What Is Three-Bureau Credit Monitoring?
Credit monitoring is an essential tool for tracking changes to your credit score and spotting the signs of fraud early. But not all credit monitoring services offer the same level of accuracy or speed — and this could put your finances at risk.
First off, it’s important to remember that each of your credit reports can include different information. This is because many financial institutions only report to one or two of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax).
Plus, many credit monitoring services wait for the bureaus to inform them of any changes — sometimes encompassing hours or days. This delay leaves you vulnerable to financial fraud and identity theft.
To keep your finances safe, you need three-bureau credit monitoring that alerts you to all changes to your credit report in near real-time.
In this guide, we’ll compare five identity theft protection services that offer three-bureau credit monitoring — starting with a deep dive into our solution, Aura.
First: Do You Need To Pay for a Credit Monitoring Service?
The truth is that no, you don’t have to pay for credit monitoring services.
Everyone is entitled to one free credit report per year from all three major credit bureaus at annualcreditreport.com. If you want to, you can check your own credit reports for unrecognized new accounts or incorrect information.
But there are two main problems with this method.
First, any additional credit reports come at a cost. This means that you could have to pay a significant amount to make sure you’re not the victim of fraud.
And second, who has the time to check their credit reports every week?
Instead, credit protection and identity theft protection services monitor your credit reports around the clock and alert you to suspicious activity.
It’s important to note that not all credit protection services are the same. Even paid credit monitoring apps often run into one of these serious issues:
- Lack of coverage. They only offer one- or two-bureau credit monitoring. This leaves you in the dark when it comes to potential fraud. Most free credit monitoring services only monitor one bureau.
- Too expensive. Many providers only offer three-bureau credit monitoring as part of their highest pricing plan. For more affordable options or free services, you only get one- or two-bureau monitoring.
- No proactive alerts. They only send you alerts for major changes, instead of all changes. This means you could miss red flags indicating that your credit was damaged or your identity has been compromised.
- Delays between fraud events and when you get an alert. Many credit monitoring providers wait for credit bureaus to notify them of changes before sending you an alert. This means there’s a delay (of several hours or longer) between when the fraud happens and when you know about it.
Every second counts when it comes to mitigating the damages of financial fraud.
That’s why it pays to choose a credit monitoring service that detects changes to your credit report at the same time as the credit bureaus.
The Top 5 Three-Bureau Credit Monitoring Apps for 2023
For this comparison, we chose five of the top-rated identity theft protection services that include 3-bureau credit monitoring. Identity theft protection often costs the same (or less) than dedicated credit monitoring services. Plus, it provides valuable tools for keeping your accounts safe from scammers in the first place.
Here are our top choices for three-bureau credit monitoring services.
1. Aura: Three-Bureau Credit Report Alerts in Near Real-Time
Aura is a top-rated identity theft protection service that offers three-bureau credit monitoring with every plan. With Aura’s credit monitoring, you get:
- Near real-time alerts of inquiries, inaccuracies, and changes to your credit information across Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
- Free credit scores (monthly) using the VantageScore scoring model to view trends over time.
- Annual credit reports from all three credit bureaus.
What sets Aura apart from many other services is that Aura maintains direct contact with each credit bureau. This means you’ll receive alerts of changes to your credit file up to 4x faster with Aura than with competitors.
If you receive an alert, Aura’s team of U.S.-based Fraud Resolution Specialists are available 24/7.
Our support team can help you understand every line of your credit report, secure your accounts against fraudsters, and even deal with credit agencies, banks, and credit card companies in the event that your identity is stolen.
Credit alerts offer a great way to catch and prevent further financial fraud. However, an alert means criminals have already stolen and used your identity.
Here’s how Aura helps you catch fraud sooner — and proactively protects your information:
Credit lock: Lock your Experian credit file with just a tap
A credit lock prevents creditors and lenders from accessing your credit history. If a criminal tries to apply for a loan in your name, a credit lock should deny the request, as the financial institution won’t be able to run a credit check.
Aura lets you lock and unlock your Experian credit file with one click from nearly any device. You’ll still receive alerts about changes or inquiries into your credit history while your credit is locked.
Did you know? Some loan and credit card applications don’t require background checks (e.g., PayDay loans). Aura monitors public records for signs that your Social Security number (SSN) is being used to apply for these types of risky transactions.
Bank account monitoring: Catch financial fraud that doesn’t appear on your credit reports
There are many types of financial fraud that won’t show up on your credit profile. For example, criminals using your bank account information to make fraudulent purchases.
Aura monitors your bank accounts and credit accounts for suspicious activity including new contact information or large transactions on your debit cards and credit cards. If anything is found, you’ll receive an alert, and our team will help you secure your accounts.
Identity monitoring: Stop identity thieves before they use your personal information
It’s always better to prevent fraud than to encounter the consequences of being a victim.
Aura scans billions of data points on the Dark Web, public records, and data broker sites for your stolen personal information.
Your Aura “watchlist” can include:
If your information is found, Aura will send you an alert with instructions for what to do next and whom to contact for assistance.
