, credit report, or bank account alert) will include why you’re getting the alert, what to do next, and who to call for more details and fraud resolution.
Proactive digital security: Prevent identity theft with multiple layers of proactive protection
Aura offers multiple features that will help keep your personal information out of the hands of criminals.
Here’s an overview of the features Aura offers to help keep your information safe:
- A virtual private network (VPN) with military-grade encryption to hide your online activity from cybercriminals and hackers.
- Antivirus software that automatically detects and isolates spyware, malware, ransomware, adware, and other online threats so your devices won’t become infected with malicious software.
- Safe browsing software that prevents you from entering dangerous sites that are trying to steal your personal information.
- Anti-track software that prevents websites from tracking your online activity.
- A password manager that creates, stores, and auto-fills randomly generated passwords for you (On select sites, Aura will also log in and update the password for you).
- Randomly generated email aliases to use in place of your own email address when signing up for various accounts (e.g., customer rewards, newsletters, etc.)
Customer support: Talk to a live, U.S.-based agent 24/7
Aura’s team is available 24/7 to answer any questions and help you resolve fraud incidents.
If you are a victim of identity theft or financial fraud, you’ll be able to reach an experienced fraud remediation specialist within minutes (or seconds) of dialing.
Aura’s team can set up three-way calls to help you communicate with bureaus and government institutions to resolve the fraud. You’ll have a dedicated case manager to help you work through each instance of fraud (instead of dealing with different agents each time).
Here are a few reviews of Aura's customer support from customers on TrustPilot:
Insurance: Get $1 million of comprehensive identity theft insurance
Every adult, regardless of the Aura plan you choose, receives $1 million in identity theft insurance to cover eligible legal expenses, private investigator expenses, lost wages, stolen funds, travel expenses, and additional care for loved ones.
Pricing: One price for all features
Aura doesn’t charge more for specific features. Instead, every identity theft protection plan comes with access to all features. The only difference is how many people you want to protect (individual, couple, or family).
Aura’s family plans cover up to 5 members of your family — either children or adults — regardless of where they live. For example, you could protect your kid who’s attending university as well as your elderly parents — all in one plan.
✅ Try Aura for yourself: Sign up for a free 14-day trial of Aura →
2. Identity Guard
Identity Guard is an award-winning identity theft protection service that provides your monthly credit score using VantageScore 3.0.
Here’s how Identity Guard compares on the key credit monitoring and protection features:
- Credit monitoring: They offer three-bureau credit monitoring in their Total and Ultra plans.
- Credit lock: You can lock your Experian credit file with the Ultra plan.
- Financial account monitoring: Identity Guard offers bank account, high risk transaction monitoring, credit and debit card monitoring, and investment account monitoring.
- Identity theft protection: Identity Guard uses IBM Watson technology to scan the Dark Web, social media, and millions of web pages for your name, SSN, and driver’s license number.
- Proactive digital security: They offer a safe browsing feature and a password manager.
- Customer support: They offer 24/7/365 fraud support.
- Insurance: They provide up to $1 million in identity theft insurance with every plan to cover eligible fees and expenses.
What are Identity Guard’s pricing plans?
Identity Guard offers three plans for both individuals and families: Value, Total and Ultra. The Value plan only offers basic identity theft protection and the other two plans add on additional features for credit protection.
IdentityForce provides your credit score using VantageScore as well as a few other identity theft protection features.
Here’s how IdentityForce compares on the key credit monitoring and protection features:
- Credit monitoring: Three-bureau credit monitoring is offered in their highest priced credit plan.
- Credit lock: Although they will help you freeze your credit, they don’t mention credit locks.
- Financial account mon: IdentityForce offers bank account, PayDay loan, and investment account monitoring.
- Identity theft protection: IdentityForce offers a few types of identity theft monitoring, including social media and Dark Web monitoring.
- Proactive digital security: IdentityForce offers PC protection tools that protect against key-logging and phishing sites.
- Customer support: IdentityForce advertises 24/7 U.S.-based fraud remediation.
- Insurance: They provide up to $1 million to reimburse stolen funds and compensate you for some legal fees and lost wages.
What are IdentityForce’s pricing plans?
IdentityForce offers two pricing plans: UltraSecure and UltraSecure+Credit. Each one offers a different set of features. You’ll need the second option if you want credit protection.
4. ID Watchdog from Equifax
ID WatchDog also uses VantageScore, however, your score will be created using just your Equifax credit file in lower priced plans.
