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In today's interconnected digital world, maintaining a strong credit profile is essential. That's where credit monitoring services come into play - valuable tools to safeguard your financial well-being and keep you informed about your credit health. These services provide continuous oversight of your credit report and alert you to any significant changes.
Credit monitoring lets you to detect and respond swiftly to potential threats like identity theft, fraud, or errors on your credit reports. They do this by sending you alerts via email or text whenever there are significant changes in your credit report. They offer ongoing monitoring of your credit reports from major credit bureaus, allowing you to stay vigilant without manual effort. Moreover, many credit monitoring services provide educational resources and tips for improving your credit scores and managing debt.
Tuesday, December 5th
Think of Aura as your all-in-one resource for credit monitoring, identity protection, internet safety, and so much more. The panorama of features offered here go above and beyond anything you'll find with the other platforms on our list, but with one caveat: if you're looking into credit monitoring strictly with an eye towards improving your credit (to apply for a mortgage or loan, for example) and you need tools to help manage your finances, Aura might not be the ideal fit. On the other hand, if you want to get the absolute most for your money with a comprehensive protection package, Aura is the only way to go.
Comprehensive suite of features for all subscribers
One refreshing aspect of Aura is that all members get the exact same features: you don't have to compromise on getting protection or information because you're not sure you can afford the top-tier service. Instead, your only decision here is if you're subscribing as an individual, couple, or family.
Credit monitoring and much more
And what are those all-inclusive features? They're almost too long to list, but we'll try. Aura breaks it down into three categories:
Affordable with or without annual billing
Are you thinking this is going to cost an arm and a leg? It's not. If you pay month-to-month, the pricing is comparable with other credit monitoring options we evaluated at $20/month for an individual, $35/month for a couple, and $65/month for a family. But, if you opt to pay annually, that comes with huge savings - dropping your per-month cost down to $12, $22, and $32, respectively.
14-day free trial, 60-day money-back on annual plans
Now you might be wondering what happens if you go for that annual plan and decide that Aura's credit monitoring isn't for you. Fortunately, the company has thought of that too: you can get a 14-day free trial, and even after that you can take advantage of a 60-day money-back guarantee when you choose annual billing. Aura really wants you to love their service, and they're pretty confident that you will.
And, as you'd expect from a top-ranking credit monitoring provider, Aura does get plenty of praise. The Better Business Bureau gives the company a perfect "A+" rating with accreditation, and while there were a few dozen complaints filed there over the last year, Aura reps respond every single time - and typically with the approach of "the customer is always right" . Turning to customer feedback on Trustpilot, we found almost 2500 five-star reviews from clients who say that the credit monitoring is absolutely on point here. Notifications of alerts come through almost immediately every single time, and Aura reps are on standby to help answer questions or fix identity theft issues.
#1 option for comprehensive credit monitoring
For just about everyone, Aura is going to be the most comprehensive credit monitoring service out there. You get a ton for your money, and it makes covering everyone in your household extremely affordable. Unless you've got a laser-sharp focus on credit monitoring alone and don't want all the extras, this is the first option you'll want to consider. We love Aura and we're pretty sure you will too.
FICO is the credit scoring model of the Fair Isaac Corporation, and MyFICO is the credit monitoring service that comes straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak. Similar to packages offered directly by some of the three major credit bureaus, MyFICO gives you in-depth access specifically to your FICO scores - and several other desirable features as well.
Choose from 3 plans, including one free option
There are three ways you can use MyFICO to track your credit:
Site makes it easy to understand credit
The MyFICO site is extremely easy to use, especially for anyone that's confused about the differences between FICO and credit bureau scores, why credit monitoring matters, or what to do in the case of identity theft. There are lots of helpful videos and articles on the site that anyone can access - no account necessary.
Thousands of five-star reviews
While we didn't find much feedback on MyFICO through the Better Business Bureau or Trustpilot, there's plenty to see on the Apple and Google app stores - and it's extremely positive. On the Apple App Store alone, MyFICO has nearly 27,000 ratings with an average of 4.8 out of 5 stars, with similar results on the Google Play store. Most users say that this credit monitoring platform is well worth the money, and they appreciate that there's no need to pay for a year of access at a time. People are especially grateful that MyFICO offers scoring specific to multiple credit types (like mortgages and auto loans), making it less likely to encounter any surprises when applying for a new line of credit.