Is your identity at risk? Fraudsters buy and sell stolen information on the Dark Web — putting your finances and identity at risk. Try a free Dark Web scan from Aura to see if your passwords or sensitive information have been compromised.
Proactive online protection: Prevent hacking, malware, and digital spying
Ideally, criminals will never have access to your personal information. But in reality, there are more ways than ever for them to steal your data online — from Wi-Fi hacking to phishing attacks to fake websites.
Aura offers proactive digital protection to keep your personal information out of the hands of criminals. This includes a virtual private network (VPN), antivirus software, a secure password manager, email aliases, and more.
U.S.-based fraud remediation: Quickly recover from identity theft and financial fraud
Identity theft and financial fraud can be a nightmare. That’s why it’s important to have a team of fraud remediation specialists on call to help you when you need them.
Aura’s team is available 24/7 to answer any questions and help you recover from identity theft and fraud.
Within minutes (or seconds) of dialing, you’ll reach a live agent who will walk you through the steps to take. Aura’s agents can even facilitate three-way calls with you and your bank or creditors to explain the situation.
All-in-one protection plans for individuals, couples, or families
Most services only offer three-bureau credit monitoring on their most expensive plans. Even worse, many companies drastically increase their monthly fee after your first year as a member.
Aura offers three-bureau credit monitoring on every plan without sky-high renewal rates or hidden fees.
Every adult member on an Aura plan is also covered by $1 million in identity theft insurance to cover eligible expenses such as lost wages, stolen funds, legal fees, and more. Choose from Aura’s individual, couples, or family plan — all with a 60-day money-back guarantee (on annual plans).
2. Identity Guard: Award-winning identity theft protection
Identity Guard is an award-winning and affordable identity theft protection service. They offer three plans for individuals or families: Value, Total, and Ultra.
Both the Total and Ultra plans let you monitor your Experian credit report, TransUnion credit report, and Equifax credit report.
Identity Guard’s Value plan is the least expensive and offers basic identity theft protection (e.g., data breach notifications). However, it’s missing a few key features like credit card and social media monitoring.
The Total plan adds more features such as credit score monitoring (using VantageScore® 3.0), but it’s still lacking key features such as a credit lock.
The Ultra plan is the most comprehensive and includes all of the features Identity Guard has to offer. Lastly, Identity Guard's digital protection only includes safe browsing and a password manager.
Conclusion: Identity Guard may be a good budget option, but it’s lacking in proactive protection.
3. IdentityForce: Popular Choice for Credit Protection
IdentityForce is the identity theft protection solution offered by TransUnion (one of the three major credit reporting agencies).
IdentityForce is well known for its credit protection. However, full credit protection is only offered with the highest priced plan: UltraSecure +Credit. Additionally, they will only help you freeze your credit; IdentityForce does not offer credit locks.
The cheaper UltraSecure plan offers some identity monitoring services and PC protection tools that protect against key-logging and phishing sites.
Conclusion: While IdentityForce is a popular choice for comprehensive credit protection, it’s missing a few key features and is more expensive than most.
4. PrivacyGuard: Flexible Credit and Identity Theft Protection
PrivacyGuard lets you choose between credit protection, identity protection, or total protection (which includes both credit and identity protection). Here’s the difference:
The credit protection includes three-bureau credit monitoring, a financial calculator suite to manage your personal finances, and a few other types of credit protection.
The identity protection plan includes identity restoration services and $1 million in identity theft insurance. There’s no overlap between the credit and identity protection plans.
While PrivacyGuard’s credit protection is fairly comparable to other services, its identity theft protection is lacking a few key features such as 24/7 customer support and a password manager.
Conclusion: PrivacyGuard offers good credit protection, but their identity theft protection is less comprehensive than other options.
5. myFICO: Good Credit Score Monitoring App
myFICO is the credit score monitoring app offered by FICO®. Although it focuses on monitoring your FICO® score, myFico does offer a few monitoring features. For example, Dark Web surveillance, three-bureau credit monitoring, and bank and credit monitoring. However, all of these features are only included in the Advanced and Premier plans.
myFICO’s Basic plan provides one-bureau credit monitoring, monthly credit score tracking, monthly scores for mortgages and auto loans, identity restoration services, and identity theft insurance.
Like many credit score apps, myFICO doesn’t offer any digital or online protection with any plan.
Conclusion: myFICO can be useful for credit score updates and credit monitoring. However, it’s not a full service identity theft protection solution.
📚 Related: 7 Best Credit Monitoring Apps (with Recommendations) →
Bonus: Credit Karma: Two-Bureau Monitoring (With Added Features)
Credit Karma is a good option if you’re shopping around for loans (rather than looking to protect yourself against identity theft and fraud).
Credit Karma’s main feature is its loan application simulator. Based on information from two of your credit files, it will recommend credit cards, loans, and more.
Unfortunately, Credit Karma only monitors your TransUnion and Equifax credit reports. This means you’ll miss out on any changes or signs of fraud on your Experian credit file.