Here’s how ID WatchDog compares on the key credit monitoring and protection features:
- Credit monitoring: ID Watchdog offers three-bureau credit monitoring in their premium plan.
- Credit lock: You can lock your Equifax credit file with ID Watchdog.
- Financial account monitoring: ID Watchdog offers basic bank account monitoring.
- Identity theft protection: ID Watchdog offers the basic types of identity monitoring, including public records and Dark Web monitoring. You can add your SSN, email addresses, and driver’s license to the watchlist.
- Proactive digital security: ID Watchdog only offers a few proactive protection features, including VPNs, a password manager, and safe browsing.
- Customer support: ID Watchdog advertises 24/7 customer care and in-house resolutions specialists.
- Insurance: You’ll be covered by up to $1 million in identity theft insurance for eligible out-of-pocket expenses and lost funds.
What are ID WatchDog’s pricing plans?
ID Watchdog offers a Select plan and Premium plan for both individuals and families. The family plan lets you add one additional adult and up to four minors.
PrivacyGuard also uses VantageScore to track your credit score.
Here’s how PrivacyGuard compares on the key credit monitoring and protection features:
- Credit monitoring: PrivacyGuard offers three-bureau credit monitoring as part of their credit protection plan.
- Credit lock: PrivacyGuard doesn’t advertise credit locks.
- Financial account monitoring: PrivacyGuard offers bank account monitoring.
- Identity theft protection: PrivacyGuard offers SSN, driver’s license, and passport monitoring on the Dark Web and public records.
- Proactive digital security: PrivacyGuard only offers safe browser and safe keyboard features for digital protection.
- Customer support: You’ll receive a dedicated restoration specialist if you do become a victim of identity theft, and they offer a credit hotline that will walk you through each piece of your credit profile.
- Insurance: PrivacyGuard offers $1 million in identity theft insurance, but they don’t specify what it covers.
What are PrivacyGuard’s pricing plans?
PrivacyGuard offers three plans:
- Credit Protection (which doesn’t include any identity theft protection features such as identity theft insurance)
- Identity Protection (which doesn’t include credit monitoring)
- tTotal protection plan (which combines everything in the other two plans)
6. Experian IdentityWorks
Experian is one of the few options in this list that provides you with your FICO credit score.
Here’s how Experian IdentityWorks compares on the key credit monitoring and protection features:
- Credit monitoring: Experian IdentityWorks offers three-bureau credit monitoring in their paid plans.
- Credit lock: You can lock your Experian credit file.
- Financial account monitoring: You’ll receive financial account takeover alerts.
- Identity theft protection: Experian IdentityWorks offers SSN monitoring, change of address monitoring, and a few other types of identity monitoring.
- Proactive digital security: Experian IdentityWorks only recently added VPNs and safe browsing to their plans. However, they don’t mention antivirus software.
- Customer support: Experian IdentityWorks only offers customer support during select business hours.
- Insurance: They offer $1 million in ID theft insurance to cover initial legal consultations, child care, and lost wages.
What are Experian IdentityWorks’ pricing plans?
Experian IdentityWorks is often included on lists of free credit monitoring services because they offer a free plan. However, their free plan offers very little. You’ll only be able to monitor your Experian credit report and FICO® credit score.
If you want three-bureau credit monitoring or access to credit locks, you’ll have to pay. At the time of writing, their paid plans are $24.99 for individuals and $34.99 for families.
LifeLock also offers VantageScore credit scores, however, they only use your TransUnion credit file.
Here’s how LifeLock compares on the key credit monitoring and protection features:
- Credit monitoring: You can choose between one- and three-bureau credit report monitoring (depending on your plan).
- Credit lock: LifeLock lets you lock your TransUnion credit report. (They call it Identity Lock.)
- Financial accounts and identity theft monitoring: LifeLock offers many forms of identity theft monitoring, including Dark Web monitoring, public records monitoring, bank account monitoring, and more.
- Proactive digital security: If you bundle your LifeLock plan with Norton 360 (for an additional cost), you’ll have access to digital protection features such as a VPN and antivirus software (the bundle will also require a separate mobile app).
- Customer support: LifeLock advertises U.S.-based fraud remediation and 24/7 customer support.
- Insurance: LifeLock offers identity theft insurance, although the amount and what it covers varies by plan.
What are LifeLock’s pricing plans?
