The Best Credit Report Services
The best credit report service makes it easy to access your scores and manage your financial future. We looked at 23 widely available services and evaluated their reporting, monitoring, and educational tools to see which ones streamlined the user experience. After this, we consulted various experts from the financial world and even a private investigator to provide even more insight into these services. The result: four services that will bring you the clearest picture of your credit health, help you make decisions to improve your creditworthiness, and protect you from identity theft.
Since 2013, Reviews.com has been helping millions of people find the best of the best when it comes to all kinds of products and services, including credit report services. We spent hours of research looking into dozens of different services and the available offerings to bring you our top picks. The author of this review does not own any stock in the services or companies mentioned in this review or any other credit reporting service.
The 4 Best Credit Report Services
- IdentityForce – Best for Monitoring Credit Score
- myFICO – Best for Improving Credit Score
- Identity Guard – Best for Guided Help
- AnnualCreditReport.com – Best Free Credit Reports
The Best Credit Report Services: Summed Up
Data as of 11/19/2019
Customer education and resources
Widely accepted scoring model
Why we chose it
Customer education and resources
In terms of customer education, myFICO goes above and beyond: In addition to offering credit and identity monitoring, myFICO is equipped with tools and resources that provide actionable tips for understanding and improving your score, like videos, articles, and forums.
The myFICO Forums feature is one of the main pillars of the service’s resources and one of our favorite features. These forums offer information on everything from loan applications to how money can impact relationships. Over 750,000 members are registered, which provides something most people don’t even know they’re missing when it comes to financial smarts: community. Discussions are moderated, so you can be sure you’re getting high-quality information, and new posts appear daily.
With recent developments in the credit world, like the 2017 Equifax breach and legislative efforts to expand consumer protections, myFICO’s forums are a great place to stay up to date on news that may impact your credit. The forum experience is similar to Reddit, and we found ourselves spending far more time there than we thought — just another way that myFICO has made a positive user experience out of a distinctly “unsexy” subject.
Ironically, myFICO doesn’t offer direct access to your actual credit reports. Rather than task you with reading through all three reports, which are really just rows and rows of tiny red and green boxes, it gives you a top-level overview that highlights the most important information. This is far easier to understand and navigate than a credit report on its own — and if you want to supplement with your actual reports, you can get them for free each year through AnnualCreditReport.com.
Widely accepted scoring model
The potential improvements to your credit are reinforced by the fact that myFICO is the only credit report service directly associated with FICO, the scoring model used by 90% of top lenders. This ensures that the scores you receive are an accurate representation of the information lenders use; other services, like Identity Guard, use educational scoring models that may not actually reflect the scores being evaluated when you apply for a loan.
Our top three services all have credit calculators that allow you to see how different scenarios will affect your score, but myFICO’s Score Simulator is by far the best. It simulates actions that impact your credit, like paying off various amounts of debt, consolidating credit card balances, applying for a new credit card, and taking out a mortgage. For those who are more passive with their credit card decisions, it even shows how your score will change if you do nothing except make timely payments. And if you’re hoping to get a better interest rate a few months down the line, the Score Simulator tells you how to improve your score in that time.
In addition to its usefulness, the tool’s bright colors and intuitive interactions (like sliding cursors) make it, quite frankly, fun to play with. We didn’t think it was possible to say that for a credit report service.
The mobile app for myFICO includes an alerts section as well as the option to review your FICO Score 3b report (scores from all three bureaus). Monitoring your FICO score on the go means you’ll know exactly when your score increases, as ours did after making a big credit card payment. This provides the type of positive reinforcement that can motivate people to pay down debt rather than just remind them of it. The only noticeable difference between the service’s mobile and desktop experiences is that the app lacks direct access to the myFICO forum.
