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6 “Best” Credit Monitoring Services of 2020 (Quick Reviews)

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Do you struggle to maintain a high credit score? You’re not alone. Nearly 60% of millennials find it difficult to keep up their credit rating. Most say this results in not just a financial strain, but missing out on important life goals — buying a first home, a new car, or a student loan for career advancement.

People want good credit for good reasons: A strong credit rating can make life a whole lot easier, especially since COVID-19 has caused interest rates to drop as part of the Federal Reserve’s attempt at jump-starting the economy. Many people say now is a prime time to borrow given the circumstances, but there’s just one little, elusive thing you’ll need: good credit.

If you don’t want to check your credit score all the time and pay attention to the many factors that can keep it from dropping, a good credit monitoring service can relieve you of that burden. Among other things, it can give you regular credit reports and alert you if something is wrong.

With a credit monitoring service, you can manage your credit rating with minimal hassle and effort. If only everything in life could come with minimal hassle and effort… 🤯 Unfortunately, the world just doesn’t work that way. But lucky for us, credit monitoring services are here to help.

To take things a step further, some monitoring services can provide a thick layer of protection against the most dangerous threat to your credit score – identity theft. If hackers get a hold of your personal data, they can use it for an endless list of nefarious purposes. 

In certain instances, these cyberattacks can decimate a credit rating, leaving debtors in an unfortunate financial situation. This is no laughing matter – more than 33% of adults in the US have fallen victim to identity theft, and that number keeps growing.

Keep in mind, however, that not all credit monitoring services can do everything. Some can monitor your score but can’t help you with identity theft – some are very cheap while some can cost an arm and a leg. There are many factors to consider.

Finding a credit monitor that can help protect you from attacks, keep an eye on your rating, and provide insurance can relieve much stress off of one’s shoulders. And a low price never hurt anyone too. To help you find the perfect credit monitoring service for you, we have made this list of what we consider to be the best such services in the business today. 

Here are some companies that have already established themselves as the go-to credit monitoring services for many clients. Also, we’ll talk about some tips that can help you make an educated choice as well as protect your credit better in the section below the list of our favourite credit monitoring services.

Top Credit Monitors for 2020

Our choices of the six best credit monitoring services based on price and benefits:

1. Privacy Guard
Best Credit Monitor Overall.
2. LifeLock
Best for Individuals.
3. Credit Karma
Best Free Credit Monitoring Service.
4. IdentityForce
Most Security Features.
5. myFICO
Most Accurate Credit Reports.
6. Experian IdentityWorks
Best for Families.

Best Credit Monitoring Services

Some credit monitors offer regular credit reports while some can even keep a close eye on your accounts and give you protection against identity theft. A full-package that has everything will likely cost a hefty amount, but there are also some basic services you can get for free. 

Whether you’re looking for a cheap service, the best protection for your family, or something that covers all bases – this article has what you need. Let’s see how these credit monitors look and what they can do for you and your credit score.

1. Privacy Guard – Best Overall

Privacy Guard

Pros

  • Great utilities in general
  • Combined monthly credit reports
  • Free Norton antivirus
  • Comprehensive Total Protection plan

Cons

  • Lacking family plan
  • No 24/7 support
  • Mobile apps fall behind the competition

Privacy Guard is one of the leading credit monitor agencies and provides credit reports, as well as identity protection – depending on which program you choose. You can get reports for all of the 3 major credit bureaus, and you can check your credit status through Privacy Guard’s easy-to-use app that works on Android and iOS.

The basic plan costs $9.99 per month and provides identity theft protection. For this price, your accounts will be monitored for suspicious activity and the company will also keep vigil for your personal data on the dark web. If something suspicious catches Privacy Guard’s eye, you will be notified immediately so you don’t get caught off guard – as the company’s motto clearly states. 