Best choice if you need detailed FICO score access
What sets MyFICO apart among credit monitoring options is its provision of genuine FICO scores, offering greater accuracy and reliability compared to just relying on the type of scoring available through the major credit bureaus. This distinction is particularly beneficial when considering big loans or housing applications. While the credit monitoring options here may carry a slightly higher cost compared to some competitors (especially considering that many of them give you robust identity theft protection for the same price), the value here lies in the long-term FICO credit monitoring benefits for both you and your family. We absolutely recommend checking out MyFICO for your credit monitoring.
If you're going to monitor your credit, why not go directly to one of the three credit bureaus? Experian lets you do that at absolutely no cost - a big improvement over our last evaluation, when they charged for those services. While naturally there are some limitations - it's not like Experian is going to give you access to your credit reports from the other two bureaus - you'll still find some great free resources here, including some that aren't offered anywhere else.
Monthly updates to your credit report
When you sign up for Experian's free credit monitoring, you'll get an updated report every 30 days. You'll get notifications when your spending increases or decreases, as well as when your credit utilization ratio changes. Finally, expect real-time alerts if there are new inquiries and accounts, changes to your personal information, or suspicious activity detected.
Experian score + FICO
But, that's not all. Experian is one of just a few options on our list that also give you FICO score tracking. What's the difference? It's a little lengthy to go into detail here, but suffice it to say that FICO scores are used most often by lenders (like banks and auto dealerships) to determine if you're going to qualify for a loan. It's a good idea to keep an eye on both your credit bureau scores and your FICO score, so Experian gets points for connecting consumers with each one. And, because you're working directly with Experian, it's easy to submit and track disputes if you find any inaccuracies with your credit report here.
Give your score a free boost
One unique feature of creating an Experian account for credit monitoring is their Boost service. If you connect the bank accounts you use to pay your bills, your FICO score will get a boost for paying for things like streaming services, phone, utilities, and even rent. While you shouldn't expect a huge jump in your score, every point can count when you're improving your credit. You can see a ticker on the Boost information page that shows you what people around the country are seeing when they use this feature: an 11-point boost for someone in MA who connected a telecom and a utility account, a 7-point boost for someone in PA who did the same, you get the idea.
Not a lot of love for Experian as a whole
Now, let's point out a few things. First off, people really dislike Experian in general. Is there anyone who's a huge fan of any credit bureau? The Better Business Bureau has received over 12,000 complaints in the last three years and gives the company a not-so-fantastic "C+" rating - not just for the quantity of complaints but also for not responding to them in a timely fashion, as well as for issues with data breaches in the past.
Don't expect identity monitoring here
Second, you won't get a whole panorama of credit monitoring features here. There's no identity theft services (or corresponding insurance protection if it happens), no dark web monitoring, and so on. That shouldn't really be a surprise, given that Experian's service is 100% free.
Best credit monitoring if you're on a budget
That said, Experian could be an excellent choice for credit monitoring. If your budget is tight, you can't do better than "free" , and this particular option still gives you some pretty decent features (like the Boost) for nothing. You'll still get monthly score updates on your Experian credit report, and you'll have access to your FICO score as well. We recommend Experian for credit monitoring that goes a little beyond the basics without costing a dime.
Equifax is one of the three major credit bureaus, alongside Experian and TransUnion. It collects and maintains consumer credit information used by lenders and businesses to assess creditworthiness. Equifax provides credit reports, credit scores, and credit monitoring services for individuals. Should you consider going directly to the source, so to speak, for your credit monitoring?
Lots of plans to choose from for credit monitoring and beyond
Equifax offers one free and five paid packages. But, it took a lot of digging to find the free plan and the three least-expensive tiers of service (which we find annoying, honestly). Here's what we found:
Reputation is on the mend
Despite having issues with a 2017 data breach, Equifax's reputation has more or less recovered, as demonstrated by an "A+" and accreditation from the Better Business Bureau. That doesn't mean that people now love this credit bureau - almost 5000 people have filed complaints with the BBB in the last three years - but it's a step in the right direction.
