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The Best Credit Monitoring Services of 2016

Along with our information security expert, Rob Douglas, our research team spent 40 hours researching the top 100 credit monitoring services by size, experience, and reputation. We used information from our research to narrow that list down to 30 of the top companies, and then evaluated each across 24 key features selected for their importance to those wishing to monitor their credit and protect their identities.

 

Overview of Research

Under the supervision of information security expert Rob Douglas, our research team spent 40 hours reviewing 100 of the top credit monitoring services across 24 key features to rank the best options for consumers in 2016. The top three credit monitoring companies for 2016 were LifeLock, Identity Force, and IDShield.

rob
Rob Douglas

Information Security Consultant

Rob Douglas is an information security consultant with two decades of experience in in the areas of credit monitoring and identity fraud.

We determined the final ranking using a weighted methodology consisting of our 24 key features categorized into four core metrics: Credit Report Monitoring (35%), Identity Theft Protection (30%), Customer Experience and Fraud Support (20%), and Cost (15%).

Sort/filter by price, core metric scores, sub-metric scores, and more

The Best Credit Monitoring Services of 2016

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Overall Rank
Overall Rank
Service
Service
Price
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Core Metrics
Rating
Rating
Credit Monitoring
Credit Monitoring
Active Credit Monitoring
Active Credit Monitoring
Number of Credit Bureaus Monitored
Number of Credit Bureaus Monitored
Number of Free Credit Reports Per Year
Number of Free Credit Reports Per Year
Existing Credit Account Monitoring
Existing Credit Account Monitoring
Fraud Alerts and Credit Freezes
Fraud Alerts and Credit Freezes
Credit Analysis Tools
Credit Analysis Tools
Identity Theft Protection
Identity Theft Protection
Social Security Number Monitoring
Social Security Number Monitoring
ID Verification Alerts
ID Verification Alerts
Address Change Monitoring
Address Change Monitoring
Bank Account Monitoring
Bank Account Monitoring
Wireless, Cable, and Utilities Monitoring
Wireless, Cable, and Utilities Monitoring
Internet Scanning
Internet Scanning
Criminal and Arrest Records Monitoring
Criminal and Arrest Records Monitoring
Child Identity Monitoring
Child Identity Monitoring
Identity Theft Insurance
Identity Theft Insurance
Lost Wallet Protection
Lost Wallet Protection
Customer Experience and Support
Customer Experience and Support
24-Hour Customer Support
24-Hour Customer Support
Fraud Support
Fraud Support
Full-Service Identity Recovery
Full-Service Identity Recovery
Better Business Bureau Rating
Better Business Bureau Rating
Average Customer Review Score (out of 10)
Average Customer Review Score (out of 10)
Cost
Cost
Monthly Fee - Basic
Monthly Fee - Basic
Monthly Fee - Premium
Monthly Fee - Premium
Trial Period Length
Trial Period Length
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Editor's Award
Editor's Award
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Methodology

Our expert

Rob Douglas, an expert on the subject of identity fraud, guided our research team. A Certified Identity Theft Risk Management Specialist, Rob is the editor of the website IdentityTheft.info. For two decades, he has been consulting both the public and private sectors on the investigation and prevention of identity theft.

How we selected our test group

As the threat of credit fraud and identity theft has grown exponentially in recent years, the marketplace has become crowded with companies offering their services to safeguard your information. As with any product in any category, some of these services have merit and some of them are lacking. In an increasingly digital society, thieves are finding more inventive ways to steal and exploit your credit information and identity. Thankfully, many companies are finding equally inventive ways to combat them. Others charge for services that do little, if anything, beyond steps every consumer can (and should) take themselves for free.

In order to rank the best credit and identity monitoring services, we made an effort to quickly eliminate the worst. We started with the top 100+ service providers found through basic internet searches and credit/identity theft resource websites. We first narrowed down the list by eliminating services that did nothing more that provide an annual credit report, something that is already freely available to everyone at annualcreditreport.com, by government mandate. We then filtered our list by company size, experience, and reputation (based on a combination of professional, consumer, and better business bureau reviews). Once our list was significantly narrowed, we wanted to ensure that the companies we ranked we relevant to the widest range of consumers. Therefore, we eliminated those remaining services that only served very specific groups. These were mostly credit card companies that offered monitoring services to cardholders. Since one of the primary goals of credit monitoring is to help the consumer control and protect their credit, we didn’t want to include services that made them open more lines of credit in order to do so. We also eliminated services like those offered through the USAA and AARP which only cater to veterans or seniors.

