credit monitoringStaying up-to-date on your credit reports and scores is extremely important, as your credit standing helps determine things like whether or not you qualify for an apartment, a mortgage, a new credit card and more. But many people don’t know exactly how to check their credit reports or how to receive updates whenever changes are made. That’s where a credit monitoring service can help. We break down what credit monitoring services do to help you decide which service is best for you.

What do credit monitoring services do?

Credit monitoring services do exactly what the name describes — they help you monitor your credit scores and credit reports so you have a better idea of your financial health. Almost all of the services we review offer three-bureau credit monitoring. This means it’ll monitor your credit reports and scores from all three of the major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. The reason why three-bureau credit monitoring is important is because some things may get reported to one bureau that won’t necessarily get reported to the others. So, it’s best to have the full picture, especially in the event that there are any errors on your credit reports that you need to have removed, which could be bringing your credit score down.

How can credit monitoring services help me?

Credit monitoring services not only help you learn your current credit standing, but these services can also help keep you up to date on your credit by sending you alerts via text message or email anytime changes or new accounts are detected on your credit reports and scores. This is especially helpful whenever inaccurate information is listed on your credit reports, as it can alert you to these errors, which can help prevent you from falling victim to identity theft. For example, if someone were to use your personal information, such as your name, address or social security number, to apply for a new line of credit (e.g., an online credit card application), most credit monitoring services will detect the activity and let you know that someone has used your information to open a new line of credit. It’s important to note that not all credit monitoring services offer extensive identity theft protection features, so if that’s an area of concern for you, you’ll want to be sure this is included in the service you’re considering using.

Another great benefit that credit monitoring services offer are explanations of your credit reports and scores. These services will detail factors that are affecting your credit scores, whether it’s in a positive way or a negative way. If your credit is in good standing, you’ll know what finance habits you should continue to practice so that it remains that way. Alternatively, if you don’t have the best credit, knowing what factors are impacting it can help you decide what actions you need to take to help bring your scores back up. The ability to review your full credit reports is also beneficial, as it allows you to understand what might be keeping your credit scores from being as high as they could be, as well as spot any potential errors that could be bringing them down.

How do I know which service is best for me?

There are a number of different services for credit monitoring out there, but not all of these services offer the same features, such as three-bureau credit report monitoring. Although receiving your credit report from one bureau is better than none at all, as we already mentioned, it’s best to have three-bureau monitoring to get the full spectrum of your credit health. It’s also important to note that some services provide regular updates on your credit reports, but not your credit scores. To help you get the most bang for your buck, we’ve detailed three of the most comprehensive credit monitoring services that provide updates on both your credit reports and credit scores, as well as some extra identity theft protection features. Keep reading to see which one best fits your needs.

Identity Guard

credit monitoringIdentity Guard is one of our top-rated credit monitoring services that provides you with three-bureau credit report monitoring and all three of your scores at no additional charge. You’ll receive email alerts with any updates or changes to your credit reports, as well as updates on your credit scores and information on your public records once every three months. It monitors public records for name changes and scans for credit card fraud to alert you if anyone is trying to use your name, social security number, credit card number(s) or other personal information on the Internet black market. Identity Guard also provides identity theft protection insurance and wallet protection, in the event that yours is lost or stolen. On top of that, Identity Guard offers a free 30-day trial, and if you’d like to continue using the service when the trial is up, it costs $14.99/month (with the NextAdvisor discount). If you need credit monitoring for your partner, or your entire family, it also has couple and family plan options as well.

FreeScoresAndMore

credit monitoringAnother service that provides you with your credit reports as well as your credit scores is FreeScoresAndMore. Not only will you receive credit report updates every month with this service, but you’ll also receive updates on your credit scores each month as well. Unlike Identity Guard, it doesn’t offer identity theft protection insurance, but it does offer other identity theft protection features to monitor whether or not your personal information is being used to apply for new lines of credit, such as utilities, credit cards, new check orders or loans as well as fraud support, which gives you a dedicated caseworker to help navigate the often confusing process of identity restoration. With our discount, FreeScoresAndMore costs $14.99/month, but you have the option to try it out for free, as it also offers a 30-day trial.

PrivacyGuard

credit monitoringRounding out our list is PrivacyGuard, which provides three-bureau credit report monitoring as well as monthly updates of your credit reports and scores. Members of PrivacyGuard also receive identity theft protection insurance and fraud support in the event their identity is stolen. Additionally, this service offers a few useful extras that you don’t normally see with credit monitoring services, like neighborhoods reports, which includes home values, crime rates, pollution measurements and other information for almost every neighborhood in the U.S., reimbursement for access to your medical and driver’s records (in the event you need to access them) and a free subscription to Norton Security Online. Its 30-day trial costs $1, and after that, the cost is $14.99/month with the NextAdvisor discount.

Still not sure which credit monitoring service is right for you? You can learn more about these services and others like them at our credit monitoring reviews.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the companies referenced in this article. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the companies mentioned. NextAdvisor.com may be compensated through advertiser affiliate programs.