Not a bad option for tracking your credit and identity
As for credit monitoring, we give Equifax a half-star boost compared with our last evaluation of the service. The numerous package options are confusing and feel a little nickel-and-dime, especially when much of what they offer as "affordable" services are available for free if you know where to look (like some of the higher-rated providers on our list, for starters). But, there's nothing wrong with choosing credit monitoring through Equifax if you see something you like - just read the details carefully to be sure that the plan you choose actually includes the services you need.
IdentityIQ specializes in identity protection, and credit monitoring is a critical component of that. Underwritten by AIG, one of the most well-known insurance companies worldwide, this service positions itself as a contender against some of today's most popular ID protection platforms - and so you might not see all of the finance-focused features that come with some of the credit monitoring services in our evaluation when looking at what IdentityIQ can do for you.
4 subscription plans
You have four options as a subscriber to IdentityIQ:
Pay annually to save 15%
You can save money if you opt to pay for your credit monitoring on an annual basis. Just toggle the switch at the top of the pricing list to show the 15% discount that will apply.
Lots of features, but not clear on how to get them
IdentityIQ has a long list of add-ons you can subscribe to, if you'd like to go beyond credit monitoring and opt for total protection. But, it's tricky to determine how to sign up for them or if they're included in the package you've selected. These include Bitdefender Total Security and enhanced credit monitoring, among others. IdentityIQ would do well to include those in the "see all features" list if they're a part of what you're already paying for, or to make it obvious what you should do if you want to have it as an a la carte service.
Mixed feedback from customers
But, unless you're really focused on having identity theft protection on top of your credit monitoring, we're not sure that you should prioritize this service over its higher-ranking rivals. The company's reputation is a little all over the place, starting with a just-average "B" rating from the Better Business Bureau and over 300 complaints filed there in the most recent three-year period. It seems that it's not uncommon for people to find themselves being charged by IdentityIQ even after they've canceled the service, and often after winding up subscribed through a third-party partner that they didn't approve of in the first place.
Some positive customer reviews
On the other hand, IdentityIQ has an impressive 4.3 out of 5-star average on Trustpilot with over 200 five-star reviews. Many subscribers praise the customer service they received (going so far as to name specific reps) and appreciate the prompt response when suspicious activity is detected.
Good enough but not great
Overall, we'd say that IdentityIQ is just above average. There are definitely customers who would recommend the service, and the pricing is comparable with most rival platforms we've evaluated. Is it the most comprehensive out there for credit monitoring? Not really. Still, it might be worth checking out if you don't find exactly what you're looking for with the higher-ranking companies in our review.
Privacy Guard is a middle-of-the-road option for credit monitoring. It's part of Trilegiant Corporation, a company designated as a "marketing consultant" by the Better Business Bureau. You won't find a ton of information about Privacy Guard itself, but the list of businesses under the Trilegiant banner is... interesting. It includes sites like Travelers Advantage and Health Saver, but also completely unrelated businesses like "Everyday Values" and "Just for Me" . In other words, you'll want to keep in mind that Privacy Guard isn't exactly an industry expert in credit monitoring.
More affordable than some rival services
Still, that doesn't mean you should totally avoid this service either. They offer similar credit monitoring as many other providers on our list, but at prices that are slightly more affordable and with some benefits you might not even get with rival services. You've got two options to choose from, both of which come with a 14-day trial for just $1:
Virtually no client feedback
While we'd love to go into great detail about Privacy Guard's reputation, there's next to no subscriber feedback to be had. Even the Better Business Bureau doesn't have enough information to list the parent company as anything beyond "Not Rated" . Looking beyond the BBB to third-party sites, we couldn't find customer comments after 2019, and even then the overall picture was "just average" . Maybe there just aren't that many people who want to sign up for credit monitoring that doesn't come with something for free - either a free credit score or report, or at least a free trial instead of charging $1.
Still on top of current events in credit monitoring
Then again, in the Privacy Guard newsroom, there were articles about various data breaches and credit monitoring-related topics like protecting one's identity on vacation or keeping an eye on credit when preparing to apply for a mortgage - and those were all up-to-date and relevant, so it's not like no one is at the helm here either.
