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

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MyFICO logo
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CreditReport.com logo
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Experian logo

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.

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.

If you already know everything about credit reports, credit scores, credit bureaus and more, jump down to our reviews. If you’d like to learn more about these things, continue reading.

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 Your Credit Report?

Although each credit bureau presents its information in a different format, 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. This data is not used 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, car loan, mortgage), origination date, how much you owe or your credit limit, payment history and the account balance.

Credit Inquiries

This includes a list of everyone who has accessed your credit report in the last two years. There are two types of inquiries: “voluntary” inquiries, also called “hard credit pulls,” are when you apply for credit or a loan; and “involuntary” inquiries, often called “soft credit pulls,” are when a lender or business pulls your credit report to pre-qualify you for a loan or credit card. When you request your credit report, it’s considered an involuntary, or soft, inquiry. Hard inquiries are factored in when calculating your credit score, but soft inquiries are not. If you have too many voluntary, or hard, inquiries, reflected on your credit report, this could lower your FICO score.

Public Records and 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 You Get Your Credit Report for Free?

Yes! Federal law mandates that all U.S. citizens have access to their credit report once a year. The only place you can get your free credit report is through AnnualCreditReport.com. 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. 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. Your FICO score for each bureau is based 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 Is a Good Credit Score?

FICO credit scores range from 300 to 850 (our research indicates that getting the highest credit score of 850 is virtually impossible), and 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? A number of variables, including your payment history, the number of loans or credit cards you currently have, your current debt load, and whether you have a collection agency trying to resolve a past-due payment. 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.

Best Credit Monitoring Service Winners

We chose our top three winners based on a number of factors, with access to your FICO credit scores being one of the most important features (since 90% of creditors use FICO scores). Other factors included frequency of monitoring, access to each bureau’s credit report and credit score, financial alert features, cost, customer support and whether each credit monitoring service offers identity theft protection and dispute or fraud assistance, and more.

MyFICO Review

#1

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MyFICO wins our top spot for best credit monitoring service for its excellent features, the access you get to your actual FICO scores from all three bureaus, and identity theft protection as an excellent added feature. Although MyFICO is more expensive than many of the other services we reviewed, we highly recommend this service if you can afford an extra $10 per month — the level of FICO score access is unprecedented (remember, nearly 90% of lenders rely on FICO scores). My FICO has a number of plans with varying features and prices, so give them all some consideration.

Pros

Cons

  • Best access to FICO scores you’ll find
  • Monitors all three credit bureaus (with the highest plan)
  • 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 highest plan)
  • Mobile alerts
  • More expensive than most services we reviewed
  • No child identity protection offered
  • No monthly access to 3-Bureau Credit Report
  • No trial period

Pricing

1-Bureau FICO Score & Credit Monitoring

  • $19.95 per month or $219 per year
  • Monthly access to 6 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

3-Bureau FICO Scores, Credit & Identity Monitoring

  • $29.95 per month or $329 per year
  • Quarterly access to the 19 FICO® Score versions most widely used in mortgage, auto and credit card lending
  • 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

CreditReport.com Review

#2

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Experian (credit bureau) owns CreditReport.com, CreditScore.com and FreeCreditReport.com — all three sites are solid, trustworthy choices for a credit monitoring service. Since all three services are essentially identical, we’re just going to feature CreditReport.com in this review. Why is CreditReport.com our number two choice? They give you access to your FICO scores, monitor all three credit bureaus, provide Lost Wallet Protection, all at a reasonable monthly price. You also get identity theft protection, fraud assistance, and other great features — including child identity protection. What credit monitoring features could use improvement? The addition of mobile alerts and 24/7 customer service, which our number one choice, MyFICO offers.

