Share

Our top picks of timely offers from our partners

More details
Petal® 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa® Credit Card
Learn More
Terms Apply
Great for those with fair or average credit plus, no fees
Chase Sapphire Preferred®
Learn More
Terms Apply
60,000 bonus points – worth up to $750 in travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
American Express® Gold Card
Learn More
Terms Apply
60,000 point welcome offer - most points ever offered for this card
Blue Cash Preferred® Card
Learn More
Terms Apply
$250 welcome offer and save big on groceries at U.S. supermarkets
IdentityForce® UltraSecure+Credit and UltraSecure
Learn More
Terms Apply
CNBC Select may receive an affiliate commission when you click on the links for products from our partners. Click here to read our full advertiser disclosure.
Getty Images
Reviews

The 5 best services with free credit monitoring alerts of 2021

Credit monitoring alerts can help you stay on top of changes to your credit file and alert you of potential fraud. Here are the top five free services.

Share

Regularly monitoring your credit can help you spot signs of potential fraud, but it can be hard to do on your own. While there are credit monitoring services that can make catching fraud easier, many charge a monthly fee.

Thankfully, a handful of major financial institutions offer free credit monitoring alerts to consumers, regardless of whether you have an account with them.

These services backed by American Express, Capital One, Chase, Discover and Experian are a great way to stay on top of changes to your credit file — whether that's an increase in your card balance or a new account opened in your name.

Some services even scan the dark web for your personal information. Others let you simulate how certain actions, such as paying off debt or opening a new account, can impact your credit score.

Below, CNBC Select reviews the top five credit monitoring alert services that are open to anyone and are completely free. (See our methodology for more information on how we chose the best services.)

Best free credit monitoring alert services

Credit monitoring FAQs

Best overall free service

CreditWise® from Capital One

Information about CreditWise has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the company prior to publication.
  • Cost

    Free

  • Credit bureaus monitored

    TransUnion and Experian

  • Credit scoring model used

    VantageScore

  • Dark web scan

    Yes

  • Identity theft insurance

    No

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • Monitors two credit bureaus
  • Performs regular dark web scans
  • Has a credit score simulator

Cons

  • Doesn't offer identity theft insurance

Runner-up

Discover Credit Scorecard

On Discover's secure site
  • Cost

    Free

  • Credit bureaus monitored

    Experian

  • Credit scoring model used

    FICO

  • Dark web scan

    Yes

  • Identity theft insurance

    No

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • Provides updates on your FICO Score
  • Performs regular dark web scans
  • Has a credit score simulator

Cons

  • Only monitors one credit bureau report
  • Doesn't offer identity theft insurance

Best for setting goals to boost your credit score

American Express® MyCredit Guide

On the American Express secure site
  • Cost

    Free

  • Credit bureaus monitored

    TransUnion

  • Credit scoring model used

    VantageScore

  • Dark web scan

    No

  • Identity theft insurance

    No

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • Score Goals lets you set a desired credit score and get personalized recommendations on the best ways to improve it
  • Has a credit score simulator

Cons

  • Only monitors one credit bureau report
  • No dark web scans
  • Doesn't offer identity theft insurance

Best for identity theft insurance

Chase Credit Journey

On Chase's secure site
  • Cost

    Free

  • Credit bureaus monitored

    TransUnion

  • Credit scoring model used

    VantageScore

  • Dark web scan

    No

  • Identity theft insurance

    Yes, up to $1 million

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • Offers up to $1 million of identity theft insurance
  • Has a credit score simulator

Cons

  • Only monitors one credit bureau report
  • No dark web scans

Best from a credit bureau

Experian Dark Web Scan + Credit Monitoring

On Experian's secure site
  • Cost

    Free

  • Credit bureaus monitored

    Experian

  • Credit scoring model used

    FICO®

  • Dark web scan

    Yes, one-time only

  • Identity theft insurance

    No

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • Provides updates on your FICO® Score
  • One-time dark web scan
  • Has a credit score simulator

Cons

  • Only monitors one credit bureau report
  • Doesn't offer identity theft insurance

FAQs

What do credit monitoring alert services do?

Credit monitoring alert services do just what the name suggests — monitor your credit and alert you of any changes. While you can do this on your own, it’s nearly impossible to stay on top of changes 24/7, so signing up for one, or more, of these free services is a good idea.

The exact alerts you receive vary by service, but generally include the following:

  • Hard inquiries on your credit report, such as someone applying for credit in your name
  • New accounts opened in your name
  • Balances and payments on your credit products
  • New address or name changes to your credit file
  • Public records, such as bankruptcies
  • Personal information on the dark web, such as your social security number, email address and passwords (only three out of five services mentioned above offer this)

While credit monitoring alert services routinely check for signs of possible fraud, these services only provide alerts. Fraud can still occur, but these tools can give you an early notice of changes to your credit file so you can take action ASAP.

Can credit monitoring alert services prevent fraud?

No, credit monitoring alert services aren’t the answer to preventing fraud. In fact, there’s no real way to completely stop fraud from happening, but you can take actions that limit the chances you become a victim.

Here are some things credit monitoring alert services don’t do:

  • Stop someone from applying for credit and opening new accounts in your name
  • Keep your information safe from data breaches
  • Prevent your credit card from being skimmed
  • Tell you if someone withdraws money from your bank account
  • Warn you if someone files a tax return in your name and collects your refund
  • Stop phishing emails
  • Report fraud
  • Fix credit report errors
  • Freeze your credit

How to prevent fraud

There are numerous ways someone can commit credit card fraud or identity theft, but there are actions you can take to protect your information. Since there’s no way to prevent fraud from happening entirely, follow these tips to help limit your chances of becoming a victim of fraud.

  1. Review your credit card transactions
  2. Sign up for transaction alerts
  3. Freeze your credit
  4. Sign up for an identity theft protection service
  5. Don’t use public WiFi
  6. Use websites that start with “https” (not just http, which is less secure)
  7. Don’t answer spam calls or texts
  8. Verify deals from social media ads
  9. Don’t click on links or open attachments from unknown senders
  10. Opt-out of saving your credit card information
  11. Use virtual card numbers
  12. Set strong passwords
  13. Turn on two-factor authentication

Read more about how to protect yourself from fraud.

Our methodology

To determine which credit monitoring alert services offer the most benefits to consumers, CNBC Select analyzed and compared services offered by major financial institutions that are available to anyone for free.

When ranking the best free credit monitoring services, we focused on the following features:

  • Open to anyone: Services had to be open to anyone, regardless if you’re an account holder at the financial institution.
  • Number of credit bureaus monitored: Services that monitor credit reports from more than one credit bureau were ranked higher since it’s rare for free services to monitor all three bureaus.
  • The credit scoring model used: If users receive updated FICO Scores, the service was ranked higher since lenders use FICO Scores in roughly 90% of lending decisions. We found that the majority of free services use VantageScore.
  • Dark web scanning: If the service checks the dark web for your name, social security number, address and other personal information, it was ranked higher.
  • Identity theft insurance: We considered whether the services offered identity theft insurance and looked at the amount you’re covered up to.

Keep in mind that credit monitoring alerts can only show you signs of potential fraud, not fix or prevent any errors.

Don't miss: Best identity theft protection services

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the CNBC Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.