Room to grow but no need to avoid this service
We give Privacy Guard a tentative recommendation, with the caveat that it's not the most expert resource we've ever seen for credit monitoring. But, if you're looking for reasonably-priced, monthly credit score updates from all three bureaus, this is one of the few options on our list that offers that. And, when you add in the identity monitoring features, Privacy Guard starts to sound like a decent value. We'd need to see a lot more subscriber reviews to give the company a more enthusiastic thumbs up, but we don't see anything terribly wrong with this service either.
Powered by ScoreSense, Free Score 360 offers daily credit monitoring, alerts, interactive tools, a learning center, and the ScoreSense dispute center during the trial period or membership. In addition, you gain $1M identity theft insurance. However, the platform is offered by One Technologies, which says the quiet part out loud when it refers to Free Score 360 as "a marketing website" .
Free... for 7 days
What does that mean for you? You might be enticed by Free Score 360's 7-day free trial - after all, who doesn't love "free" and it's literally in the name of the service. Be cautious, as the trial leads to a $29.95 monthly membership charge post-trial, making it pricier than most credit monitoring services we evaluated. To terminate your membership, you'll need to connect with customer service via online chat or phone. This reliance on customer service for cancellations raises concerns, especially when reports of repeated charges despite opting out have surfaced.
3-bureau monitoring and reports
But, let's say you take a chance and sign up for that no-cost trial period here. What will you get as a subscriber? Right away, you'll be able to see your credit score at TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax - which is a surprising positive for this credit monitoring service, since some of its rivals only cover one or two of the three. Your credit score will only be updated monthly, so you won't see any changes during your trial period, but your credit will be monitored daily and you'll get any relevant alerts.
Decent set of features
Should you continue on as a paid member, your account will also come with $1 million in identity theft insurance, reimbursing you up to that amount for any damages if your identity is compromised. And, if you spot anything on your credit reports that's not accurate, Free Score 360 subscribers have access to the ScoreSense Dispute Center to get help making corrections. Finally, you can use ScoreCast to see how your score might change if you pay off a debt, miss a monthly payment, take out a loan, or do other things that will have an impact on your credit.
Not enough information offered prior to sign-up
Unfortunately, that's about the extent of the details you'll get prior to signing up for Free Score 360. That reinforces our impression that this service is all about getting your money, and not so much about helping you monitor your credit. To even find the FAQ, we had to go to the login screen: not exactly an action that prospective clients are going to take.
Surprising "A+" from the BBB
Somehow, One Technologies (and, by extension, Free Score 360) manages to get the Better Business Bureau's highest "A+" grade and accreditation. Consumers have filed nearly 200 complaints against the company over the last three years, but evidently all of those have received an appropriate response. And what are people griping about here? Being caught off guard by the monthly charges after the free trial. We've got to say that we're with Free Score 360 on that one: they tell you right on their main sign-up page that there's a monthly fee once the 7-day trial period ends, so that's really on you if you miss that.
Not a credit monitoring platform we recommend
However, that's not enough to earn Free Score 360 our recommendation - "congratulations for not actually tricking people into paying almost $30/month" ? This credit monitoring service starts out on the wrong foot by not showing prospective subscribers exactly what they're getting; why do they have to go all the way to a login screen to view FAQs? And even then, it's just not clear what value Free Score 360 offers for that monthly fee, especially with rival credit monitoring platforms that are much more transparent - and truly free to use. Take a look at the higher-ranked services on our list and you'll almost undoubtedly find one that you like much better than Free Score 360.
The founder of Credit Sesame is a big part of the reason it's now super easy for consumers to have free access to their credit scores: Adrian Nazari negotiated for months with TransUnion to convince the bureau to offer that report for free instead of charging $10. The company has worked with millions of people to improve credit scores, increase their chances of being approved for credit, and to save money.
Solid features with a free account
Credit Sesame itself is also free, as long as you're looking strictly for basic credit monitoring from TransUnion. Your score will be refreshed daily, and you'll get notifications about address changes, credit inquiries, and new accounts that could be an indicator of identity theft. The free plan also includes a credit report summary and recommendations for financial products that might help you on your path to financial well-being.
