Credit Karma vs. Identity Guard: Which ID Theft Plan is Best for You?

By: Theresa Houghton

When it comes to your identity, superior protection is a must. A reliable credit monitoring service keeps an eye on credit activity and alerts you to potentially malicious actions before unauthorized users get a chance to hijack your accounts.

Of the many services available, Credit Karma and Identity Guard® are two of the more popular options. Which one should you choose to protect your sensitive information? Compare the benefits offered by each company to determine the right service for your needs.

What You Get

Credit Karma

Credit Karma Website

After reviewing Credit Karma, we discovered that they are a combination credit monitoring service and resource center. Sign-up is free and provides ongoing credit monitoring along with credit score information and reporting from Equifax and TransUnion. Credit Karma also uses your activities and history to deliver recommendations for relevant financial products. The site collects a commission if you choose to take advantage of one of these suggestions.

The Credit Karma website also offers several tools to help you manage money, including:

  • An amortization calculator
  • A credit score simulator
  • A debt repayment calculator
  • A home affordability calculator
  • A simple loan calculator to determine payments on varying loan amounts

Their educational database includes information on auto insurance and loans, bankruptcy, credit cards, credit reporting, and credit scores. You can look at your credit history, identify what has affected your score, and use the information to plan for the future. If that future includes a new credit card, loan, or auto financing option, Credit Karma offers a database of providers sorted according to credit rating levels.

Identity Guard

Identity Guard

A review of Identity Guard showed that they focus more on privacy and identity protection. Their signature product, PrivacyNow, is powered by “Watson cognitive technology.” This artificial intelligence is designed to “learn” about your financial habits by asking questions and tracking behaviors. The resulting protection plan is personalized to your needs, and Identity Guard uses what it knows about you to compare the latest identified risks against activities on your account. A simple color-coded system shows your relative level of risk at all times. If a threat is detected, you get instant notification and guidance to resolve it as quickly as possible.

Depending on which plan you choose, Identity Guard offers:

  • Credit analysis
  • Credit monitoring
  • Credit reporting, scores, and updates from all three major bureaus
  • Help canceling credit cards and monitoring credit if your wallet is lost or stolen
  • ID verification alerts
  • Mobile app access to all information
  • Monitoring of “black market” websites for stolen information
  • Monitoring for fraudulent address chances
  • Password protection in an “ID Vault”
  • Public records monitoring
  • Social Security number monitoring
  • Software to encrypt keystrokes and protect against viruses

If you become the victim of identity theft despite Identity Guard’s coverage, you’re protected by $1 million of insurance to cover any associated losses.

What You Pay

Credit Karma

Although Credit Karma is free, signing up means you agree to receive occasional recommendations. Affiliations with featured companies fund the site, so you’re basically served a stream of tailored advertisements to support the services provided.

Identity Guard

Each of Identity Guard’s three plan levels is available for a monthly fee:

  • Essentials: $9.99/month
  • Total Protection: $19.99/month
  • Platinum: $24.99/month

If you’re not sure which plan is right for you, an investment of $5 allows you to try any level for 30 days.


Credit Karma and Identity Guard allow users to access their accounts either online or via a smartphone app, although mobile access is only available to Total Protection and Platinum members of Identity Guard.

Alerts come standard with both services so that you know right away when something changes on your credit report or a potential threat is discovered. The Identity Guard alert system is more comprehensive and offers ways for you to take immediate action. Credit Karma only sends alerts relating to credit and doesn’t include any form of guidance aside from the library of information on the website.

Choosing the Right Option

Whether you decide on Credit Karma or Identity Guard depends on the level of protection you want and how much you can afford. Credit Karma has all you need for basic credit monitoring and reporting at no cost. However, if you manage many different accounts and credit cards and would prefer protection for as many points of vulnerability as possible, Identity Guard could be worth the investment.

Don’t wait until it’s too late to consider a credit monitoring or identity theft protection service. Setting up a reliable alert system can save you the months or even years of frustration and inconvenience involved in reclaiming a stolen identity and rebuilding damaged credit.

Read our expert reviews to find out which provider is right for you!

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