For $19.99 per month, you can get credit protection. This includes regular credit reports for all 3 credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

The company can give you a combined credit report every month, that merges the info from your files at the 3 major bureaus. Alongside your FICO score, you’ll also get VantageScore 3.0 scores, which are used by many companies and lenders to determine your creditworthiness.

If you want identity protection and credit protection, you have to pay $24.99 per month for Privacy Guard’s premium service – Total Protection. This is the full-package service that includes all the aforementioned benefits plus a little something extra.

You also get Norton Security Online antivirus, so your internet browsing and data have an added layer of security. ID protection and Total Protection users are eligible for up to $1 million in insurance.

The platform you can use to check these reports has a secure mobile keyboard and a digital protection app that has a secure keyboard and browser. Also, in case of identity theft, there’s a secure browser extension for Windows, which is used for fraud resolution support. 

As far as family plans go, Privacy Guard can monitor social security numbers of up to 10 children, but that’s about it. Aside from the lacking family plan, Privacy Guard is a strong, well-rounded service. If you want to try it out, they offer a one-dollar 14-day trial period which you can check out to see if this company has what you need.

2. LifeLock – Best for Individuals

LifeLock

Pros

  • Full coverage of all credit and identity monitoring services
  • $25,000 to $1 million in money reimbursement in case of theft
  • 24/7 phone customer support
  • 60-day money back guarantee for new users

Cons

  • Monthly subscription fees increase after the first year by roughly 20%
  • Getting a family package is expensive. Adding children incurs additional fees
  • LifeLock does not cover businesses, only individuals are eligible

LifeLock provides credit protection as well as very thorough ID protection. Aside from keeping watch over your credit score, public records, and bank account, LifeLock offers some of the best representation available if you’ve fallen victim to identity theft and need to salvage the situation. Their offer consists of 4 different plans:

The standard plan costs $9.99 per month for the first year and $11.99 per month for all subsequent years. With this plan you can expect to be alerted if something suspicious is happening with your credit or social security number. They will also let you know if your personal data pops up on the dark web.

You also get credit monitoring and reports for one of the major credit bureaus, and solid insurance coverage. LifeLock will reimburse you for up to $25,000 if you lose money as their client and you can get up to $1 million for lawyers and experts in case you need help to fix the damage done by fraudsters.

You can also boost your standard plan to get free Norton antivirus software and a VPN for up to 5 devices. This also costs $9.99 for the first year, but the price goes up to $14.99 per month for all subsequent years.

One step up from the standard account is the so-called LifeLock Advantage. This program is $19.99 per month for the first year which rises to $24.99 after. With this package, you get all the aforementioned benefits, but the company will also keep vigil over your bank account and credit card. 

You will also get promptly notified if crimes are committed in your name and get some small bonuses like the antivirus software and VPN for 10 devices. The reimbursement for lost money here is $100,000, which always brings a piece of mind to clients.

If you want the full suite of credit protection goodness, you can get the premium plan – LifeLock Ultimate Plus. This one is a bit harder on the pocket as it costs $29.99 per month for the first year and $34.99 per month for all years after. 

However, the expensive program comes with benefits. You can get credit reports for all 3 major credit bureaus and regular credit scores. LifeLock will also keep an eye on your 401(k) and investment accounts, which is great for investors who keep large sums of money with online stock brokers and other investing mediums. 

You’ll also get the antivirus software and VPNs for unlimited devices, and you will be notified if a registered sex offender moves into your neighborhood. The insurance here is impressive – if you lose money as an Ultimate Plus user, you will be reimbursed for up to $1,000,000, which is enough to keep most minds at ease.

Even though fees are paid monthly, you can only apply for a yearly membership at LifeLock. But if you want to test the water before diving in, you can. LifeLock offers a 60-day money-back guarantee, which means they will refund you in full if you decide to close your account within 60 days of opening it. 

If you want a 30-day trial without having to pay anything, that’s also possible, but that’s only possible via third-party websites. If you sign up for the trial period through a website like ours, you will get the 1-month free trial, as well as a percentage discount for subsequent months.