Points to consider
On the plus side, myFICO sent the most comprehensive alerts and updates of all our top picks, which can be received through email, text message, and mobile app notifications. These include both good news (your credit score has improved!) and bad (your identity may have been compromised!). However, the nature and frequency of these notifications was often overwhelming. During our testing, we received potential identity theft alerts on information that was several years out of date, as well as a fraud alert on an expired credit card. None of the other contenders flagged these “potential identity theft” issues, and while we appreciate myFICO’s thoroughness, we would prefer alerts that are better able to distinguish between real reasons for alarm and false ones.
Another downside to myFICO is that its plans are a little more expensive than comparable plans from our other top picks. While you do get your money’s worth from myFICO when it comes to resources, if you’re not interested in its educational aspects, you may find that a cheaper service fulfills your needs just as well.
“MyFico is not in the cut-price market and is relatively pricey. The value kicks in if you’re looking for a combination of identity theft protection and credit score monitoring. The company doesn’t offer these two services separately in any of its options.”
Gordon Polovin Finance Expert at Wealthy Living Today
Solid credit monitoring
Score simulator limitations
Why we chose it
Solid credit monitoring
If you’re just interested in keeping tabs on your credit, IdentityForce provides top-notch monitoring. When we reached out to experts and those familiar with IdentityForce, we heard back from many different people including private investigator Darrin Giglio:
“Another of the services we provide is background checks. That requires pulling people’s credit reports. IdentityForce customers know within hours that we’ve done just that. Identity theft and credit fraud clients seldom have a repeat problem if they choose IdentityForce.”
Darrin Giglio Chief Investigator of North American Investigations
Because IdentityForce is primarily an identity theft protection service, monitoring is only available in its top-tier plan (UltraSecure+Credit) — but bundling identity protection and credit monitoring is worth the price. With this plan, you’ll receive updates on your Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion scores. IdentityForce also includes added security features, like monitoring services for your social media accounts and a quiz with simple yes-or-no questions to help you determine your risk of identity theft.
Like our other top picks, IdentityForce offers access to a tracker that monitors any changes to your scores. The tracker comes with a brief overview of the factors influencing your credit, like a short credit history or lack of revolving debt experience. While it’s less comprehensive than myFICO’s, these details help contextualize what can otherwise be seemingly incomprehensible information. IdentityForce also provides links to dispute forms from all three bureaus so you’re not left wondering what to do if this information reveals a mistake in one of your reports.
Alerts are a critical part of monitoring, and IdentityForce’s were useful, customizable, and accurate. Notifications can be received through email or text if a purchase, withdrawal, or transfer exceeds a certain amount, and you’ll be alerted if any new accounts are opened in your name. We received fewer false flags with IdentityForce than we did with myFICO, and the alerts we did receive were surprisingly helpful even when nothing had happened with our personal information: For instance, during testing, we received notification of sex offenders living in our area, including their names, descriptions, and the nature of their crimes. It also notified us of times our Social Security number had been used recently; one quick check of the IdentityForce dashboard and we were able to confirm that all of the uses were from us and not someone trying to steal our identity.
Points to consider
Though the UltraSecure+Credit plan is billed as a monthly service, it’s important to note that the credit reports it offers are only refreshed once per quarter. In comparison, myFICO offers a plan that provides updates every month for close tracking needs.
Score simulator limitations
Like myFICO, IdentityForce does include a credit score simulator that allows you to determine how actions like adding a credit card, eliminating a balance, or making on-time payments will impact your score, but it’s less detailed than myFICO’s. IdentityForce’s simulator takes into account all three of your credit files from the Big Three, but upon further investigation, we also discovered that IdentityForce doesn’t disclose the scoring algorithm it uses to produce its evaluations. Without knowing how its scores are calculated, we can’t be certain how similar the scores you receive from IdentityForce are to the actual scores being viewed by lenders.
Why we chose it
Identity Guard is the credit monitoring service for those who want plenty of affirmation that their credit and identity information is secure. Identity Guard Premier (for individuals or families), the service’s monthly plan, includes easy-to-navigate credit reports and identity monitoring that takes you step-by-step through every aspect of its system — it even tells you when you’ve reached maximum protection.
