What is a credit monitoring company?
It is a service offering company that helps you keep track of your credit files. It keeps an eye on all your credit reports and notifies you when there is an activity (suspicious or not) on your credit files. This way you can determine whether it is a result of your actions or fraudulent activities and take the necessary action.
This service can be either paid for or free.
Features to look out for when choosing the best free credit-monitoring service
- The number of credit bureaus monitored
It is rare for free services to monitor reports from all the three credit bureaus. Therefore, you should consider using a free service that monitors at least two or all the three credit bureaus.
- The scoring model used
There are a number of scoring models including FICO and Vintage. FICO is the most popular since 90% of lenders use it. A credit monitoring service that uses FICO, therefore, will always rank higher than the one using vintage or any other model.
- Web scanning
A monitoring service that checks your name and other personal details on the web will also rank well.
What to look for when choosing the best paid/premium credit monitoring service
Consider a service that offers more benefits at a low cost.
- The number of credit bureaus monitored
A premium service should offer a more holistic coverage. For instance, it should monitor credit reports from all the three credit bureaus.
- The credit scoring model
It should use a model that is popular and widely used by lenders.
- Identity theft insurance
Credit monitoring services can only inform you of suspicious activity but cannot fix or prevent theft. However, a paid service that offers identity theft insurance is better since it will offer you a given amount to cater for expenses/costs while resolving your theft case.
- Dark web scanning
It is quite challenging to monitor the dark web on your own since it requires specialized knowledge and access to closed sources. A monitoring service that searches your name, your social security number, address, and other personal details in the dark web, therefore, will rank higher.
Top two free credit monitoring services
1) CreditWise from Capital One
It is free and open to anyone. In fact, it does not require you to enter your credit card details while signing up. It uses vintage score from Transunion and Experian to update customers’ scores every week. Capital One cardholders can use the Capital One mobile app instead of downloading the CreditWise app. It offers dark web scanning and tracks your social security number, hence stands out from other free credit monitoring services.
2) Experian free credit monitoring
It is a free credit monitoring service that gives you access to the features of a premium service. It provides real time alerts about inquiries (soft and hard), suspicious activity detected in your credit account, new accounts opened in your name, or any changes you make to your personal details.
It uses FICO credit score to provide an updated Experian report after every 30 days. This free service offers a onetime dark web scan once you sign up. The scan searches over 600000 web pages.
Top three premium/paid credit-monitoring services
1) Identity Force
This service monitors the dark web, social media, and court records. It alerts you on any suspicious activity or potential fraud on your bank credit card and investment accounts. It is available in two premium plans: ultra secure and ultra secure plus. Ultra secure provides basic monitoring while ultra secure plus provides added benefits like monitoring all the three credit bureaus and updating vintage scores.
Over time, you are able to monitor your own score changes and actions that affect your vintage scores.
The annual cost is $89.90 for ultra secure and $179.90 for ultra secure plus credit.
2) Privacy Guard
Privacy Guard offers a well-rounded coverage of Experian, Equifax, and Transunion credit bureaus. It provides monthly notifications on credit score and credit reports.
It exists in three plans: identity protection, credit protection, and total protection
Identity protection plan
- Costs $9.99 per month
- Provides $ 1M identity theft insurance
- Monitors public, dark web, and personal details
- Does not monitor credit report
Credit protection plan
- Costs $ 19.99 per month
- Provides triple credit bureau monitoring
- Offers monthly credit scores and tracking
- Does not scan the public and dark web
- It does not offer identity theft insurance
Total protection plan
- Costs $ 24.99 per month
- Provides both identity and credit protection plans
All plans use vintage score model.
3) Experian identity works
It is a holistic identity tracking service designed for families. It offers dark web scanning, identity theft insurance, and social security number. It is available in two plans: identity works plus and identity works premium. All plans use the fico scoring model
Identity works plus plan
- Provides Experian credit reports only
- Least cost of $14.99 for one adult and up to 10 kids
- Offers an identity theft insurance of $500000
Identity works premium plan
- Provides triple bureau monitoring
- Least cost of $24.99 for one adult and up to 10 kids
- Offers an identity theft insurance of $ 1 M
Both plans are $5 higher for 2 adults and up to 10 kids. There is also a plan for one adult (in case you do not have a family) for $9.99 plus and $19.99 premium. This plan has a 30 days free trial.
Are credit-monitoring companies limited?
Credit monitoring companies can only keep track of your activities and notify you of suspicious activities. They cannot:
- Fix errors
- Freeze your credit
- Report fraud or keep your information from data breaches
However, being informed immediately will help you take action and prevent further damage caused by identity thieves.
Credit-monitoring services differ in a number of ways. To be safe, you need to choose the best among the existing companies. Pick a service whose cost in relation to the services provided is fair, has insurance coverage, monitors a number of credit bureaus, uses a reliable score model, and has dark web scanning.