Identity Theft

Best Credit Monitoring Service: Transunion vs Equifax vs Experian vs Credit Sesame vs Credit Karma & More

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Do you know with full certainty what your credit score is? Have you recently checked your credit report? What you don’t know could hurt you, especially if you’re dreaming of buying a house or a new car, taking out student loans — or even if you’re looking for a new job. Your ability to do all these things hinges on how creditworthy you are in the eyes of lenders and even potential employers. The best credit monitoring service can help you stay on top of your score.

Why is it so important to continually monitor your credit, even if you always pay your bills on time? For one thing, your credit report could contain false information that negatively affects your ability to get a loan. And if someone steals your identity and tries to open a credit card or take out a loan in your name, you’ll know before too much damage is done to your financial reputation.

What Are Credit Bureaus?

A credit bureau, also known as a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA), is a company that regularly collects financial and other information on individuals to establish a personal credit history. The three major CRAs in the U.S. are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Lenders use these companies to obtain credit scores and your previous financial performance to approve loans for that new car or house you’ve always dreamed of purchasing. You have the option of monitoring your credit report through these CRAs; however, they don’t provide you with your credit score. We’ve included Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion in our comparison reviews so you can see how they stack up against other credit monitoring services.

What’s In My Credit Report?

Mountain of bills (caption: best credit monitoring service)Although each credit bureau presents its information differently, the general content is the same across the board. Here’s what you can expect to find in your credit report.

Identifying Information

This is personal information, including your name, social security number, date of birth, address, and employment information. The companies don’t use this data to calculate your credit score, only to identify you.

Trade Lines

These are all of your open and recently closed credit accounts and the information lenders report, including the type of account (credit card, student loan, car loan, mortgage), origination date, how much you owe or your credit limit, payment history, and the account balance.

Credit Inquiries (Voluntary Vs Involuntary)

This includes a list of everyone who has accessed your credit report in the last two years. There are two types of inquiries:

  • “Voluntary”  (aka “hard credit pulls”) – when you apply for credit or a loan (are factored in when calculating your credit score)
  • “Involuntary” (aka “soft credit pulls”) – when a lender or business pulls your credit report to pre-qualify you for a loan or credit card (are not factored into your credit score)

If you have too many voluntary or hard inquiries reflected on your credit report, this could lower your FICO (Fair, Isaac and Company) score.

Public Records & Collections

CRAs collect public record information from state and county courts, as well as collection agency activity related to past-due debt. Public records include foreclosures, bankruptcies, lawsuits, wage attachments, liens, and other financial-related judgments.

Can I Get My Credit Report For Free?

Yes! Federal law mandates that all U.S. citizens have access to their credit reports once a year. You can get your free credit report through Please note, this is only your credit report, not your credit score.

What’s A FICO Credit Score?

FICO credit scores are the gold standard of credit scores, used by more than 90% of lenders. A score varies from person to person based on their credit history and ranges from 300 to 850. The higher your FICO score, the more you’ll save on interest rates. And if your score is low, it’s often difficult to secure a loan, get a credit card, etc.

All three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, use the FICO credit score model. Each bureau based your FICO score on the information they have on file for you; therefore, your FICO score could be different with each bureau. Your FICO score is not available for free.

What’s Considered A “Good” Credit Score?

Most lenders consider 700 or more a good credit score. But each lender and company use its own criteria for evaluating loan approvals and don’t necessarily rely solely on your credit score.

What affects your credit score? Four primary variables:

  1. Payment history for existing credit (on time or late, paid in full, etc.)
  2. Number of loans or credit cards currently open or active
  3. Current debt load (how much you owe)
  4. If any collection agencies are trying to resolve a past-due payment (or has in the past)

The best way to keep your credit score high is to make all payments on time (this includes all loans, credit cards, and bills) and to try not to incur a large amount of debt.

ID Theft Protection Vs Credit Monitoring

Man on computer in the dark (caption: What is the Best Identity Theft Protection?)Most companies offer both credit monitoring and identity theft protection, but there are significant differences between the two services. Credit monitoring is an arm of ID theft protection, and it only monitors your credit reports.

ID theft protection monitors your personal information like your social security number and address and keeps a watchful eye on black market websites and other online activities. However, ID protection doesn’t always monitor your credit reports.

There’s another crucial difference between the two services.

  • Credit monitoring only alerts you after finding fraudulent activity on your credit reports — once the damage is already done.
  • ID theft protection is proactive and alerts you when someone’s trying to use your personal information to apply for a loan or use your medical insurance for hefty healthcare bills.