After setting up our credit monitoring, we received a confirmation email that genuinely reassured us: “You don’t need to do anything right now except be confident that we’ll alert you if we detect certain changes in your credit file.” Once you’re logged in, Identity Guard’s dashboard provides a central overview of all your active protection and flags any areas that still require setup so you know you aren’t missing anything. It’s a minor detail, but when we’re talking about confidential personal information, we value a company’s willingness to sweat the small stuff.
All of our contenders give you the option to report errors on your credit report, but Identity Guard provides the most comprehensive explanation of how the dispute process works: The bureaus have 30 days to respond to your dispute, and they’re required to remove anything they can’t prove is accurate. If your dispute fails, you can ask which institution helped verify that info, and you can always add your own note to your report if you feel the dispute was inadequately handled.
The service also comes with a few resources we didn’t find elsewhere. This includes a News and Insight section with updates to the state of identity protection, plus research reports on subjects like consumer trends and fraud alerts. Overall, Identity Guard provides the most information of any of our top picks, and while not all of it is as digestible as myFICO’s resources, the sheer volume of detail goes a long way in providing assurance.
Points to consider
The scores used by Identity Guard come from CreditXpert, a scoring system that provides results for purely educational purposes. Lenders will use a different scoring model when they access your report, and like with IdentityForce, the scores you get from Identity Guard won’t be the same ones used by lenders to evaluate your credit. That doesn’t mean Identity Guard is off in its estimate. It just means you should treat the scores you receive as just that — an estimate. Still, Identity Guard’s services are comprehensive, and it’s an undeniably strong contender if you’re still learning the basics of credit monitoring.
Free credit reports
Raw data only
Why we chose it
Free credit reports
AnnualCreditReport.com is jointly run by the three big bureaus in order to comply with the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, which requires that consumers are able to access all three credit reports for free once a year. You’re legally entitled to one free credit report from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion per year; if you stagger these reports over a 12-month period, you can check your credit report every four months for free. It’s the only free credit monitoring site that sends you reports authorized by federal law, and we think that’s worth knowing about. If all you need is the information contained in your credit report without context or analysis, AnnualCreditReport.com has you covered.
Points to consider
Raw data only
It’s entirely possible that the data in your credit report is all you need. But it’s important to remember that your report is just that: data. You’ll need to review the information yourself, and you’ll need to do your own work to figure out how to improve your credit — with no help from the site’s blocky and outdated design. You also miss out on apps, forums, and alerts when something on your credit report changes. At no cost, AnnualCreditReport.com is a great resource for obtaining baseline information about your credit, but it may take a little more work to untangle.
How We Chose the Best Credit Report Services
Reports from each of the three major credit bureaus
The “Big Three” credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — are the largest agencies used for credit reporting. Since most agencies access the same information (things like our credit history, existing loans, and public records), you might expect each report to tell the same story. But bureaus use information differently to compile their reports: Some may prioritize the length of your revolving debt history over the timeliness of your payments, while others may focus on the latter. This can result in significant score differences between bureaus and possibly the difference between approval and rejection for a loan. Since you don’t know which bureau a landlord or lender is going to reference, it’s important that all of your reports be up to date and accurate. After all, there could be a lot of money on the line.
We said goodbye to any service that didn’t report on each of the Big Three. And yes, this means that each of the Big Three was cut, since they only report on themselves.
Credit.com, Credit Karma, CreditReport.com, CreditScore.com, Credit Sesame, Equifax, Experian, FreeCreditReport.com, FreeCreditScore.com, ProtectMyID, Quizzle, TransUnion, TrueCredit
Scores from each of the Big Three
Unlike a credit report, which is a detailed history of your financial activity, a credit score serves as a grade of how well you’ve managed that history. It’s one of the easiest ways for lenders to evaluate your creditworthiness at a glance. These scores generally come from scoring models designed by The Fair Isaac Corporation, also known as FICO, or VantageScore, which was developed by the Big Three bureaus.