LifeLock offers three main pricing plans: Standard, Advantage, and UltimatePlus. Each one adds on features to the previous one and improves your coverage.
LifeLock also advertises other identity products, including home title protection and a LifeLock identity advisor, for additional monthly fees. All of this makes it difficult to pin down how much you’ll actually be paying.
Finally, LifeLock is known for increasing the price significantly after the first year, so you’ll want to read the fine print.
As the name suggests, myFICO provides your FICO® credit score.
Here’s how myFICO compares on the key credit monitoring and protection features:
- Credit monitoring: You can also view one or more of your credit reports at regular intervals depending on the plan you choose.
- Credit lock: myFICO doesn’t mention the ability to lock and unlock any of your credit reports.
- Financial accounts and identity theft monitoring: myFICO advertises that they scan public records and thousands of websites, chat rooms, and other online databases for signs of your personal information. They don’t mention Dark Web surveillance or bank account monitoring specifically.
- Proactive digital security: Like many credit score apps, myFICO doesn’t offer any digital or online protection against scams.
- Customer support: They provide 24/7 identity recovery specialists.
- Insurance: myFICO offers $1 million in identity theft insurance for expense reimbursement and cash recovery.
What are myFICO’s pricing plans?
myFICO offers three plans: Basic, Advanced, and Premier. The main differences between these are whether or not you want identity monitoring and which of your credit reports you want to view at what intervals.
3 Free Credit Monitoring Services
For basic credit monitoring, there are free services you can use. Here are three you should consider, along with their pros and cons.
Note: You can access one free credit report each year from all three bureaus at Annualcreditreport.com.
1. Credit Karma
Credit Karma uses the VantageScore model based on your TransUnion and Equifax credit reports. They also offer a credit score simulator which lets you see how specific financial decisions may impact your credit score.
Here’s how Credit Karma compares on the key credit monitoring and protection features:
- Credit monitoring: Credit Karma only monitors Equifax and TransUnion credit files.
- Credit lock: You won’t be able to lock your credit files with Credit Karma.
- Financial account monitoring: Credit Karma doesn’t offer bank account monitoring.
- Identity theft protection: Credit Karma’s identity monitoring scans the Dark Web for your email address and sends you a notification if it’s been found. Then, you’re advised to change your passwords and file a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
- Proactive digital security: Credit Karma doesn’t offer any digital or online protection features.
- Customer support: Credit Karma offers an online tool for disputing errors on your credit reports, however, this is the only fraud remediation that they advertise.
- Insurance: Credit Karma doesn’t offer identity theft insurance.
- Pricing: Credit Karma is entirely free and doesn’t mention any paid services.
2. Credit Sesame
Credit Sesame’s basic plan provides credit score tracking with estimates of your credit score using the information in your TransUnion credit report. They also help you with personal finance decisions including student loans, car loans, suggested credit cards, etc.
Here’s how Credit Sesame compares on the key credit monitoring and protection features:
- Credit monitoring: Credit Sesame monitors your TransUnion credit report.
- Credit lock: You won’t be able to lock your credit with Credit Sesame.
- Financial account monitoring: Credit Sesame lets you link several bank accounts and will alert you to any activity on those accounts.
- Identity theft protection: Credit Sesame doesn’t offer any identity monitoring.
- Proactive digital security: Credit Sesame doesn’t offer any digital or online security features.
- Customer support: You’ll have access to customer support 24/7.
- Insurance: Credit Sesame provides $50,000 in identity theft insurance for some expenses.
- Pricing: Everything we’ve mentioned so far is in regards to the free service. They do offer premium subscriptions, but you have to log in as a member to view the details of those plans.
3. CreditWise by Capital One
CreditWise also uses VantageScore to track changes to your credit report
Here’s how CreditWise compares on the key credit monitoring and protection features:
- Credit monitoring: You’ll receive fraud alerts for major changes to your TransUnion and Experian credit files.
- Credit lock: They don’t offer any credit locks.
- Financial account monitoring: CreditWise will scan the Dark Web for signs of your SSN and primary email address and alert you if they find either one.
- Identity theft protection: They don’t offer any bank account or public records monitoring.
- Proactive digital security: CreditWise doesn’t offer any type of digital or online protection.
- Customer support: Once you receive an alert, you’re on your own. CreditWise doesn’t provide any identity fraud remediation.
- Insurance: CreditWise doesn’t offer identity theft insurance.
- Pricing: CreditWise is a free service for anyone, even if you aren’t a Capital One customer.