Why is it wise to have both services? Why not just have ID theft protection? Identity thieves can be crafty and slip through any cracks. If they manage to bypass ID protection red flags, credit monitoring will catch the fraud on your credit reports so you can take steps to restore your credit.

Best Credit Monitoring Service Winners

We chose our top three winners based on several factors, including the frequency of monitoring, access to each bureau’s credit report and credit score, identity theft protection, dispute and fraud assistance, financial alert features, cost, customer support, and more.

Winner: Identity Force Review

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Identity Force, also included in our identity theft protection service reviews, offers excellent credit monitoring of all three credit bureaus with its competitively priced higher-tiered plan. In addition to giving you excellent ID theft and credit monitoring features, Identity Force provides added benefits like the ability to set up credit card and banking alerts so you won’t overspend. They’re also one of a select few services that offer child identity protection (learn more about child identity theft). If you want the best overall protection and monitoring, we think Identity Force is the way to go.



  • All 3 credit bureaus monitored
  • Quarterly access to 3-Bureau Credit Report
  • $1 million in ID theft insurance coverage
  • Good Lost Wallet protection
  • High site security with 256-bit encryption (PCI compliant)
  • Inexpensive child identity protection add-on
  • Alerts you on your mobile with any issues
  • Excellent customer support reputation
  • BBB rating: A+ (accredited)
  • No FICO score access
  • Only Mon-Fri customer/dispute support available
  • No trial period


Our readers receive a discount, which is why the prices below are lower than those on its website. Use our link to get the prices below.

Identity Force offers two plans, but the lower-priced plan ($12.95 per month) doesn’t include credit monitoring, only identity theft protection.

  • UltraSecure + Credit: $19.99 per month or $199.90 per year
  • UltraSecure: $14.99 per month or $149 per year
  • View all plans

Read Our In-Depth IdentityForce Review

Runner-Up: Identity Guard Review

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Our number two pick, Identity Guard, is primarily an identity theft protection service, and they do an excellent job at that (they’re one of the best out there). But they also have a strong credit monitoring program with a lot of features, excellent access to all three credit bureau reports and scores, and a good customer service reputation, all for an extremely competitive price. If you lose your wallet, they help you cancel your credit cards and gain access to up to $2,000 from one of your accounts.



  • Monitors all 3 credit bureaus
  • Quarterly access to 3-Bureau Report (monthly for an added fee)
  • Identity theft insurance coverage of $1 million
  • High site security and PCI compliant
  • Child identity protection included
  • Excellent Lost Wallet Protection (best of the services we’ve reviewed)
  • Mobile alerts if there’s a problem with your credit/identity
  • Consumer feedback is mostly positive for their customer support
  • BBB rating: A+ (accredited)
  • Doesn’t use FICO score
  • Dispute/fraud assistance isn’t 24/7


Identity Guard’s Premier plans include monthly credit scores, credit changes, and credit reports. Save 40% off monthly price with an annual plan.

  • Basic Plan (Standard Identity)
    • Individual: $8.99/month
    • Family: $14.99/month
  • Total Plan (Standard Identity + Credit Protection)
    • Individual: $19.99/month
    • Family: $29.99/month
  • Ultra Plan (Premium Identity + Credit Protection)
    • Individual: $29.99/month
    • Family: $39.99/month
  • View all plans

Read Our In-Depth Identity Guard Review

3rd Place: myFICO Review

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myFICO rounds out our top three picks for the best credit monitoring service. myFICO offers excellent features, access to your actual FICO scores from all three bureaus, and identity theft protection as an added feature. Although myFICO is more expensive than most of the other services we reviewed, we highly recommend this service if you can fit it into your budget. myFICO has several plans with varying features and prices, so give them all some consideration.



  • Best access to FICO scores you’ll find
  • Monitors all 3 credit bureaus (with the 2 higher plans)
  • Access quarterly to 3-Bureau Credit Report (with the highest plan)
  • 24/7 live dispute/fraud assistance
  • Lost Wallet Protection
  • $1 million in identity theft insurance coverage (with the highest plan)
  • Mobile alerts
  • BBB rating: A+ (accredited)
  • More expensive than other services we reviewed
  • No child identity protection offered
  • No monthly access to 3-Bureau Credit Report
  • No trial period


FICO Basics 1B (1-Bureau FICO Score & Credit Monitoring)

