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The Best Credit Monitoring Services in 2021: Experian, FreeCreditReport.com, and More



Data breaches have become frustratingly commonplace. With hackers infiltrating companies from DoorDash to Equifax to Facebook, it is increasingly likely that you – or someone you know – have been affected. And if it was your financial data floating around the internet, you may have learned the hard way the importance of keeping an eye on your credit report to protect yourself – and your finances – from the modern scourges of credit card fraud and identity theft .

The first step to taking control of your credit is familiarize yourself with your credit scoreAs the foundation of your financial standing, a good score will increase your chances of getting approval when you apply for one credit card or personal loan or a major purchase, such as a new houseBut monitoring your credit score can also help you defend yourself, allowing you to respond quickly if you̵

7;re involved in a data breach or your identity has been stolen

Read more: The best credit cards

If you don’t have the bandwidth to consistently check your credit score – or if you want to add an extra layer of protection – consider signing up for a credit monitoring service. These services monitor your accounts, let you know when someone opens a line of credit with your Social Security number, and can help protect against fraudulent activities such as identity theft and credit fraud.

There are many options out there. Some companies offer a free credit report and then require your credit card for add-ons such as basic credit monitoring and spotting suspicious activity and unauthorized use of your Social Security number. So when you’re ready to get started, keep reading our list to find the best credit monitoring service for you.

Read more: The best identity theft surveillance services

Screenshot by Katie Conner / CNET

  • Free 30-day trial
  • Price: $ 20 per month
  • Provides a tool to increase your credit score
  • Includes identity theft monitoring
  • It says it will tackle fraud if your identity or personal information is stolen
  • Shows your FICO scores for all three agencies (Experian, TransUnion, Equifax)
  • Guards your creditworthiness

Experian (download the app for iOS or Android) is one of the main credit monitoring services that provides your FICO scores for the three bureaus. Experian can help you increase your FICO score by using utility bills you already pay to apply to your credit. Your new credit scores take effect immediately.

The company monitors identity theft and performs daily scans of dark web pages to detect if your information has been stolen. If anything is detected, Experian says the support team will help.

Screenshot by Katie Conner / CNET

  • $ 25 a month
  • Includes free identity protection
  • Unlimited score and report access
  • Credit Lock Plus
  • Up to $ 1,000,000 in identity theft insurance

Also one of the top three credit monitoring services is TransUnion (download the app for iOS or Android). With TransUnion, you can check your credit score report as often as you want to see if your score has changed.

Identity protection is included through Javelin, an identity protection service provider. Your monthly fee includes credit monitoring, instant alerts if someone applies for credit in your name, and up to $ 1,000,000 in ID theft insurance. TransUnion Credit Lock is a service that keeps your credit profile locked until you unlock it. For example, if a criminal applies for credit in your name, the lock prevents him from stealing your credit information.

Screenshot by Katie Conner / CNET

  • $ 20 a month
  • Shows your credit scores from three Equifax bureaus
  • Includes identity protection
  • Sends alerts about suspicious activity
  • Monitored credit and social security number

The third major credit bureau in the US, Equifax (download the app for iOS), suffered one of the worst data breaches in 2017, involving more than half of all Americans. Equifax has a multi-year plan to regain your trust. If you were affected by the data breach, you can still file a claim (it is now in the extended claim period, so you should apply as soon as possible) for a refund of the time spent recovering from identity theft or from own pocket loss as a result of the data breach.

If you’re feeling forgiving, Equifax’s services are on par with the competition. It provides a copy of your Equifax credit report and monitors your credit and social security numbers by scanning websites selling consumer information. Equifax also sends out alerts about suspicious activity, such as someone applying for credit in your name across the country.

Screenshot by Katie Conner / CNET

  • Free
  • Check the credit score for free
  • Guarded credit
  • Shows credit factors and how they affect your score

Credit Karma (or download the app for iOS or Android) is a personal finance company. You can use it to check your credit scores as often as you want for free. You can also access your credit scores from TransUnion and Equifax, but not Experian. Credit Karma monitors your credit and sends weekly updates and will notify you if there is a change in your credit score.

The site also shows you your score and credit factors that affect your score, such as whether you’re using too much of your credit card limit, anomalous flags, and hard questions.

Keep in mind that Intuit acquires Credit Karma, which, if you are concerned about your privacy and the security of your data, puts much of your personal financial information in the hands of a single company.

Screenshot by Katie Conner / CNET

  • Free
  • Check your credit score for free
  • All personal information is encrypted

Mint (download the app for iOS or Android) is a free service for managing your personal finances. In addition to tracking your payments, you can use it to find out where your credit score is missing, such as not having a long credit history, and where things are going well, such as paying bills on time. Mint shows you your on-time payments, credit usage (so you can see if you’ve hit your limit) and average credit age on one screen.

After you verify your identity, Mint will send you credit report summaries and credit monitoring alerts if your score goes up or down.

Screenshot by Katie Conner / CNET

  • Free
  • Check your Experian credit report
  • Report information updates every 30 days
  • Keep an eye on credit usage, hard questions and late payments

FreeCreditReport.com is a limited service provided by Experian to access your credit report for free. The company will provide you with an updated credit report every 30 days. You can access your account history, such as real estate and credit accounts. FreeCreditReport.com shows you hard questions about your account, tracks your credit usage, and shows any points against you, such as late payments.

Note that this only shows your credit report and not your credit score. To see your score, you must upgrade to Experian CreditWorks Premium. You can get a one-month trial for $ 5.

How is a credit score calculated?

Your credit score is a three-digit number calculated from your credit report. Both FICO and VantageScore – the two major credit score models – range from 300 to 850. When applying for credit, lenders check your credit report and the corresponding score to determine if you are worth borrowing. Some of the factors that affect your score include “tough questions” such as applying for credit (your credit is currently being assessed); “derogatory comments”, such as paying a bill late (these can keep your score low); and how much of your total credit you use (the less you use the better). Your FICO score is integrated into reports from the three major US credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.

Does checking my credit score affect my credit?

Many people think that checking their credit will affect their credit report, but that’s not true. Checking your own credit score is considered a soft question and will not affect your credit rating. However, if you apply for a loan or credit card and a company conducts a credit check, it is considered a difficult investigation, which can cause your score to drop several points.

How do I find out that I have been affected by a data breach?

To learn more about data breaches that may have affected you or someone you know, visit CNET’s list and timeline of data breaches


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Combining and matching services can help to cover more ground

When it comes to checking your credit, there are many ways to go. You can select one service or link free services together to access your FICO score from all three major agencies. However, if you go down that path, keep in mind that you won’t have the promised credit protection and monitoring that Experian, TransUnion and Equifax offer.

Disclaimer: The information in this article, including program features, program fees and credits available through credit cards for such programs, is subject to change from time to time and is provided without warranty. When evaluating offers, check the credit card company’s website and review the terms and conditions for the most current offers and information.


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