3. Credit Karma – Best Free Credit Monitoring Service

Credit Karma

Pros

  • 100% Free – no hidden fees
  • Reports are presented in an understandable way
  • Credit simulator that helps you predict how certain events will impact your credit
  • You can link your banking accounts to the platform and track all spending

Cons

  • No FICO scores
  • Reports form 2 out of 3 big credit report agencies
  • No identity protection

Credit Karma doesn’t provide ID protection and super detailed credit reporting like its top competitors but it has a big advantage – it’s completely free. Yes, free as in you don’t have to pay anything ever, period.

This free service can give you credit reports for Equifax and TransUnion. These reports aren’t in their labyrinthine raw form, rather you get information that’s presented in a way that’s easy to understand even if you’re not an accountant or a supercomputer.

Aside from the simple reports, Credit Karma will give you a list of credit factors that are helping or damaging your score – such as payment history, credit utilization, derogatory marks in your credit file, etc. You can also track your spending by linking your banking account to the platform and monitoring all your expenses from there.

Probably the most interesting feature Credit Karma has is its credit simulator. This tool can help you predict how certain actions will impact your credit score, helping you plan ahead. The tool can simulate events like making a late payment, opening/closing a credit card, paying off your credit card, and many more, making it pretty useful in all credit-related scenarios.

Credit Karma’s downside is that you will only get reports from 2 of the 3 major bureaus and that you can’t get your FICO score – although these reports can give you a good idea where your FICO should be. You will certainly get more out of a good paid credit monitor, but Credit Karma provides a great service considering it’s totally free. But this seems weird… They have to make money somehow, right?

Credit Karma makes money by referring you to certain products for which they get a commission. These are not some random referrals – you will only be offered, let’s say, a credit card if it caters to every need and preference that Credit Karma knows about. The company’s arsenal has recently been boosted by an FDIC-insured high-yield savings account, which has a 0.56% APY.

4. IdentityForce – Most Security Features

Identity Force

Pros

  • Competitive prices
  • Complete credit monitoring for all 3 bureaus
  • 24/7 customer service & identity restoration
  • Investment account monitoring

Cons

  • Platform can be buggy sometimes
  • No credit freeze button

IdentityForce offers a full suite of credit and identity protection services that includes investment account monitoring. Choosing what service to get is very easy as there are only two to choose from, UltraSecure and UltraSecure+Credit.

The UltraSecure package costs $17.95 per month and provides comprehensive ID protection and $1 million in insurance for expenses related to correcting the damage caused by fraud. IdentityForce will alert you if something suspicious happens on your bank account or credit card, as well as your investment accounts. 

The company will also tell you if a registered sex offender moves into your neighborhood and keep an eye out for your personal data on the dark web, or if it appears in court records and social media. They will also review your medical benefits statements to make sure that no one but your family is using your benefits. Finally, you will get security software that protects against keyloggers (EntryProtect) and phishing (PhishLock) to make your browsing a tad more risk-free.

If you want the full package that includes ID protection and credit monitoring, you can get the aptly named UltraSecure+Credit. This plan does what it says on the box and it costs $23.95 per month – less than most other top credit monitor’s premium accounts.

The credit monitoring aspect includes monitoring, reports, and credit scores from all 3 major credit bureaus. To keep an eye on your credit’s historical progress, you can use the credit score tracker and see how your rating looked at any given time via a graph. 

Another super-handy feature is the credit score simulator. If you’re wondering how a missed payment will affect your score, you can test it in simulation and see what happens. This tool allows you to simulate all common credit-related events like balance transfer, opening a new credit card, etc. – making it useful for planning your finances.

You can get a 30-day free trial to try this service out, and there’s also a 2-month-free offer for annual all subscriptions. Also, organizations that use IdentityForce get free family ID protection packages for all employees as a bonus.

