Unfortunately, identity theft is incredibly common and criminals can use your information to open up credit cards or take out loans in your name. In fact, Javelin’s 2019 Identity Fraud Study found that 14.4 million people were victims of identity fraud in 2018.
To protect your information, it’s a good idea to sign up for a reputable credit monitoring service. Credit monitoring services provide you alerts when certain suspicious activity is detected. It pays attention to credit reports to see when new hits happen or when credit is taken out. Some credit monitoring also scans the dark web for your personal information being sold. We looked at 15 companies that offer identity theft protection and credit monitoring and chose the top ones worth using.
The 5 Best Credit Monitoring Services of 2020
Best Overall: IdentityForce
IdentityForce’s UltraSecure+Credit ID product is our top overall pick because it offers the most robust coverage for the money, combining credit monitoring with identity theft protection in one package.
Strong customer reviews
Daily credit report monitoring
$1 million in identity theft insurance
Legal fees and personal expenses not covered by insurance
Child identity theft coverage is an added cost
Free trial unavailable
IdentityForce, a Sontiq brand, offers comprehensive credit monitoring and identity theft services. It has a solid reputation, receiving a 4.3 TrustScore on TrustPilot with over 700 customer reviews and an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
As a customer, you get daily monitoring of your credit reports with the three major credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—and you’ll receive text and email alerts if there is a charge or an account withdrawal that exceeds a dollar amount set by you.
IdentityForce is one of the few companies that has social media monitoring. It will monitor your Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram accounts for inappropriate or bullying activity. It also has online anti-phishing and anti-keylogging software to protect you when you shop online.
If your identity is compromised, you’re covered by $1 million in identity theft insurance and have access to recovery specialists 24 hours a day, seven days a week via phone at 888-408-1836. The specialists can help you navigate the recovery process. They will complete the necessary paperwork and make phone calls on your behalf, saving you time.
The UltraSecure+Credit plan isn’t eligible for a free trial. The cost is $19.99 per month or $199.90 per year with two months free on annual plans.
Best Free Credit Monitoring Service: Credit Sesame
While Credit Sesame’s basic identity and credit monitoring service is 100% free, it offers $50,000 in complimentary fraud insurance, live identity restoration assistance, and daily credit monitoring alerts.
Completely free service
$50,000 identity theft insurance
Daily credit monitoring alerts
Credit monitoring must be manually activated
Only shares information from one credit bureau
No Social Security monitoring
Credit Sesame is a company funded by venture capital firms and investors like Menlo Ventures, Capital One Ventures, and Stanford University. According to the company, its mission is to help consumers improve their credit health and finances. As part of that goal, Credit Sesame created its free Identity Theft Protection service.
Credit Sesame has an outstanding reputation, with a 4.2 TrustScore on Trustpilot and over 2,000 customer reviews, and an A+ rating with the BBB.
Identity Theft Protection is free for anyone to use, and it doesn’t require you to enter your credit card information to sign up. To get started, create an account and turn on the credit monitoring feature.
As a Credit Sesame member, you get monthly score updates based on your TransUnion credit report. You’ll also get daily credit monitoring alerts notifying you about important changes, such as new accounts opened in your name. However, it does not monitor your Social Security number. To get this service, you have to upgrade to Credit Sesame’s Platinum Protection product.
An important feature that sets Credit Sesame’s service apart from other free products is that it gives you $50,000 worth of fraud insurance, plus you get access to live identity restoration specialists.
Best Low-Cost Option: Complete ID
If you want more comprehensive protections than free services offer but are scared off by the high price tags of some credit monitoring products, Complete ID can be a useful compromise. At just $8.99 for Costco members, you can get access to a suite of credit monitoring and identity protection tools.
Up to $1 million in identity theft insurance
Monitoring of all three credit bureaus
Only available to Costco members
Credit reports only available on an annual basis
Scores updated annually
Complete ID is part of Experian, one of the three major credit reporting agencies. Available only to Costco Wholesale Club members, Complete ID is a relatively low-cost option for credit monitoring and identity theft protection. While Complete ID is not ranked by TrustPilot or the Better Business Bureau, both Costco and Experian are well-known and respected companies.
Complete ID may be a good option for someone who wants more protection than free services offer, but who doesn’t want to spend a ton of money.
As a Costco member, you can sign up for Complete ID for $8.99 per month, significantly less than other credit monitoring services charge. A Costco gold membership is $60 per year. In addition to being able to buy Complete ID, Costco members can shop at Costco wholesale locations and take advantage of Costco programs like life insurance, product installation, and auto repair services, making the overall membership cost well worth it.
Complete ID monitors your credit reports with the three major credit bureaus. Each year, you can view your VantageScores from each of the bureaus. While other services allow you to regularly view your reports, Complete ID only allows you to view your reports annually.
You will receive credit alerts if there are changes to your account, and Complete ID includes Social Security number monitoring, dark web surveillance, and up to $1 million in identity theft insurance. If your information is stolen, you have 24/7 access to a U.S.-based support team.
Best for Families: ID Watchdog
With many other credit monitoring services, you have to purchase a monthly plan for each person separately. But with ID Watchdog Platinum, you can get coverage for two adults and up to four children for one flat rate of $34.95 per month.
Family plan covers two adults and up to four children
Online child credit locks for minors
Up to $500,000 in reimbursement for stolen 401(k)/HSA funds
Parent company is Equifax, which has been the victim of a data breach
Only yearly access to three credit reports and credit scores
No social media monitoring
For families looking for identity and credit monitoring services for themselves and their children, ID Watchdog is an excellent choice. Run by Equifax, one of the three major credit bureaus, ID Watchdog is accredited by the Better Business Bureau and has an A+ rating.