Pros

Cons

  • Access to FICO scores
  • Better overall monthly pricing compared to the other services that provide FICO scores
  • Monitors all three credit bureau reports
  • Dispute/fraud assistance available
  • Provides Lost Wallet protection
  • $50,000 guarantee to help you with expenses toward identity theft
  • Child identity protection (additional fee)
  • $1 trial period for 7 days
  • Additional fee for 3-Bureau Credit Report
  • No ID theft insurance coverage
  • Email alerts only
  • No 24/7 customer support

Pricing

  • $1 for Experian credit report and FICO scores and 7-day trial
  • $24.95 per month

Experian (Bureau) Review

#3

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Our number three pick, Experian Credit Bureau, like TransUnion and Equifax, offers its own credit monitoring service, and they have a number of different packages to choose from. With Experian Credit Tracker you get monitoring of your Experian credit report and your FICO score and a few other features for $19.95 per month. But if you want full identity theft protection and access to your TransUnion and Equifax reports, you have to pay an additional $15.95 per month. If you’re not concerned with identity theft protection or access to your other two bureau reports, Experian is a great deal. Yes, it’s expensive for the whole package, but Experian is one of only three services we reviewed that give you access to your FICO scores — a huge factor in our book for a credit monitoring service.

Pros

Cons

  • Uses FICO scores
  • Access to all three credit bureau reports (added fee)
  • Dispute/fraud assistance (added fee)
  • Offers $1 million in ID theft insurance coverage and Lost Wallet Protection (for added fee)
  • Child identity theft protection add-on available
  • Most expensive plan we reviewed for credit monitoring & identity theft protection
  • Expensive to get your 3-Bureau Credit Report
  • Email alerts only about credit monitoring issues
  • Doesn’t offer 24/7 customer support

Pricing

 Experian Credit TrackerIdentity Theft Protection3-Bureau Credit Report
and FICO Score
Experian Credit Report
and FICO Score
Price Per Month$19.95$15.95$39.95$19.95
Experian Credit ReportUnlimited AccessCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
FICO Credit ScoreUnlimited AccessCheckmarkCheckmark
TransUnion Credit ReportDaily MonitoringCheckmark
Equifax Credit ReportDaily MonitoringCheckmark
Email AlertsCheckmarkCheckmark
Daily Internet ID ScanningCheckmark
Product Coverage$50,000 Guarantee$1 Million ID Theft Insurance
Dedicated Fraud SupportCheckmarkCheckmark

See Services Side-by-Side

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.

 MyFICOCreditReport.comExperianCredit KarmaCredit Sesame PlatinumEquifaxIdentity ForceIdentity GuardPrivacy GuardTransUnion & TrueCredit
MyFICOCreditReport.comExperianCredit KarmaCredit SesameEquifaxIdentity ForceIdentity GuardPrivacy GuardTransUnion & TrueCredit
ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead Review
Sign UpVisit WebsiteVisit WebsiteVisit WebsiteVisit WebsiteVisit WebsiteVisit WebsiteVisit WebsiteVisit WebsiteVisit WebsiteVisit Website
Price Per Month$19.95$24.95$19.95Free$19.95$19.95$23.95$19.99$19.99$17.95
Trial PeriodNone$1 for 7-day trial$4.95 for 30 daysFreeFree plan availableNoneNone$5 for 30-day trial$1 for 14-day trial$1 for 7-day trial
EquifaxCheckmarkCheckmarkExtra CostCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
ExperianExtra CostCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
TransUnionExtra CostCheckmarkExtra CostCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
3-Bureau Credit Report FrequencyMonthly for extra feeMonthly for Extra FeeMonthly for Extra FeeMonthlyAnnuallyQuarterlyQuarterly (Monthly for extra fee)Monthly
Uses FICOCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Dispute/Fraud AssistanceCheckmarkCheckmarkExtra CostCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Monitors Public RecordsCheckmarkCheckmarkExtra CostCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Monitors Identity TheftExtra CostCheckmarkExtra CostCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
ID Theft Insurance Coverage$1 million$50,000 for related expenses only$1 million (added fee)None$1 million$1 million$1 million$1 million$1 million$1 million
Mobile AlertsCheckmarkEmail OnlyEmail OnlyEmail OnlyCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkEmail Only
Lost Wallet ProtectionCheckmarkCheckmarkExtra CostCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Child Identity ProtectionCheckmarkExtra CostExtra CostExtra CostExtra Cost
Mobile AppsCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Customer Support24/7 phone, emailM-F, 6am-6pm; Sat-Sun, 8am-5pm PT; phone, emailM-F, 6am-6pm; Sat-Sun, 8am-5pm PT; phone, emailEmail only24/7 phone, emailHours unlisted, phone, emailM-F, 8am-5:30pm ET; phone, emailM-F, 8am-11pm; Sat., 9am-6pm ET; phone, emailHours unlisted, phone, email24/7, email, phone
ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead Review
Sign UpVisit WebsiteVisit WebsiteVisit WebsiteVisit WebsiteVisit WebsiteVisit WebsiteVisit WebsiteVisit WebsiteVisit WebsiteVisit Website

