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While there are free credit monitoring services, they often have fewer features and protections than paid services. You should consider paying for a credit monitoring service if you want more comprehensive coverage.
Here's how much credit monitoring costs and questions to consider if you're trying to decide if it's worthwhile to pay a monthly fee.
Credit monitoring costs vary by service you choose. The main two types of credit monitoring services are basic and premium. Basic services are free to use and don't require you to enter a credit card at sign up, whereas premium services cost anywhere from $8.99 to $39.95 per month.
You may qualify for a free credit monitoring service if you were a victim of a data breach. Millions of Americans have access to free credit monitoring services due to numerous class-action settlements from high-profile data breaches, including Equifax in 2017 and Capital One in 2019. If you were affected, you may be able to file a claim online or receive instructions on how to access premium credit monitoring services for free.
With so many free services available, you may wonder if paying for a credit monitoring service is worth the cost. When deciding between a free or paid service, you should compare the different features offered.
Let's compare CreditWise® from Capital One (free) to IdentityForce® UltraSecure+Credit ($17.99 per month or $179.90 per year). These services rank as our top picks for the best free and paid credit monitoring services, respectively.
Both services monitor changes to your credit report and provide dark web scanning and social security number tracking. But beyond that, the services are significantly different.
IdentityForce UltraSecure+Credit offers dozens of additional features, including:
- Three-bureau credit monitoring (CreditWise only looks at your TransUnion and Experian credit reports).
- Alerts for potential fraud on your bank, credit card and investment accounts, plus use of your medical ID, social security number and address.
- Identity theft insurance up to $1 million, which helps cover expenses if you have to deal with fallout from identity theft.
The additional services you receive with IdentityForce UltraSecure+Credit may be enough for you to warrant paying $17.99 a month. After all, it's important to monitor reports from all three credit bureaus and you can't do that with a free service. Plus the identity theft insurance has a high value and can come in handy if you're a victim of fraud.
But if you already actively monitor all of your credit reports, a free service like CreditWise is still very helpful. You can also sign up for more than one free service to maximize your coverage.
Credit monitoring services offer an variety of features that can help you spot fraud early. If you choose to pay for a service, you will enjoy additional coverage. But if you already actively monitor your credit reports and financial accounts, a free service may suffice.
Credit monitoring services don't prevent fraud or identity theft. Instead, these services can provide you with early notice of suspicious activity and may provide assistance or insurance for eligible expenses associated with resolving identity theft. Once you receive a fraud alert, you'll have to initiate the next steps to fix any issues — these services don't automatically resolve problems.
Credit monitoring services can be worth the cost if you take action after getting notice of possible fraudulent activity on your credit report. If you disregard the notice, then you're paying for a service that you're not using and it may be better to opt for a free service.
To learn more about IdentityForce®, visit their website or call 855-979-1118.