5. myFICO – Most Accurate Credit Reports

My Fico

Pros

  • Comprehensive credit and ID monitoring
  • FICO scores
  • 24/7 support and identity restoration

Cons

  • High prices
  • No trial period

As a subsidiary of FICO, myFICO provides accurate and comprehensive credit monitoring services as well as identity protection services. They offer three membership packages: Basic, Advanced, and Premier.

The Basic account costs $19.95 per month and gives you your FICO scores and monthly credit reports from 1 of the 3 major credit bureaus – Experian. The company will monitor your credit and provide you with all scores and reports you need for a mortgage, auto loan, and most other loans. The basic membership doesn’t include ID monitoring, but you get access to 24/7 identity recovery service and up to $1 million in insurance for expenses in case fraud happens.

One step and $10 above the basic membership is the Advanced account which will cost you $29.95 per month. Along with all aforementioned benefits this gives users identity monitoring as well as 3-bureau credit reports. However, you will only get reports every 3 months.

For another $10 (things are starting to look expensive now) you can get the Premium package which is $39.95 per month. This gets you a full suite of identity and credit monitoring services plus monthly credit reports, which are some of the most accurate you can find. The Premium account isn’t cheap, but you can unsubscribe at any time – however, there are no refunds for annual and monthly subscriptions you’ve already paid.

The prices at myFICO are among the highest you’ll come across and the company doesn’t offer a trial period if you want to try the service out before buying. However, the identity monitoring is strong with myFICO and they can give you your actual FICO score, unlike some other credit monitors which only provide Vantage 3.0 scores.

6. Experian IdentityWorks – Best For Families

Experian

Pros

  • Comprehensive, affordable family plan
  • Up to $1 million reimbursement in case you lose money
  • Free 30-day trial

Cons

  • Mobile app will swamp you with credit card ads
  • FICO scores are only updated every 3 months
  • No 24/7 customer service

One of the 3 major credit bureaus, Experian, also offers paid identity and credit monitoring services with a comprehensive family plan. Their offer consists of 2 account types – IdentityWorks Plus and IdentityWorks Premium.

The IdentityWorks Plus package costs $9.99 per month and you can add up to 10 children to the plan, but that will make the monthly price $14.99. This gives basic identity monitoring that includes social security numbers and dark web monitoring, lost wallet assistance, etc. – as well as help from Experian’s US-based fraud resolution specialist.

This package also gets you credit monitoring for Experian and a FICO score which updates daily. You can also use a score simulator and get various scores needed for mortgage and auto loans, among other things. If you fall victim to fraudsters, you will be reimbursed for up to $500,000 of the money you lost.

The better but more expensive option is IdentityWorks Premium which costs $19.99 per month and $24.99 per month if you add children into the mix. Both ID and credit monitoring benefits are expanded here. Your identity will be tracked in court records and social media among other places, and you will be notified if a registered sex offender moves into your neighborhood.

You’ll also get credit reports from all 3 major bureaus every 3 months, which is not great since some other companies provide these monthly. Also keep in mind that getting an annual subscription instead of 12 monthly ones can save you 2 month’s worth of fees. Experian IdentityWorks has a 30-day trial you can check out if you want to try the service before buying in.

What Exactly is a Credit Monitoring Service?

These companies offer two services – credit monitoring and identity monitoring. Essentially, credit monitoring means that they will keep an eye on your credit score and alert you as soon as something undesirable happens. This means you will be alerted so all your payments are made on time and properly.

The other service – identity monitoring – is probably more important though. Through regular oversight, your credit monitor can spot fraudulent activity as soon as it starts happening, so you can react, potentially saving your credit score and money from a harmful cyberattack. 

This monitoring can include your bank and credit accounts but also investment accounts you might have with an online broker or a robo-advisor. Not all companies provide both credit and ID monitoring, and they usually don’t have the same price tag, so keep that in mind when choosing a credit monitor.