This left us with the following 30 credit monitoring services to rank:

  1. AAA ID Protection
  2. All Clear ID
  3. Allied ID Protection
  4. CoreID
  5. Costco IDProtect
  6. Credit Sesame
  7. Equifax
  8. Experian – ProtectMyID
  9. EZ Shield
  10. Farmer’s ID Protection
  11. Geico ID Protection
  12. ID Shield
  13. ID Watchdog
  14. Identity Force
  15. Identity Fraud
  16. Identity Guard
  17. Identity Secure
  18. Identity Sweep
  19. Identity Truth
  20. InfoArmor
  21. KeepMyID
  22. Life Lock
  23. Merchants Information Solutions
  24. My IQ Report
  25. myFico – IDFreeze
  26. Privacy Guard
  27. Safe ID Trust
  28. Transunion/True Identity
  29. Trusted ID
  30. Zander ID Protection

How we selected which data to use in our methodology

Along with our expert, we decided on 24 key features to grade each credit monitoring service by. They were selected from a combination of his professional experience, recommendations from the FDIC and the FTC’s identity theft resource website, and the highest rated features based on cumulative professional and consumer reviews.

Those key features where then group as sub-metrics into four weighted core metric categories.

Here is the breakdown:

Metric 1: Credit Monitoring (35% of final score)

  • Proactive credit report monitoring
  • Number of credit bureaus monitored
  • Number of free credit reports provided annually
  • Existing credit account activity monitoring
  • Fraud alerts or credit freezes
  • Credit or risk analysis tools

Metric 2: Identity Protection (30% of final score)

  • Social Security number monitoring
  • ID verification alerts
  • Address change monitoring
  • Bank account monitoring
  • Wireless, cable, and utilities monitoring
  • Internet scanning
  • Criminal and public records monitoring
  • Child identity monitoring
  • ID Theft Insurance
  • Lost wallet protection

Metric 3: Customer Experience and Fraud Support (20% of final score)

  • Live 24-hour customer support
  • Fraud support
  • Full-service identity recovery
  • Better Business Bureau rating
  • Average customer review score

Metric 4: Cost (15% of final score)

  • Monthly fee – basic plan
  • Monthly fee – premium or family plan
  • Trial length

With the exception of consumer reviews, which were cumulated from wide range of internet sources, data was sourced from the Better Business Bureau and each company’s own website.

How we scored our methodology

After grouping the sub-metrics into their core metrics, we assigned each a score of 1-10 for every service reviewed. The final core metric score was averaged from the sub-metric totals.

For example, our #1 overall provider, LifeLock, ranked 4th in Credit Monitoring with a score of 7.5. That core metric is made up of six sub-metrics.

Here’s how LifeLock scored for each:

  • Proactive credit report monitoring: 10/10
  • Number of credit bureaus monitored: 10/10
  • Number of free credit reports provided annually: 3/10
  • Existing credit account activity monitoring: 10/10
  • Fraud alerts or credit freezes: 10/10
  • Credit or risk analysis tools: 2/10

Once the sub-metrics were averaged, we took each credit monitoring company’s core metric scores, applied the weights (as described in the earlier breakdown), and calculated a final ranking.

Understanding Credit Monitoring Features

Which features matter and why?

1. Credit Monitoring back to metric

Very Important

35.00% of our methodology score

Credit monitoring and identity monitoring are two very different fields that still go hand-in-hand together. They can function independently, yet one is often the gateway into another. Credit fraud can lead to complete identity theft, and identity theft invariably leads to credit fraud. But for the purposes of our methodology, one needed to be weighted heavier than the other. Many instances of identity theft can be spotted and stopped through careful credit monitoring, without all the added features of identity protection. But in addition to that, we chose credit monitoring because of its many financial implications beyond identity theft.