Paid plans without enough information upfront
This platform also offers a paid subscription, and that's how you'll access all top-tier features. These include monitoring of all three credit bureaus, $1 million in identity theft insurance, wallet protection, ID monitoring, and more. But, it's aggravating that Credit Sesame doesn't give you any inkling about these paid plans until (or unless) you already have an account.
Feels a little shady
It starts feeling a little shifty and shady, having to poke around in the FAQs and on third-party websites to even determine that people are paying anywhere from $9.99 to $15.99 per month for this premium tier of service. Those prices aren't unreasonable compared with similar credit monitoring providers, so why not come out and state it upfront? People who are struggling with their credit don't need one more thing that feels like it's trying to trick them into a service they might not really need.
Brags about reputation, but BBB and customers tell a different story
Although Credit Sesame proudly advertises that they have an average customer rating of 4.5 stars out of 5 across more than 500,000 reviews, we're not sure where that comes from: there's no link to those reviews on the site, and when we looked around we definitely didn't find hundreds of thousands of compliments for this credit monitoring service. Go to a site like Trustpilot and see for yourself: across all of Credit Sesame's products, from banking to credit building, people are saying you should avoid doing any kind of business here.
Comments like "I have no idea where my money is" and "Money was taken from my account fraudulently and no one at Credit Sesame notified me or helped me when I discovered it" paint a disappointing picture of what's going on at this company. Even the Better Business Bureau agrees, giving Credit Sesame a "D-" rating for failing to respond to nearly 50 complaints out of the 140 filed over the last three years.
Not worth using for credit monitoring
You could use Credit Sesame for the free tools, and you'd probably be okay. But, if you start using Credit Sesame's recommended products for improving your credit, we're pretty sure you're going to wind up disappointed - or worse, in a situation where your credit is being affected by the company's lack of customer support. Try out the higher-rated credit monitoring resources on our list before even considering Credit Sesame.
Are you among those who find the intricate details shaping your credit score a bit bewildering? Fear not, because as soon as you land on Credit Karma's homepage, you're greeted with a step-by-step article explaining what credit monitoring is and why you'll benefit from it.
Packed with resources
As a partner of well-known financial company Intuit, Credit Karma positions itself as your advocate, focused on helping you achieve a healthier credit profile. The platform is packed with an array of resources to empower you in this endeavor, including tools like a credit score simulator, debt repayment calculator, loan calculator, insightful articles, community forums, and more.
All features here are free
Every service offered by Credit Karma comes at no charge, including credit monitoring. Setting up an account and inputting your personal details, including your social security number, is the initial step. Subsequently, they conduct a "soft pull" or inquiry that doesn't impact your overall credit score. Beyond just viewing your score, the platform keeps you in the loop with alerts and updates if any anomalies arise. This proves invaluable in detecting potential identity theft. Through Credit Karma's user-friendly interface, you can visualize your credit history's trajectory via graphs and benchmark your score against age, state, and income groups.
Get recommendations for financial products
When it's time to make substantial financial decisions like purchasing a house, a car, or selecting a credit card, Credit Karma steps in to guide you. The platform offers tailored matches for products and services you might require. As you explore, you'll find candid reviews from fellow customers about the recommended companies and products. It's noteworthy that these reviews run the gamut from blistering critiques of a specific credit card, insurance provider, or loan company, to glowing endorsements. These firsthand experiences offer unfiltered insights that empower you to make well-informed choices that suit your needs.
You're the product here
How is Credit Karma able to give you all of this for free? It's the right question to ask, because it leads into why this credit monitoring service has taken a nosedive in our rankings since our last review. The answer is that Credit Karma will give you access to your credit scores, sourced from Equifax and TransUnion (but not Experian, by the way), and in return, offer recommendations that can save you money by analyzing your financial data. Should you choose to act on these suggestions and opt for a product, the lender compensates Credit Karma. Essentially, they leverage your personal information to tailor advertisements to your needs.
Reputation has tanked with the BBB
And that's where the problem comes in. We were almost horrified to see that Credit Karma's rating from the Better Business Bureau had dropped from a perfectly-respectable "A" all the way down to a "D+" , with over 2,200 complaints filed in the last three years (and nearly 900 in the most recent 12 months alone). An alert on the BBB listing details how Credit Karma settled in a case brought by the Federal Trade Commission, accusing the company of sending pre-approval notices for third-party financial products (like credit cards) to customers that Credit Karma already knew wouldn't qualify. That resulted in "hard pull" inquiries being made, which damaged the consumers' credit reports. It's not a good look when the service you're entrusting with monitoring your credit is the one bringing it down.