The services include three-credit report monitoring and account alerts. Your credit score, based on your Equifax credit report, is updated daily. However, you can only access your full credit reports from each of the three credit reports—and your corresponding credit scores—once per year.
A unique feature that makes ID Watchdog especially useful for families is Equifax Child Credit Lock. You can create an Equifax credit report for a minor child and lock it to prevent identity thieves using it to open up accounts or take out loans with your child’s information. ID Watchdog says it’s the only provider with this capability.
In addition to $1 million in identity theft insurance, ID Watchdog Platinum account members also get up to $500,000 in reimbursement for money stolen from 401(k), Health Savings Account (HSA), or employee stock option plans.
Unfortunately, ID Watchdog doesn’t offer social media monitoring, which is a significant drawback since it caters to families with children who often use those platforms. And, you should be aware that Equifax was part of a data breach in 2017, so some people lost confidence in the company’s security. However, Equifax has settled with the Federal Trade Commission for $575 million and has vowed to increase its security efforts.
Best for Extra Protections: PrivacyGuard
If you’re looking for additional features to protect you while shopping or banking online, PrivacyGuard’s Total Protection Plan has additional benefits to ensure your security. From keyboard apps to emergency travel assistance, Privacy Guard has extra services that other credit monitoring companies don’t offer.
$1 trial for 14 days
Monthly three-bureau credit reports and scores
Features like secure keyboard and browser apps for added security
Not accredited by BBB or rated by TrustPilot
Family plans not available
Not available to all residents
PrivacyGuard is a credit monitoring service that has additional bells and whistles for individuals who want extra security features and identity protection. PrivacyGuard is a service offered by Trilegiant Corporation. It’s not accredited by the Better Business Bureau, nor has it been scored by TrustPilot.
Residents of Iowa, Rhode Island, and Vermont are ineligible for PrivacyGuard. But for those that can use the service, it’s quite comprehensive for its price. PrivacyGuard’s Total Protection plan is $24.99 per month, and you can try it out for 14 days for just $1.
PrivacyGuard’s Total Protection Plan offers standard credit monitoring and identity protection services like three-bureau credit reports and scores, credit score tracking, and account alerts. But it’s real value is in its additional features. It has a secure browser app you can download to your computer or mobile device to protect you from keylogging or phishing attacks so you can securely shop or bank online. There’s also a keyboard app that encrypts keystrokes to protect your information from malware.
PrivacyGuard scans the dark web for your Social Security number, address, email address, and other information, and searches public records for your data. If your identity is compromised, you’ll get step-by-step assistance from a dedicated agent.
Unfortunately, PrivacyGuard only has plans for individuals. While you can monitor the Social Security number of minor children, that service doesn’t fully protect their identity, and you’ll likely need to purchase additional coverage for them.
What Is Credit Monitoring?
It’s a good idea to review your credit report often for inaccuracies or fraudulent accounts. You can view your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus for free once per year at AnnualCreditReport.com. Unfortunately, a lot can happen in between.
Credit monitoring services allow you to access your credit reports on a regular basis. And, they automate the process, providing you with sophisticated monitoring programs that scan your accounts for irregular activity. If there are any red flags, you’ll receive an alert notifying you of the changes so you can take action right away.
What Does Credit Monitoring Typically Include?
Each credit monitoring service will have its own features, but you can generally expect to get access to at least one credit report and credit score, credit monitoring, and account alerts. Premium services will include benefits like identity theft insurance, restoration assistance, dark web surveillance, and three-bureau monitoring.
How Much Does Credit Monitoring Cost?
While basic credit monitoring services are available for free, those services typically only include access to a single credit report and account monitoring. If you want access to all three credit reports and hands-on assistance if your identity is compromised, you’ll likely need to pay for a credit monitoring service.
Depending on your needs, and whether you need a service just for yourself or for your whole family, you should expect to pay between $8.99 and $34.95 per month for a credit monitoring service.
Should You Pay for Credit Monitoring?
Free services may be sufficient if you only have a few accounts and credit cards, and don’t have too many assets at risk. As you progress and use multiple credit cards, build up your retirement savings, get employee stock options, and start a family, you may need a more robust credit monitoring and identity protection service.
If your identity has been stolen in the past, using a credit monitoring service is a smart decision. Since your information has already been compromised, a credit monitoring service can ensure your information isn’t used again to open up fraudulent accounts.
Premium credit monitoring services provide extra protection, including up to $1 million in identity theft insurance. Some plans will even reimburse you for funds stolen from your 401(k) or employee stock options plan and will help protect your children’s information as well. While they have a higher cost, these services can be well worth the investment for the security they provide.
How We Chose the Best Credit Monitoring Companies
To select the above credit monitoring services, we researched 15 well-known companies. We evaluated each service based on cost, reviews, TrustPilot score, features, credit bureau reporting, and past security issues. The biggest factor in determining if an agency was included on this list was the frequency of credit report monitoring and access to all three credit reports (the one exception being Credit Sesame since it is a free service).
Javelin. "2019 Identity Fraud Study: Fraudsters Seek New Targets and Victims Bear the Brunt." Accessed June 1, 2020.
TrustPilot. "IdentityForce." Accessed June 2, 2020.
TrustPilot. "Credit Sesame." Accessed June 2, 2020.
Better Business Bureau. "ID Watchdog." Accessed June 2, 2020.
Federal Trade Commission. "Equifax to Pay $575 Million as Part of Settlement with FTC, CFPB, and States Related to 2017 Data Breach." Accessed June 2, 2020.
TransUnion. "Credit Score Monitoring Services." Accessed June 3, 2020.