Banks deal in numbers. Because of that, they need an objective, standardized way of determining whether or not a person is a good investment for them before approving any loan application. The way that 90% of the top lenders do that is by looking at your credit score. A poor credit rating can make it nearly impossible to secure financing for large purchases such as home or auto loans. And depending on the severity, it can also prove difficult to qualify for anything that requires monthly payments, such as cellphones, auto and property insurance, certain home utilities and amenities, or apartment leases. Even if your identity was never at risk, and you were never the victim of credit fraud, it’s wise to always know what’s in your credit report as those are the factors that can raise or lower that score. Having a service that helps you do that efficiently can save you a lot of time and money in the long run.

Therefore, we reviewed each company based on how proactive they are in monitoring your credit score, how thorough, and what measures they have in place to prevent any fraud.

Highest Scoring Company in Credit Monitoring
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2. Identity Theft Protection back to metric

Very Important

30.00% of our methodology score

As mentioned before, many instances of identity theft can be spotted through careful credit monitoring. However, by the time theft is detected through a fraudulent credit application, it could be too late. Identity protection services cast a much wider net when looking for compromised information. The most valuable services do more than simply check for new accounts, they monitor the activity of existing ones as well: credit, checking, savings, etc. They also actively search the internet and black market channels for your social security number and other personal information, criminal and arrest records for use of your name, as well as address changes and public utility service activation.

It is also fairly standard for companies to offer insurance if a case of identity theft does occur. We graded each company based on the insurance amount and claim window. We also gave special consideration to those who offered extra services like child identity monitoring and lost wallet protection.

Important caveats and notes: For an industry centered on data integrity, there was a surprising lack of transparency with many companies over exactly what services they offered and the terms of their contracts or insurance coverage. Many simply made broad statements about their protections, but didn’t specifically state their features or methods. Others would not give out details until a potential customer submitted personal information, which seems odd for a data protection service. This was also a common complaint in all professional and consumer reviews. If a company did not explicitly state that they offered a service, we had to assume that they did not (as did most reviewers). We made every effort to verify services through a variety of sources, but there could be instances where we marked a negative for a feature that a company does have. However, where that may be the case, the results didn’t have much effect on the overall rankings, and we feel that the lower grade is justified as a reflection of their lack of transparency.

Highest Scoring Company in Identity Theft Protection
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3. Customer Experience and Support back to metric

Important

20.00% of our methodology score

No service can ever stop all identity theft. Therefore, as a part of this metric we reviewed the features that indicate how much support a company provides in the event of fraud. Some offer basic fraud support where an agent is available to guide you through the steps necessary to restore your identity. The most valuable services have full-service identity recovery where an assigned caseworker handles all paperwork and communication on your behalf.

As always, we make a concerted effort to keep our rankings as objective as possible by using only measurable data in our metrics. However, one area where we think subjectivity is both inevitable and important is in customer experience. We don’t want to recommend any product without taking into consideration how consumers already feel about it. To do this, we gathered customer reviews for every credit monitoring service from a variety of consumer review sites, identity theft resource sites, and the Better Business Bureau. Doing this gave us a picture of which companies follow through on their claims, and which ones don’t.

Highest Scoring Company in Customer Experience and Support
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4. Cost back to metric

Somewhat Important

15.00% of our methodology score

Cost is always an important factor when shopping for any product or service, therefore we wanted to make sure to include it in our review. However, because of the wide variety of features and levels of coverage, it can be difficult to judge a credit monitoring service on price alone. Therefore, we assigned our price metric the least amount of weight.

We found that the cheapest products are often the one with least features, whereas the more expensive ones offer the most protection. It’s like the old adage says: You get what you pay for. However, there were clear instances of companies charging a high price for low coverage, as well as companies with comparable features offered for much cheaper than their nearest competitors. We made an effort to factor a feature-to-cost ratio into final grades. We also gave special consideration to companies who offered free trial periods so customers could explore all of their features before committing to a monthly or annual contract.

Highest Scoring Company in Cost
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Editor's Awards

LifeLock’s identity protection services set the standard for all other companies to follow, and their customer service and identity restoration services are unparalleled in the industry.