Both the FICO and VantageScore models are designed to help lenders avoid risky borrowers, and they each serve as reliable measures for your own credit. The main difference lies in the emphasis placed on credit utilization which makes up 30% of your FICO score and 45% of your VantageScore. This means that your VantageScore will be impacted more heavily by your credit use than your FICO score. FICO also puts a greater emphasis on the age of your credit history and type, devoting 25% of its overall score to these factors. VantageScore only gives 13%.
Like reports, your credit score will vary bureau to bureau depending on what information they collect. According to Jeff Rose, certified financial planner, founder of Good Financial Cents, and author of the best-selling book “Soldier of Finance,” “each bureau weighs credit activities slightly differently. So if you missed three payments on a bill six months ago, one bureau might penalize you a little more harshly than another.”
In our tests, the scores we received varied as much as 32 points between bureaus, which translated to the difference between a “Very Good” evaluation from Equifax and just a “Good” from TransUnion. As with your report, it’s impossible to know from which bureau a lender will be drawing a score, so we cut any service that didn’t provide scores from all three bureaus.
Comprehensive credit monitoring and educational tools
We ranked our final seven candidates on their educational resources. The best service does more than just give you peace of mind — it also provides tools and resources to help you learn more about your credit, how to improve your score, and how to protect yourself from identity theft. We nixed those that hardly provided any tools beyond a glossary, like PrivacyGuard and CreditCheckTotal.
CreditCheck Total, Freescoresandmore.com, IdentityForce, Identity Guard, myFICO, Privacy Guard, TrustedID
Our evaluations left us with three top services: myFICO, Identity Guard, and IdentityForce. We signed up for the monthly plan options for each service to further test their monitoring and reporting capabilities, as well as the ease and intuitiveness of their user experiences — all to find the features that set them apart from the competition. We prioritized timely and accurate alerts, simulation tools, analysis of scores and reports, and educational materials that contextualize your credit information.
These three top picks provide strong monitoring and identity theft protection measures, as well as useful resources. Our fourth pick, AnnualCreditReport.com, doesn’t provide much in the way of educational tools or protection measures for your identity, but it is free — and the barebones credit health it provides might be enough to make informed financial decisions in the future.
Guide to Credit Report Services
How to make the most of your credit report service
Check for errors
A 2012 study by the Federal Trade Commission found that one out of five people had an error on their reports that was corrected by a credit bureau after it was disputed. Even minor errors can result in less favorable terms for loans, which makes it all the more essential to verify that the information contained in your report is accurate.
Look for a service that will help you report those errors
All of our top contenders provide instructions to help you start the dispute process, though the level of instruction varies: myFICO and IdentityForce simply link to the Big Three bureaus’ dispute pages, while AnnualCreditReport.com connects to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for more information. Identity Guard was, by far, the most detailed in its guidance, providing paragraphs of text on what to expect from a dispute and how to go about the process. It even provides sample letters, so you don’t have to worry about where to begin.
Realize that it takes time to improve your credit
If you’re looking to improve your credit in a hurry, you might be tempted to sign up with one of the many companies advertising credit repair. Be very careful before paying someone to repair your credit. Many credit repair companies are ready to take your money to do the same things you can do for free, like report incorrect information found on your credit history.
The FTC reports that, in some cases, credit repair companies provide false information to the bureaus or use identity theft to get you a “new credit identity.” If the credit repair company gets caught doing so, you’ll both be held responsible. Since all of our picks provide tools and resources to help bring your score up, you’re better off avoiding such companies completely.
Be wary, be smart
After the massive Equifax data breach in 2017 that exposed the personal information of 145.5 million people, being uncomfortable with sharing your personal information with these large bureaus is understandable. But since we can’t really escape the reality of digital transactions, we suggest taking advantage of securing your credit information when you feel it’s at risk. If you’ve been a victim of identity theft or are currently dealing with a similar scenario, a credit freeze might be worthwhile. (For more information on credit freezes, look to our FAQ below.)
