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

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Identity Force logo
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Identity Guard logo
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MyFICO 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, including 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.

Identity Force Review

#1

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Identity Force, also our #1 pick for best identity theft protection service, 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. If you want the best overall protection and monitoring, we think Identity Force is the way to go.

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
  • 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 certified: A+
  • 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 ($12.95 per month) doesn’t include credit monitoring; only identity theft protection.

  • Ultrasecure Plan + Credit: $19.95 per month or $199.50 per year
  • Childwatch: $2.75 per month or $27.50 per year per child
  • View all plans

Identity Guard Review

#2

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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 up to $2,000 from one of your accounts.

Pros

Cons

  • Monitors all three 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 largely positive for their customer support
  • BBB certified: A+
  • 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 three Bureau Credit Report. They offer a free 30-day trial.

  • $19.99 per month: Total Protection plan (quarterly 3 Bureau Credit Report)
  • $24.99 per month: Platinum plan (monthly 3 Bureau Credit Report)
  • View all plans

MyFICO Review

#3

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MyFICO rounds out our top three picks for 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 afford an extra $10 per month. 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 other services we reviewed
  • No child identity protection offered
  • No monthly access to 3-Bureau Credit Report
  • No trial period

Pricing

FICO Essentials 1B Plan (1-Bureau FICO Score & Credit Monitoring)

  • $19.95 per month or $219 per year
  • 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 Essentials Ultimate 3B Plan (3-Bureau FICO Scores, Credit & Identity Monitoring)

  • $29.95 per month or $329 per year
  • Quarterly access to all 28 FICO® scores, including 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

View all plans

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.

 Identity ForceIdentity GuardMyFICOCredit KarmaCredit Sesame PlatinumEquifaxExperian & CreditReport.comPrivacy GuardTransUnion & TrueCredit
Identity ForceIdentity GuardMyFICOCredit KarmaCredit SesameEquifaxExperianPrivacy GuardTransUnion & TrueCredit
ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead Review
Sign UpVisit WebsiteVisit WebsiteVisit WebsiteVisit WebsiteVisit WebsiteVisit WebsiteVisit WebsiteVisit WebsiteVisit Website
Price Per Month$19.95$19.99$29.95Free$19.95$19.95$21.95$29.99$19.95
Trial PeriodNoneFree 30-day trialNoneFreeFree plan availableNone$1 for 7-day trial$1 for 14-day trial$1 for 7-day trial
EquifaxCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
ExperianCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
TransUnionCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
3-Bureau Credit Report FrequencyQuarterlyQuarterly (Monthly for extra fee)QuarterlyMonthlyAnnuallyAnnuallyMonthly
Uses FICOCheckmarkCheckmark
Dispute/Fraud AssistanceCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Monitors Public RecordsCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Monitors Identity TheftCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
SSN TrackingCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
ID Theft Insurance Coverage$1 million$1 million$1 millionNone$1 million$1 millionNone$1 million$1 million
Mobile AlertsCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkEmail OnlyCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkEmail Only
Lost Wallet ProtectionCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Child Identity ProtectionExtra CostCheckmarkExtra Cost
Mobile AppsCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Customer SupportM-F, 8am-5:30pm ET; phone, emailM-F, 8am-11pm; Sat., 9am-6pm ET; phone, email24/7 phone, emailEmail only24/7 phone, emailHours unlisted, phone, emailM-F, 6am-6pm; Sat-Sun, 8am-5pm PT; phone, emailHours unlisted, phone, email24/7, email, phone
ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead Review
Sign UpVisit 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 | CreditReport.com | Credit Sesame | Equifax | ExperianPrivacy 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. 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.

Pros

Cons

  • Free plan
  • Daily monitoring of TransUnion and Equifax credit files
  • Email alerts of TransUnion and Equifax changes & issues
  • 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
  • Not BBB accredited

Pricing

  • Free

CreditReport.com Review

Visit Website

Experian-owned CreditReport.com and its sister sites,  CreditScore.com and FreeCreditReport.com, 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

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

View all plans

Equifax (Bureau) Review

Equifax logo

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Due to the recent massive security breach, Equifax isn’t offering any subscription products at this time. We’ll keep an eye on their status in the months to come. 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 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)

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 $21.95 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 $1 seven-day trial, but they’ll start charging you monthly if you don’t cancel within those seven days. For $39.95, Experian also offers a package where you can get your 3-Bureau credit reports and FICO® scores, but there’s no monitoring involved.

Pros

Cons

  • 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 certified: A-
  • Doesn’t offer identity theft protection
  • Only provides annual access to 3-Bureau FICO® Scores
  • Doesn’t offer 24/7 customer support

Pricing

  • Free access to your Experian credit report, updated monthly
  • $21.95/month: CreditWorks credit monitoring
  • $39.95: One-time access to your 3-Bureau credit reports and FICO® scores
  • View all plans

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. They offer separate packages for ID protection or credit protection, but 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 $29.99 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

  • 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 customer support being hard to reach and accounts being dropped with no warning
  • Not BBB accredited

Pricing

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: $29.99/month
  • View all plans

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

  • 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
  • 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

  • Free TrueIdentity Report includes TransUnion reports, monitoring & alerts, as well as a $25,000 in ID theft insurance
  • $1 7-day trial includes initial free TransUnion credit score, TransUnion credit report and comprehensive credit monitoring
  • $19.95 per month
  • View all plans

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.

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.

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.

What You Should Know About Identity Theft

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 important 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 series of informative articles including how to freeze your credit. And be sure to check out our reviews of the best ID theft protection services, which include our top two winners in this article, Identity Force and Identity Guard.

What credit monitoring service have you used and 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.

Leave a Reply

4 Comments on "Best Credit Monitoring Service: Transunion vs Equifax vs Experian vs Credit Sesame vs Credit Karma & More!"

avatar
Joan
Joan

Can you take a look at WalletHub? It’s free and I just started using it, but I’d like to see how it compares to the others. This one says it updates daily and seems to be doing that so far.

Kimberly Alt
Admin
Kimberly Alt

We will consider adding WalletHub in our next audit. Thanks and hope it works well for you.

Bruce
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
Admin
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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