With over a decade of experience, LifeLock was one of the first companies to actively combat identity theft for consumers. They have been an industry leader in the field since their inception and a quick look at our review reveals why.

LifeLock’s advertising and website are very forthright in stating that no one can stop all identity theft. However, their suite of features come the closest to achieving that ultimate goal. Their fraud detection services monitor every aspect of your identity. LifeLock actively searches over a trillion data points, including internet, social media, criminal and arrest records, wireless services, public utilities, and payday loan applications, for all uses of your personal information.

And while their main focus is on identity theft, their credit monitoring rivals (and often bests) most standalone credit reporting services. Rather than just monitor your credit report for new activity that could negatively impact your score, LifeLock monitors your existing checking, savings, and credit accounts for any changes, something few competitors do.

But should those measures fail and your identity ever be compromised, LifeLock earned near-perfect marks in our customer service and fraud support metric. Many companies claim to offer fraud support, but it is often little more than a customer service agent reading a list of steps you should take to try to reverse the damage on your own. LifeLock handles every aspect of identity recovery on your behalf. Their full-service identity restoration team will spend up to a million dollars, doing all of the work necessary to restore your identity to its pre-fraud state.

LifeLock is continually building upon their experience in the industry, perfecting their existing services and constantly adding new ones. They are the best choice for credit monitoring and identity protection in 2016, and on pace to remain the best for years to come.

Drawbacks:

  • Only one annual credit report
  • Comprehensive, higher-tiered plans may be cost-prohibitive for some, especially if coupled with the child identity protection add-on

Ranking Results:

  • Credit Monitoring – 7.6/10
  • Identity Protection – 10/10
  • Customer Experience and Fraud Support – 9.9/10
  • Cost – 7.4/10



IdentityForce is one of the most well-rounded, quality credit monitoring services available today.

Our rankings are rife with companies which score very high in one or two metrics and very low in others. There is a lack of consistency as many of the service providers seem to focus all of their efforts on just one aspect of what should otherwise be a comprehensive credit monitoring service. They may have high identity protection scores, but low identity restoration. Or, they may have a high-rated suite of features, but a low price ranking. IdentityForce was the only company to receive consistent top-tier grades across all metrics.

IdentityForce scored its highest marks in our credit monitoring metric. They offer all of the services of the top competitors with the added feature of unlimited credit reports. Those reports, coupled with their available credit analysis tools, offer you a constant awareness of your credit score and history, an aspect that can prove financially beneficial and makes the cost of the service worthwhile even before factoring in the value of their identity protection services.

IdentityForce offers all of the standard identity protection services common to the industry leading companies along with full-service fraud support and identity restoration, all for a below-average monthly cost. Overall, they are an excellent choice for credit monitoring services in 2016.

Drawbacks:

  • No child identity protection of family plan options

Ranking Results:

  • Credit Monitoring – 8.6/10
  • Identity Protection – 8.4/10
  • Customer Experience and Fraud Support – 9.7/10
  • Cost – 8/10



Identity Truth

While not the most comprehensive credit monitoring service, Identity Truth offers all of the basic features at a competitive price.

Identity Truth lacks many of the features provided by the top-rated credit monitoring services, but it does provide enough of the basics at an affordable price. It includes three-bureau credit monitoring (with fraud alerts), active social security number monitoring, and internet scanning. They also offer the fairly-standard one million dollars in identity theft insurance. However, there is limited to no full-service identity restoration. So should your identity be stolen, the recovery process could prove difficult, despite the insurance.

It is not the most comprehensive service, but active credit and identity monitoring is better than none at all. Identity Truth can provide the peace of mind that comes from basic monitoring at a lower monthly price than competitors offering the same level of coverage. However, don’t expect the same level of protection and service that comes from the top-ranked companies.

Drawbacks:

  • Limited credit and identity monitoring features
  • Limited, self-service fraud support

Testing Results:

  • Credit Monitoring – 6.2/10
  • Identity Protection – 5.2/10
  • Customer Experience and Fraud Support – 6.8/10
  • Cost – 8.6/10

Last Updated on April 29, 2016

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