Customers are very unhappy
Even without the misleading offers (which you can always ignore and avoid the problem entirely), users of Credit Karma are not happy these days. Looking at extremely recent feedback on Trustpilot (left within a few days of our evaluation), people say that their CK scores are much lower than what's reported through other channels (like bank accounts or from the credit bureaus themselves), it's hard to get help from the company's support reps, and that the system as a whole uses outdated information to provide "insights" on users' credit profiles. Two-thirds of the people who left a rating for Credit Karma on Trustpilot gave it a sad 1- or 2-star score, averaging a disappointing 1.5 stars overall.
Choose a different credit monitoring service
First to worst? That's about the only "honor" we can give Credit Karma now. Getting credit monitoring at no cost sounds amazing, until you realize that there are plenty of rival services that can do that for you too - and without trying to trick you into applying for a credit card or other financial product that will only wind up benefiting Credit Karma. You'll get much more for your time with one of the higher-ranking credit monitoring options on our list.
In the unfortunate event of identity theft, reputable credit monitoring services often offer assistance in resolving issues and restoring your credit, providing you with valuable support and guidance during a challenging time. It's important to note that credit monitoring primarily focuses on credit-related activities and may not detect all forms of identity theft or fraud, such as medical or criminal identity theft.
Additionally, you may receive alerts for legitimate actions, which could lead to unnecessary concern or alert fatigue. And, it's crucial to understand that credit monitoring services can't prevent or stop fraudulent activities; they can only provide information and alerts, underscoring the importance of your own proactive vigilance in protecting your financial well-being.
Now that you understand what credit monitoring can (and can't) do for you, how do you choose which option is right for you? There are a lot of similarities among providers of this service, and it can get frustrating trying to sort out the minute differences that could impact your decision.
Consider these factors that might illuminate those differences and make it clearer which one you should choose:
Credit monitoring services offer you valuable tools to protect your financial well-being and maintain a healthy credit profile, and Top Consumer Reviews has done the legwork to make it easy to compare today's most popular providers. We're confident that this information will empower you to take control of your financial life and stay on top of your credit profile.
Would you go for months without checking the balance of your bank account? Would you ignore reviewing your monthly credit card statement under the assumption that all the charges on it were valid? Chances are, if you're like most people, you wouldn't.
The same rule applies to your credit report. It should be reviewed at least once annually, and ideally 3 times a year or more, to make sure everything is in order.
What, exactly, is a credit report? It is the compilation of an individual's financial history, from their first bank account to their latest credit card, it's all in there. The history of where a person has taken out credit - as well as whether they've been able to pay on time or are chronically late with repaying their debts - is all included in one handy document. Financial brokers, credit card companies, potential employers and any creditor with whom you wish to do business has the right to view you credit history.
Credit history also is used to assign a credit score to each individual. The score is calculated through a mathematical algorithm, which pulls data from the credit report and generates a three-digit number. Credit scores range from 300 to 850. Persons with scores over 700 are considered to be in good financial standing and rarely are turned down by creditors. They also are able to secure the best interest rates on loans.
Knowing your credit score, as well as how it can affect your everyday life, is a valuable tool for all consumers. Credit histories and credit scores are used to determine credit-worthiness by credit card companies, cell phone providers, utility companies and even landlords and insurance companies. Having a bad credit report can have lifelong consequences for the consumer.
Credit reports are issued through three major reporting agencies - Equifax, Experian and Transunion. Each of the three agencies compiles its own report on individual consumers, and each report may vary slightly from the others.
There are many reasons why consumers should make a habit of viewing their credit reports:
Select any 2 Credit Monitoring Companies to compare them head to head
Best Identity Theft Protection Services of December 2023 | Why It's ...
but the +Credit plan also covers Experian and Equifax. It offers broad monitoring capability, including social media accounts, mobile device scanning, and dark web data analysis. It can also alert ...
Thu, 30 Nov 2023