  • $19.95 per month
  • Monthly access to 9 FICO® Score versions widely used in mortgage, auto, and credit card lending
  • Monthly access to a new Equifax credit report
  • Monitoring of your Equifax credit report
  • FICO® Score 8 tracking graph
  • Lost Wallet Protection
  • 24/7 full-service identity restoration
  • $1 million identity theft insurance

FICO Ultimate 3B (3-Bureau FICO Scores, Credit & Identity Monitoring)

  • $29.95 per month
  • Quarterly access to all 28 FICO®
  • Quarterly access to a new 3-bureau credit report
  • Monitoring of your credit reports from all 3 bureaus
  • FICO® Score 8 tracking graph for each bureau
  • Identity theft monitoring
  • Lost Wallet Protection
  • 24/7 full-service identity restoration
  • $1 million identity theft insurance

FICO Ultimate 3B+ (3-Bureau FICO Scores, Credit & Identity Monitoring)

  • $39.95 per month
  • Monthly access to all 28 FICO® scores
  • Monthly access to a new 3-bureau credit report
  • Monitoring of your credit reports from all 3 bureaus
  • FICO® Score 8 tracking graph for each bureau
  • Identity theft monitoring
  • Lost Wallet Protection
  • 24/7 full-service identity restoration
  • $1 million identity theft insurance

View all plans

Credit Monitoring Services Comparison Table

We’ve created a side-by-side comparison table to help you with the overall picture of what the best credit monitoring services have to offer.

Identity Force Identity Guard® MyFICO Credit Karma Credit Sesame Platinum Equifax Experian & Privacy Guard TransUnion & TrueCredit
Identity Force Identity Guard® MyFICO Credit Karma Credit Sesame Platinum Equifax Experian & Privacy Guard TransUnion & TrueCredit
Lowest Price Per Month Offered $19.99 $8.99 $19.95 Free $15.99 $19.95 $19.99 $9.99 $14.95
Trial Period None Free 30-day trial None Free Free plan available None $1 for 7-day trial $1 for 14-day trial Credit Report
Equifax Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark
Experian Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark
TransUnion Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark
3-Bureau Credit Report Frequency Quarterly Monthly Quarterly Monthly Annually Annually Monthly
Uses FICO Checkmark Checkmark
Dispute/Fraud Assistance Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark
Monitors Public Records Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark
Monitors Identity Theft Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark (Additional Fee) Checkmark Checkmark
SSN Tracking Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark
ID Theft Insurance Coverage $1 million $1 million $1 million None $1 million $1 million None $1 million $1 million
Mobile Alerts Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Email Only Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Email Only
Lost Wallet Protection Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark
Child Identity Protection Extra Cost Extra Cost Extra Cost
Mobile Apps Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark
Customer Support M-F, 8am-5:30pm ET; phone, email M-F, 8am-11pm; Sat., 9am-6pm ET; phone, email 24/7 phone, email Email only 24/7 phone, email Hours unlisted, phone, email M-F, 6am-6pm; Sat-Sun, 8am-5pm PT; phone, email Hours unlisted, phone, email 24/7, email, phone

What Are My Other Options?

In addition to our top three winners, we’ve reviewed the following credit monitoring services, including the three CRAs.

Credit Karma | | Credit Sesame | Equifax | ExperianPrivacy Guard | TransUnion | TrueCredit

Credit Karma Review

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Credit Karma is a well-known brand largely because they’ve invested in a ton of advertising within the last few years. What makes Credit Karma worth considering? They’re entirely free. But that comes with the price of not having access to all three credit bureau reports. You get some cool features, like a credit simulator, a credit score comparison, and a good knowledge center on their website. But they have a poor reputation for customer service, and there are a large number of complaints with BBB.



  • Free plan
  • Daily monitoring of TransUnion and Equifax credit files
  • Email alerts of TransUnion and Equifax changes & issues
  • BBB rating: A- (not accredited)
  • No 3-Bureau Credit Report access
  • Site security not up to par with highest standards
  • No FICO scores available
  • No dispute/fraud assistance
  • No ID theft monitoring or insurance coverage
  • Customer support via email only


  • Free

If The Service Is Free, How Does Credit Karma Make Money?

In short, advertising. According to their website: Credit Karma receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our third-party advertisers don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted. Review

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Experian-owned and its sister, and used to offer comprehensive credit monitoring and ID theft services, but their models have changed. What do they offer now? All three sites are trustworthy sources for free access to your Experian credit report. When you sign up, you get a free Experian report, Experian credit monitoring alerts, a refreshed report every 30 days, and toll-free support seven days a week.