Other Credit Monitoring Services Reviewed

In addition to our top three winners, we’ve reviewed the following credit monitoring services, which includes the three CRAs. Click on any you’re interested in to jump straight to that service’s review.

Credit Karma | Credit Sesame | Equifax | Identity Force | Identity Guard | Privacy Guard | TransUnion | TrueCredit

Credit Karma Review

Credit Karma logo

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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 looking into? They’re entirely free. But that comes with the price of not having access to all three credit bureau reports. With Credit Karma, you only get access to TransUnion’s credit report and score, which leaves a lot of unknowns in terms of your overall creditworthiness and whether there’s fraudulent information on the other two bureaus’ credit reports. Still, Credit Karma is probably the best free credit monitoring service out there. And you get some cool features, like a credit simulator, a credit score comparison and a good knowledge center on their website.

Pros

Cons

  • Free plan
  • Daily monitoring of TransUnion credit file
  • Email alerts of TransUnion changes & issues
  • Only access is TransUnion credit bureau
  • No 3-Bureau Credit Report access
  • No FICO scores available
  • No dispute/fraud assistance
  • No ID theft monitoring or insurance coverage
  • Customer support via email only

Pricing

  • Free

Credit Sesame Review

Credit Sesame logo

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Credit Sesame is a relative newcomer to the credit monitoring service market and is not as well-known as some of the others. But with the recent addition of their Platinum plan, they’ve really upped their offerings. Their free plan 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 picks 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 definitely worth looking into.

Pros

Cons

  • Free plan option and competitive pricing for highest plan
  • Monitors all three 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
  • 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

Pricing

 Free PlanAdvanced CreditPro CreditPlatinum Credit
Price Per MonthFree$9.95$15.95$19.95
Credit Score Updates1 Bureau Monthly1 Bureau Daily3 Bureaus Monthly3 Bureaus Monthly
Credit Monitoring1 Bureau Daily1 Bureau Daily3 Bureaus Daily3 Bureaus Daily
Identity RestorationFull Service
Identity Theft Insurance$50,000$50,000$50,000$1 Million
Full Credit Report1 Bureau Monthly1 Bureau Monthly3 Bureaus Monthly
24/7 Live Dispute AssistanceCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
24/7 Live Lost Wallet ProtectionCheckmark
Black Market Website MonitoringCheckmark
Public Records MonitoringCheckmark
SSN MonitoringCheckmark

Equifax (Bureau) Review

Equifax logo

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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 3 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 that covers two adults and up to four children.

Pros

Cons

  • 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
  • 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

Pricing

  • $19.95 per month: Complete Premier Plan
  • $29.95 per month: Complete Family Plan (2 adult & up to 4 children)

Identity Force Review

IdentityForce logo
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Identity Force, our #1 pick for best identity theft protection service, also offers excellent credit monitoring of all three credit bureaus, although you have to purchase their higher plan to get credit monitoring. So Identity Force ends up costing more than average credit report monitoring service but you get added Identity Theft protection services as a part of subscribing to their service. And, you don’t get access to your FICO scores. If you’re looking for identity theft protection, Identity Force is one of the best, but the lack of FICO score access kept them out of our top choices.