Credit Monitoring
Credit Monitoring keeps an eye on your credit scores and personal data

What Is The Benefit of Credit Monitoring?

All the things credit monitors do, you can do yourself. However, many people simply don’t want to spend time and energy crunching numbers, so they get a dedicated service to do it for them. But is a credit monitoring service worth it?

Some services will check your credit status multiple times every single day, which is probably not something many people would love to do themselves. For the most part, these regular checks are there so that fraudulent activity can be noticed as soon as possible, rather than when it’s too late.

If someone uses your personal info to try and open a new credit account, your monitor will alert you immediately, which is better than finding out many months or even years later. If hackers do this and you don’t notice straight away, they can get you in debt you cannot easily recover from. On top of that, if this happens, your credit score can go down the drain, making it very hard to get a decent loan in the future.

Credit monitoring services can prevent malicious identity theft from getting out of hand, but also provide insurance – which is something you should check out when choosing a credit monitor. In case they fail at their job, some companies will cover you for between $25,000 and $1 million in reimbursement money, as well as $1 million for legal and other expenses tied to fixing the damage done by identity thieves.

This much insurance is certainly enough to put most minds at ease. Nevertheless, it’s best to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft in the first place – which is easier if you know how it works.

It’s important to note that credit monitoring is separate from fixing bad credit. While there are a number of top credit repair companies available to help individuals boost their credit score, a credit monitoring service will not fix bad credit.

How Identity Theft Works

Human creativity knows no bounds which among other things means that there are numerous ways for someone to steal your passwords and personal data. While browsing, you can come across trustworthy-looking website sites that will ask you for your data, just to use it later for malicious purposes (phishing websites).

There are even programs that track what you’re typing into your computer, which are used to extract your login information (keyloggers). Even if you browse safely, your data can be leaked. One of the 3 big consumer credit reporting agencies, Equifax, had a huge data breach in 2017, which resulted in thousands of credit accounts getting hacked. 

The unsuspecting victims had no way of protecting their data in this case, so their only viable option was to freeze their credit as early as possible to prevent major damage to their wealth and credit rating. In this instance, a cyberattack was unavoidable, which is one of the reasons why debtors opt for a credit monitor that can salvage the situation quickly.

Identity Theft
Identity Theft – One of the biggest risks for debtors

Why Identity Theft Protection is So Important

If your credit information gets stolen, you might not be at immediate risk. However, at any point in the future, your personal data can be used for nefarious purposes. For example, fraudsters can take out bad loans in your name without your knowledge, which can obliterate your credit score and lose you a tremendous amount of money. 

According to the study conducted by the Insurance Information Institute in 2019, about $16 billion was stolen from more than 15 million clients through identity theft in 2016 alone. This was in part due to individual hacker attacks as well as the huge information breaches similar to the ones that damaged Equifax in 2017 and Capital One in 2019.

Such attacks and destroy an individual’s score. Bad credit will force borrowers to opt for bad credit loans which, despite getting approval for a loan, will be very costly through high interest rates.

Number of Fraud, Identity Theft
Number of Fraud, Identity Theft and Other Reports by Year

The most concerning fact is that cybercrime is evolving and it’s becoming progressively more difficult to protect personal info. This is why many clients choose to employ a good credit monitoring service or freeze their credit.

How Identity Theft Can Affect Children

Children’s social security numbers and other data are valuable to fraudsters because they can be sold on the dark web or used for numerous illegal ventures. With this data, someone can apply for government benefits, open credit card and bank accounts, and even apply for loans and utility services like cell phone accounts.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over 6% of all fraud victims are under 20 years old. And, according to studies like the one done by Carnegie Mellon CyLab, children are 51 times more susceptible to identity fraud than their parents. Even if these numbers seem overblown, it’s a good idea to keep your children’s data safe because a market for it exists, as well as the incentive to steal it.

Do You Have to Pay for Credit Monitoring?