Credit Sesame Review

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Credit Sesame is a relative newcomer to the credit monitoring service market and is not as well-known as some others. But with the recent addition of their Platinum plan, they’ve upped their offerings. Their free program only covers your Experian credit report, score, and monitoring and $50,000 to assist you with expenses related to identity theft. If you’re looking for more, go with their Platinum plan, which gives you most of the features our top two winners provide, plus 24/7 live dispute assistance. What’s missing? They don’t offer child identity protection, and they don’t provide phone or text alerts about potential problems with your credit. But if these features don’t matter to you, Credit Sesame is worth a look.



  • Free plan option and competitive pricing for highest plan
  • Monitors all 3 credit bureaus (with Platinum plan)
  • Monthly 3-Bureau Credit Report and credit scores (with Platinum plan)
  • $1 million ID theft insurance coverage (with Platinum Plan)
  • Good Lost Wallet Protection
  • 24/7 live dispute/fraud assistance
  • BBB rating: NR (accredited)
  • Doesn’t use FICO score analysis
  • No mobile alerts to bring issues to your attention
  • No child identity protection offered
  • A number of consumer complaints about poor customer service


Free Plan Premium Plan
Price Per Month Free $15.99
Credit Score Updates 1 Bureau Monthly 3 Bureaus Monthly
Credit Monitoring 1 Bureau Daily 3 Bureaus Daily
Identity Restoration Full Service
Full Credit Report 3 Bureaus Monthly
24/7 Live Dispute Assistance Checkmark
24/7 Live Lost Wallet Protection Checkmark
Black Market Website Monitoring Checkmark
Public Records Monitoring Checkmark
SSN Monitoring Checkmark

View all plans

Equifax (Bureau) Review

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Equifax offers the most comprehensive credit monitoring and identity theft protection compared to the other two credit bureaus, Experian, and TransUnion. The Equifax Complete Premier Plan gives you a lot of the same features as our top winners, like daily monitoring of all three credit bureau files and $1 million ID theft insurance coverage. However, you only have access to the three credit bureau report once a year. With other services, you can get that report monthly. But if you’re looking for family coverage, they have a good plan for two adults and up to four children.



  • Monitors all three credit bureau reports
  • $1 million in ID theft insurance coverage
  • Provides Lost Wallet Protection
  • Mobile alerts for any issues with credit reports
  • Child identity theft protection offered (for additional fee)
  • Fraud/dispute assistance available
  • BBB rating: A+ (accredited)
  • On the expensive side for the features you get
  • Only have annual access to 3-Bureau Credit Report
  • No FICO scores available
  • No trial period
  • Customer support hours unlisted


  • Complete Premier Plan: $19.95 per month
  • Complete Family Plan (2 adults & up to 4 children): $19.95 per month
  • Norton 360 + LifeLock (includes data breach notifications and bank + credit card alerts): $29.99 per month

Read Our In-Depth Equifax Review

Experian (Bureau) Review

Experian logo

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Experian Credit Bureau offers its own credit monitoring service. With Experian CreditWorks, you get daily monitoring of your Experian credit report and your FICO® Score 8 and a few other features, like lost wallet protection, for $19.99 per month. CreditWorks doesn’t provide identity theft protection, only credit monitoring, and access to your 3-Bureau scores is limited compared to other services. You can try CreditWorks out with their free seven-day trial, but they’ll start charging you monthly if you don’t cancel within those seven days.



  • Free access to your Experian credit report
  • Daily Access to FICO® scores and FICO® Score Tracker
  • Dispute/fraud assistance
  • Lost wallet protection
  • Experian CreditLock with alerts
  • BBB rating: A+ (not accredited)
  • Doesn’t offer identity theft protection
  • Only provides annual access to 3-Bureau FICO® Scores
  • Doesn’t offer 24/7 customer support


  • Free access to your Experian credit report, updated monthly
  • $19.99/month: CreditWorks credit monitoring
  • View all plans

Privacy Guard Review

Privacy Guard Credit Monitoring logo

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Privacy Guard is another credit monitoring service that gives you all three bureau’s credit reports and scores, as well as offering identity theft protection. They offer separate packages for ID protection or credit protection. Still, to get what’s comparable from other top services, you have to go with their third option, their Total Protection plan, which is pricier than most at $24.99 per month. They have a solid set of features like daily credit monitoring, monthly credit score checking, fraud assistance, and more. And like our top winners, Privacy Guard provides up to $1 million in identity theft insurance coverage. What keeps them out of our top three? Privacy Guard doesn’t offer a child protection add-on, and they have many customer complaints about service and accounts.