Pros

Cons

  • All three credit bureaus monitored
  • Quarterly access to 3-Bureau Credit Report
  • $1 million in ID theft insurance coverage
  • Good Lost Wallet protection
  • Inexpensive child identity protection add-on
  • Alerts you on your mobile with any issues
  • Excellent customer support reputation
  • More expensive than many other services
  • No FICO score access
  • Only Mon-Fri customer/dispute support available
  • No trial period

Pricing

Identity Force offers two plans, but the lower priced plan ($17.95 per month) doesn’t include credit monitoring; only identity theft protection.

  • Ultrasecure Plan + Credit: $23.95 per month or $239.50 per year
  • Childwatch: $2.75 per month or $27.50 per year per child

Identity Guard Review

Identity Guard logo
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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 up to $2,000 from one of your accounts. The major downsides with Identity Guard’s credit monitoring service? Identity Guard uses their own credit score model, which differs from what lenders use, and you have no access to your FICO scores.

Pros

Cons

  • Excellent value for monthly price
  • Monitors all three credit bureaus
  • Quarterly access to 3-Bureau Report (monthly for an added fee)
  • Identity theft insurance coverage of $1 million
  • Child identity protection offered (for added fee)
  • 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 largely positive for their customer support
  • $5 trial period for 30 days
  • Doesn’t use FICO score
  • Dispute/fraud assistance isn’t 24/7

Pricing

The only major difference between Identity Guard’s two plans that offer credit monitoring is how often you’ll receive the 3 Bureau Credit Report.

  • $5 for first 30 days
  • $19.99 per month: Total Protection plan (quarterly 3 Bureau Credit Report)
  • $24.99 per month: Platinum plan (monthly 3 Bureau Credit Report)

Privacy Guard Review

Privacy Guard logo

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Privacy Guard is another credit monitoring service that gives you all three bureau credit reports and scores, as well as offering identity theft protection, all for $19.99 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 a number of customer complaints about service and accounts.

Pros

Cons

  • Competitive price per month and good trial period
  • All three credit bureaus monitored
  • Monthly access to your 3-Bureau Credit Report
  • $1 million in identity theft insurance coverage
  • 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 use FICO scores
  • Doesn’t provide child identity theft protection
  • Customer support hours are unlisted
  • A number of consumer complaints about customer support being hard to reach and accounts being dropped with no warning

Pricing

  • $1 for 14-day trial
  • $19.99 per month

TransUnion (Bureau) Review

TransUnion logo

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TransUnion is one of the three credit bureaus, or 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.

Pros

Cons

  • Less expensive than most services
  • Monitors all three credit bureaus
  • $1 million identity theft insurance coverage
  • 24/7 live dispute/fraud assistance
  • $1 for 7-day trial period
  • 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 child identity theft protection options
  • No Lost Wallet Protection

Pricing

  • Initial free TransUnion credit score and $1 for TransUnion credit report plus 7 days of TransUnion credit monitoring
  • $17.95 per month

TrueCredit Review

TrueCredit logo

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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, for the purposes of reviewing and comparing different credit monitoring services, please refer (just above) to TransUnion’s pros and cons and pricing details to see what you can expect from TrueCredit.

Can You Monitor Your Own Credit?

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

Protect Your Hard-Earned Credit History

In 2014 alone, an estimated 17.6 million U.S. citizens were victims of identity theft, according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics report. 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 on your own. We urge you to read our reviews carefully, so you can make the best decision for you and your family.

What credit monitoring service have you used, and how has that service helped you?

Sally is a passionate writer but her interests do not stop there. She spends a lot of time daydreaming about the beach, however, she spends most of her time taking advantage of all the activities her town has to offer in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
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2 Comments on "Best Credit Monitoring Service: Transunion vs Equifax vs Experian vs Credit Sesame vs Credit Karma"

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Bruce
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Bruce

I was setting up an account with a new cable company and they wanted to run a credit check. Will that hurt my credit score?

Kimberly Alt
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Kimberly Alt

Great question Bruce! Unfortunately, we don’t have an exact answer. Cable companies checking your credit may or may not hurt your credit score. There are what’s called “soft” and “hard” inquiries and cable companies fall in between. Hard inquiries hurt your credit score (only by a couple points) and soft inquiries do not change your score at all. Perhaps you could ask the cable company directly if they know? I hope this was helpful!

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