Almost everything you can get from a credit monitoring company, you can do yourself for free. However, that means you have to check your credit report regularly to notice if something unwanted is going on. 

All citizens are entitled to free yearly credit reports from the 3 main credit agencies – TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. You can get these basic reports through most banks, but they are not something that will give you a good idea about your score throughout the year.

What Companies Offer Free Credit Monitoring

There are a couple of avenues to explore if you want free credit reports. One is to get your reports directly through the 3 major credit bureaus. The Big Three can give you free annual reports, which is subpar compared to the monthly reports you can get from top credit monitors but has its uses.

You can also get a free credit monitoring service like Credit Karma. This way, you can get regular reports presented in an easy-to-understand way – but these reports are only for Equifax and TransUnion, and don’t include a FICO score.

What a Credit Monitoring Service Cannot Help You With

Having a credit monitor has value but there are a few crucial things that these services cannot help you with in any way. First and foremost, a credit monitor cannot prevent credit card fraud and identity leaks. However, they can notice fraudulent activity very early, keeping the damage done by fraudsters to a minimum. 

If someone tries to apply for credit using your information, a credit monitor cannot stop them. The only way to completely stop this from happening is to freeze your credit, which we will talk about in the next section.

If your report has errors, a credit monitoring service will not correct them, and they cannot stop someone from filing a tax return in your name. All in all, a credit monitor doesn’t protect you on all fronts but they offer insurance which can be your saving grace in case you get unlucky and fall victim to an aggressive cyberattack.

How Can I Protect My Credit Score?

Aside from getting a well-rounded credit monitoring service, the safest way to make sure no one tampers with your credit score is to freeze your credit. When this is done, you won’t be able to borrow money, which means that your credit accounts can’t be misused by hackers. So, this is something worth considering if you don’t intend on taking out loans in the foreseeable future.

Credit Freeze
Credit Freeze – A way to protect your credit

How Do You Freeze Credit Online?

You can freeze your credit online and for a low price – and in some cases, for free. This can be done by contacting one of the three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. 

A credit freeze can cost up to $10 and you will get a PIN which will allow you to unfreeze your account in the future. Many paid credit monitoring services also give you an option to do a credit freeze through their platform, simply by pressing on a few buttons – which is arguably even less time-consuming than getting on the phone.

Before You Get Credit Monitoring From Credit Bureaus

The big credit bureaus also offer comprehensive credit and identity monitoring services, but there’s a rather unsavory catch. In many cases, their user agreement will say that you need to waive your right to sue the company. This is quite unappealing to some clients, not only because you need to give up one of your legal rights, but also because this prevents you from getting justice in case the company fails you in some major way.

What Is a Good FICO Score?

FIrst of all, we need to understand that FICO scores are the most broadly-accepted credit evaluations in the country. Most creditors and other services will ask you for your FICO before they approve your applications. So, what does a good FICO look like?

Fico Scores
FICO scores from worst to best

Scores range from 300 to 850. The number on your FICO report tells a company if you’re a risky investment, which means you will likely get charged higher interest rates if your score is subpar, or get outright rejected for a loan. 

The better your FICO score, the higher your chances for getting a top personal loan with low interest. Your FICO is calculated through a few factors, the most important being your payment history and the amount of debt.

Paying everything on time is crucial as it tells lenders that you’re a responsible borrower. The amount of debt you have doesn’t affect you FICO on its own, rather, it will damage your rating if you owe an amount that’s close to your credit limit.

All reviews, research, news and assessments of any kind on The Tokenist are compiled using a strict editorial review process by our editorial team. Neither our writers nor our editors receive direct compensation of any kind to publish information on TheTokenist.io. Our company, Tokenist Media LLC, is community supported and may receive a small commission when you purchase products or services through links on our website. Click here for a full list of our partners and an in-depth explanation on how we get paid.

Source: on 2020-06-12 11:11:15

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