  • All three credit bureaus monitored
  • Monthly access to your 3-Bureau Credit Report
  • $1 million in identity theft insurance coverage
  • High site security and PCI compliant
  • Mobile alerts if there’s an issue with your reports
  • Good Lost Wallet Protection
  • Assistance with disputes/fraud issues
  • $1 trial period for 14 days
  • Doesn’t provide child identity theft protection
  • Customer support hours are unlisted
  • A number of consumer complaints about hard to reach customer support  and accounts dropped with no warning
  • Can’t locate a BBB page


Privacy Guard offers a 14-day trial period for $1.

  • ID Protection Package: $9.99/month
  • Credit Protection Package: $19.99/month
  • Total Protection Package: $24.99/month
  • View all plans

TransUnion (Bureau) Review

TransUnion logo

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TransUnion is one of the three credit bureaus (CRAs), and they don’t offer the same level of credit monitoring and identity theft protection as other services. With TransUnion, you get unlimited updates on your TransUnion score only — not Equifax or Experian — but you will receive alerts of any changes to your credit reports with all three bureaus. TransUnion also provides up to $1 million in identity theft insurance and unlimited access to dispute/fraud specialists. But if you’re looking for an all-encompassing service, look elsewhere. TransUnion will only save you roughly $3 a month, and for that savings, you’re giving up a lot of features you’d get with our top three winners.



  • Only TransUnion information available with free plan
  • Monitors all three credit bureaus
  • $1 million identity theft insurance coverage
  • 24/7 live dispute/fraud assistance
  • $1 for 7-day trial period
  • BBB rating: NR (not accredited)
  • Only have access to TransUnion credit report
  • No ability to get your 3-Bureau Credit Report
  • No FICO scores
  • Email alerts only for potential issues
  • No option for child ID theft protection
  • No Lost Wallet Protection


  • Credit Report: Free TrueIdentity Report includes TransUnion reports, monitoring & alerts, as well as a $25,000 in ID theft insurance
  • Credit Monitoring: $14.95 per month
  • View all plans

TrueCredit Review

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TransUnion-owned TrueCredit doesn’t offer you any additional features or perks compared to what you would get using TransUnion as your credit monitoring service. In fact, while we were researching the TrueCredit website, most links took us directly to TransUnion’s website. So, to review and compare different credit monitoring services, please refer (above) to TransUnion’s pros and cons and pricing details to see what you can expect from TrueCredit.

Protect Your Hard-Earned Credit History

If you’ve worked hard to maintain or improve your credit history, the last thing you want is for an error or “credit thief” to jeopardize all that you’ve accomplished. And, if you don’t use a credit monitoring service to keep regular tabs, you won’t know that there’s anything wrong until it’s too late.

Resolving identity theft or mistakes on your credit report can be costly, time-consuming, and a major hassle, especially if you’re attempting to do it independently. We urge you to read our reviews carefully so you can make the best decision for you and your family. And be sure to read our guide on how to repair your credit to learn more.

Can I Monitor My Own Credit?

The short answer is no. That’s why these services are so important. They catch issues quickly, says an expert in the following video. Trust us; it’s worth watching.

What If I Want Comprehensive ID Theft Protection?

As we’ve stated above, protecting yourself is not just a matter of monitoring your credit. With major security breaches happening all too often, comprehensive identity theft protection is more critical than ever.

Find out the need-to-know info about identity theft, from how it happens to what to do if someone steals your identity, in our ultimate identity theft guide. In addition to how to prevent, protect and recover from an incident, you’ll also want to read our reviews of the best identity theft protection services, which include our top two winners in this article, Identity Force and Identity Guard.

Sally Jones

While attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s graduate school for journalism and public relations, Sally began a long career researching and writing about hard-to-understand topics, such as insurance and finance. Her additional experience in marketing, fundraising, public relations and financial planning at various foundations and nonprofit organizations over the years has given her the practical tools to inform consumers about making the smartest business and personal financial decisions. Her work has appeared in many notable media outlets, including The Washington Post, Entrepreneur, People, Forbes, Huffington Post, and more. Speaking of smart living — growing up in the (at-the-time) per-capita murder capital of the U.S. (Richmond, VA) taught her a thing or two about the need for personal and home safety. Sally stays on top of all the latest gadgets and services to protect her and her teenage daughters from potential predators and thieves. And she brings this knowledge to every article she writes.
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