Equifax also released a free app called Lock & Alert, which allows people to lock access to their credit files from their phones. Credit locks differ from freezes in that your report can be “unlocked” immediately without incurring charges. But credit locks aren’t subject to the same regulation as freezes, and it’s still unclear what rights you’re entitled to by using a lock — if the lock fails and your identity is stolen, you may have no legal recourse against Equifax. Plus, at the time of writing, Lock & Alert was far from functional. Early users reported an inability to even get past the login screen. Our advice? Opt for a freeze over a lock, and check the ratings on Lock & Alert before using it will full confidence.
Know that the credit landscape may be changing
On January 10, 2018, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Mark Warner introduced the Data Breach Prevention and Compensation Act in the U.S. Senate. The bill addresses the aftermath of data breaches like the 2017 Equifax hack, giving broader power to the federal government to penalize entities that fail to adequately protect consumers’ personal information.
Under the bill, a new Office of Cybersecurity would be created at the FTC with the ability to fine credit-reporting agencies $100 for every person with private information stolen in a data breach, along with $50 for each additional piece of private information per person (though total monetary fines would be limited based on the agency’s revenue). According to Recode, these penalties would have totaled over $1.5 billion for Equifax had the legislation been in place at the time of the hack.
Money raised from such fines would be split evenly: Half would go to “cybersecurity research and inspections by the Office of Cybersecurity,” while the other half would be “divided fairly among consumers affected by the covered breach.” If the bill passes, it will mark a major step toward creating more oversight of credit agencies and greater protection for consumers. Plus, it may jumpstart a race for increased security measures among the credit agencies themselves.
Credit Report Services FAQ
You are entitled to one free credit report from each of the big three—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—every year. It’s a good idea to stagger these throughout the year so that you can stay on top of your credit with a free report every four months. Order online from AnnualCreditReport.com and be prepared to provide your name, address, social security number, and date of birth to verify your identity.
There’s a lot of overlap between the two. In fact, two of our top picks market themselves as the latter. This is because so much of your identity is tied to your credit; often the first signs of stolen personal information appear on your credit report, whether it’s a bogus account or notice of debt collection. Read more in our review of the best identity theft protection services.
The most common scoring models used to determine credit scores, FICO and VantageScore, operate on a scale of 300 to 850, with higher scores indicating a lower level of financial risk. 700 or above is generally considered a good score, while anything above 800 is excellent. Most people score between 600 and 750.
The two most common scoring models to determine credit scores are FICO and VantageScore. FICO is the most common of these two and is used by 90% of top lenders. This isn’t to say, however, that VantageScore is less accurate as both models are highly regarded by lenders when determining a borrower’s risk. That being said, FICO is the go-to model for most lenders and should be the one you focus on most when keeping track of your credit.
There are many factors that come into play when your credit score is calculated, and each bureau values different things. The length of your credit history, how and when you make payments, how much you borrow and owe, and how many lines of credit you hold affect your score, among other things. FICO’s explanation breaks it down in more detail.
Credit freezes restrict access to your credit report, which makes it more difficult for identity thieves to obtain your information. If you need to reopen your report when applying for credit or a job, you can always lift the freeze, though there may be a cost for doing so. Certain entities will still be able to access your report, including your existing creditors and government agencies, but freezing your credit report is a simple way to give yourself an extra level of security.
To avoid a data breach or accidentally turning your information over to the wrong hands, it’s best to practice securing your information on a daily basis. This means disposing of personal information before disposing of a device, encrypting your data, not giving out your passwords, refraining from sharing every detail of your life on social media, and so on. To learn more about keeping your information secure, check out the FTC’s suggestions.
Our Other Credit Reviews
Whether you’re just now entering the credit realm, a seasoned cardholder, or simply want more info, we’ve got you covered. Check out our other credit reviews for more details on managing your financial health.