A reader wants to know if these services are worth it.

Question: Last week, you answered a question from a man who had his credit card stolen. That happened to me — twice in the past few years. Your advice was OK, but I saw an ad on TV for Life Lock. I’m wondering if I should pay for a service that will check these things for me. Are they worth it?

Actually, I want to know why they cost money at all. I learned from reading this website that the law says I can get free credit reports from annualcreditreport.com. Why isn’t credit monitoring free too?

— Patricia in Oklahoma

Howard Dvorkin CPA answers…

Life Lock and other companies are known as credit monitoring services. For a fee, they monitor your account with one or more of the three national credit agencies every day. (Those are Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian.)

They also offer a slew of other services. You can check your credit report whenever you want, instead of just once a year. You can also GET your credit score, which is different than a credit report, and which isn’t free at all (although more places are finally offering this as a perk, like the Discover card.)

If someone tries to steal your identity, these services notify you pronto. Here’s what they can’t do: Stop the theft before it happens. Like the name says, they monitor. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t religiously check your credit card statement each month, this is vital — because waiting to report credit card fraud can cost you.

Before we talk price and value, there’s one big advantage to these services besides fraud protection. If you’re trying to rebuild your credit after a tough time — divorce, layoff, or medical condition — these services can help. Here’s how.

Now let’s talk cost.

Life Lock is the best-known service because they spend the most on advertising. Because of that, Life Lock is also one of the priciest services. What’s not well known is that many of these services are exactly the same. Many use the same third-party software to monitor your credit, much like various restaurants buy desserts from outside bakeries. Their prices may vary, but you’re eating the same chocolate cake.

That’s why Debt.com partnered with Credit Power. As Debt.com’s founder, I searched for the best service at the cheapest price. Life Lock charges $10 a month for its basic service, $20 for its midrange service, and $30 for its premium service.

Meanwhile, Credit Power offers the same services for $7, $17, and $25. You can learn more about credit monitoring here. 


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About the Author

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

I’m a certified public accountant who has authored two books on getting out of debt, Credit Hell and Power Up, and I am one of the personal finance experts for Debt.com. I have focused my professional endeavors in the consumer finance, technology, media and real estate industries creating not only Debt.com, but also Financial Apps and Start Fresh Today, among others. My personal finance advice has been included in countless articles, and has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Forbes and Entrepreneur as well as virtually every national and local newspaper in the country. Everyone should have a reason for living that’s bigger than themselves, and besides my family, mine is this: Teaching Americans how to live happily within their means. To me, money is not the root of all evil. Poor money management is. Money cannot buy happiness, but going into debt always buys misery. That’s why I launched Debt.com. I’m glad you’re here.

Published by Debt.com, LLC