credit monitoring servicesUpdated: Sept. 12, 2016

Your credit reports and scores are important, as they help determine things like whether you’re approved for a home loan, a credit card or an apartment, yet many people don’t know their current scores or even how to check their credit reports. Because new information on your credit reports can affect your credit scores, and in turn, your ability to qualify for new credit, it’s important to stay up to date with your credit reports and scores.

According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, every American is entitled to view all three of their credit reports once a year for free using AnnualCreditReport.com. But how can you check them for free if you’ve already used this service, or what can you do if you want to check your reports more than once a year? That’s where a credit monitoring service can help. These services provide you with copies of your credit reports and scores, alert you if any changes are made to your credit reports and scores as well as provide you with an in-depth analysis of your credit history. While most of these services charge a monthly fee right off the bat, there are a handful of services that allow you to try them for free. Here are a few of these services.

Which services provide three-bureau credit monitoring?

Identity Guard

credit monitoring servicesOur top-rated credit monitoring service, Identity Guard, gives you a free 30-day trial when you sign up for the individual plan, which costs $14.99/month when the trial is up. There is also a couple plan ($22.99/month) and a family plan ($24.99/month), both of which also come with a free 30-day trial. All of these prices include our 25% discount. With this service, you’ll receive daily three-bureau credit report monitoring with email alerts as well as quarterly updates on your credit reports and scores from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Every three months, you’ll also receive an updated public record report. On top of its thorough credit report monitoring, Identity Guard also provides excellent identity theft protection, which is a great tool as it can alert you to identity theft threats — identity theft can be detrimental to your credit if your personal information falls into the wrong hands. Its identity theft protection service monitors public records for any changes in your name, scanning for things like social security fraud, as well as scans the Internet’s black market and alerts you in the event that someone is buying, selling or trading your identifying information. With its lost wallet protection, Identity Guard will help cancel your credit and debit cards if you ever misplace or lose your wallet as well as give you a cash advance of up to $2,000 from one of your accounts if you need it. An added bonus to this service is the feature of an Internet security suite from Zone Alarm that includes anti-virus, firewall, anti-phishing and anti-spam software.

FreeScoresAndMore

credit monitoring servicesAnother credit monitoring service that lets you try it out for free is FreeScoresAndMore. This service offers a free 30-day trial, and then costs $14.99/month for an individual (including our 25% discount). You’ll receive three-bureau credit report monitoring and monthly updates to your credit reports and scores from the three major credit bureaus. You’ll also receive explanations of your scores and indicate factors that are both helping and hurting your scores, something helps you get a better understanding of what impacts your credit scores. Another helpful feature FreeScoresAndMore provides is a tool that will give you estimates of how your scores could change if you make different credit-related actions (e.g. paying off a loan or applying for a new credit card). Similar to other credit monitoring services, FreeScoresAndMore also provides some identity theft protection features, although they’re not nearly as extensive as Identity Guard’s, such as application monitoring to let you know if your personal information is being used to apply for things like retail credit, home loans or opening new utility accounts as well as fraud support that you can use if you ever fall victim to identity theft.

LifeLock Ultimate Plus

credit monitoring servicesLifeLock Ultimate Plus also provides a free 30-day trial. Afterwards, this service costs $24.75/month if you sign up for an annual subscription (with our discount) or $26.99/month if you opt to pay on a month-to-month basis. With this service, you’ll receive annual credit reports from the three major bureaus and daily three-bureau credit report monitoring — so while you won’t see updated versions of your credit reports, you’ll still be alerted to changes made to your credit reports, which is a huge plus. Although it does provide monthly updates to your TransUnion credit score, it only provides annual updates for your Equifax and Experian credit scores. Other features users can look forward to are its identity theft protection features and lost wallet protection service. As far as identity theft protection goes, it monitors your personal information and will alert you if it’s being used to open new lines of credit as well as scans the Internet’s black markets for use of your credit cards numbers, driver’s license, social security number or email addresses. You’ll be notified if your information is found on any of these scans or if someone tries to open a new savings or checking account in your name. The wallet protection service will help you cancel and replace stolen credit cards and debit cards, driver’s licenses, social security cards and insurance cards at no additional cost.

Are there any credit monitoring services that are always free?

Because different credit lenders report to different bureaus, having access to all three of your reports will give you a better idea of your financial health, especially in the event that there are mistakes on one of your credit reports and not the other two. Although having three-bureau credit monitoring is optimal, two-bureau credit monitoring is better than none at all and can still be helpful in keeping an eye on your credit standing. Credit Karma is a free credit monitoring service that provides two-bureau credit monitoring with Equifax and TransUnion as well as weekly credit score updates from Equifax and TransUnion. One thing to note is that while Credit Karma does not charge you a fee for its services, it does use your personal information to sell you credit cards and other credit-related offers, so you may want to prepare yourself for an advertising overload. In terms of features, Credit Karma will also give you access to your Auto Insurance Score and your Home Insurance Score, which are used to check your odds of filing a claim, so the Auto Insurance Score is not based on your driving record. Another helpful tool Credit Karma provides is an overview of your current balances and limits on your credit accounts. It should be noted that Credit Karma doesn’t include any identity theft protection tools like the other paid services, which is something to keep in mind.

You can read more about the services detailed in this post as well as other options by visiting 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.