Credit Sesame Review
No-frills DIY credit monitoring with a free basic plan
These days, identity theft is more prevalent than ever. 12.7% of people have had their personal information misused within the past five years,1 so it’s important to make sure that our accounts are protected. But with so many avenues to steal peoples’ identities (opening payday loans in our names, changing our mailing address with USPS, giving our names to the courts, and more), monitoring your identity can start to feel like a full-time job. That’s why we’re trying out the identity monitoring service from Credit Sesame. Primarily related to credit and financial services, Credit Sesame also provides identity monitoring and insurance, but is it enough to stay safe on and offline? Our experts find out.
Credit Sesame Features
In terms of actual features, Credit Sesame kept it short and sweet, monitoring the basics of our credit history and identity. Here’s what was included in our Platinum Protection subscription, the top-tier option:
- Credit score and report monitoring: We got monthly updates from three credit bureaus, Experian, Transunion and Equifax, plus full credit reports.
- Identity theft insurance: Under this plan, we were eligible for up to a million dollars in reimbursement if our identities were stolen, standard across the industry.
- Live experts for credit report inaccuracies plus lost or stolen wallets: We never had to use this feature, thankfully, but if we found inaccuracies on our credit reports or had our wallets out of our possession for whatever reason, we had 24/7 support from real humans.
- Dark web monitoring: Otherwise known as the black market, the dark web is an area of the Internet where all users are anonymous and billions of stolen passwords are bought and sold. Credit Sesame scanned the dark web to make sure our information was safe.
- Public records monitoring: Credit Sesame made sure that our names weren’t being used in public records, and if they were, they’d let us know immediately.
- Payday loans monitoring: If someone tried to open a payday loan in our names, we’d be alerted, saving us potentially thousands of dollars.
- Sex offender monitoring: We want to stay out of sex offender registries, so Credit Sesame makes sure that our names are rightfully excluded.
- Change of address monitoring: If someone aside from ourselves tries to change our address through USPS, we’d get alerted.
- Social security number monitoring: Finally, Credit Sesame looks for our Social Security numbers with different aliases, names, and addresses to make sure no one’s using our SSNs.
When it comes to financial accounts, however, Credit Sesame is definitely lacking. They didn’t alert us if someone opened a new bank account in our name or took out a withdrawal above a certain number, so as far as financial monitoring, Credit Sesame didn’t quite cut it. But they definitely cover the basics of credit and identity monitoring; they’re just not the most comprehensive service available.
Credit Sesame Identity Monitoring Plans
|Free||Advanced Credit||Pro Credit||Platinum Protection|
|Number of Credit Bureaus Monitored||1||3||3||3|
|Frequency of Credit Score Updates from 1 Bureau||Monthly||Daily||Daily||Daily|
|Frequency of Credit Score Updates from 3 Bureau||X||Monthly||Monthly||Monthly|
|Frequency of Credit Report Updates from 3 Bureaus||X||X||Monthly||Monthly|
|Maximum Identity Theft Insurance Reimbursement||$50,000||$1,000,000||$1,000,000||$1,000,000|
|24/7 Live Experts For Credit Report Inaccuracies||X||X||✓||✓|
|24/7 Live Experts For Lost or Stolen Wallets||X||X||X||✓|
|Dark Web Monitoring||X||X||X||✓|
|Public Records Monitoring||X||X||X||✓|
|Payday Loans Monitoring||X||X||X||✓|
|Sex Offender Monitoring||X||X||X||✓|
|Change of Address Monitoring||X||X||X||✓|
|Social Security Number Monitoring||X||X||X||✓|
Credit Sesame has four plans to choose from: their free plan, which includes monthly credit updates from one bureau and identity theft insurance with a maximum reimbursement of $50,000 with no actual identity monitoring included, plus three paid options. Paid plans range from $9.95 a month to 19.95 a month, with no deals for families or businesses. But to get any real identity monitoring services, only the Platinum Protection is sufficient; while the others will give daily and monthly updates on credit scores and reports as well as identity theft insurance up to a million dollars, only the top-tier plan actually monitors for potential signs of identity theft. To learn more, read our page on Credit Sesame’s pricing options.
Is Credit Sesame Easy To Use?
To start using Credit Sesame, we selected the top-tier Platinum Protection plan and entered in some of our personal information, like our names, addresses, birthdays, emails, phone numbers, and the last four digits of our Social Security numbers. After verifying our identities with a few quick questions, we created passwords and entered our account. But, even though we had selected an identity monitoring plan, we weren’t asked to enter any card information; rather, we were brought to a page all about our credit.
So in order to sign up, we had to click over to ID Protection again and select a plan. Strangely, Credit Sesame doesn’t make it super easy to buy one of their paid plans, with a tiny button allowing us to upgrade.
From there, we selected the same plan and finally entered our credit card information and clicked purchase. Then, we were prompted to enter in some more information for Credit Sesame to protect, namely our credit and debit cards, bank account and routing numbers, email addresses, phone numbers, driver’s license numbers, passport ID numbers, and medical ID numbers. Finally, we were in the main dashboard.
We’ll admit that this website isn’t the most user-friendly in the world. For example, under Identity Protection Locations, we got the exact same map for all three tabs, SSN Trace, Address Changes and Sex Offenders. In order to actually see this monitoring, we had to click over to the tab on the left-hand side. When we clicked on the Sex Offender Monitoring Tab, we were presented with the same map, but underneath it said that there were no notifications.
We expected there to be a map of the sex offenders in the area, especially considering we used Philadelphia as our starting point, but apparently Credit Sesame only notifies us if new sex offenders move into our neighborhood.
We also wanted to check in with our credit, but when we clicked on Credit Monitoring, we were brought to a page with credit card offers, not our actual scores and reports from all three bureaus.
In order to actually see these cores and reports, we had to click “My Finances” on top and then “My Credit”.
For Credit Sesame, identity monitoring is somewhat of a side hustle, with their main purpose being connecting people to credit cards and loans, and that was definitely clear in the setup process and dashboard. Overall, the user experience wasn’t great, and it felt more like Credit Sesame wanted to make money off of us rather than protect us.
That’s it for our user experience on the desktop site, but let’s check it out on the go, as well.
The Credit Sesame App
Downloading the Credit Sesame app from the App store only took a few seconds. One we logged in, we created a four-digit passcode for additional authentication. We also added Touch ID for an extra layer of security. Finally, we were brought to our home page, which displayed our (very good) credit score prominently.
Much like the website, we also saw a bunch of credit card options.
However, we had to click over to the Premium Dashboard to actually access the ID Protection portion of the app; like the website, the app is very credit-focused.
And whoever designed the ID Protection area clearly didn’t put a lot of thought into it; it looked almost like a Word document, although we could easily find the information we received and get notifications from it.
Even though it may be more focused on credit and less on identity monitoring, at the end of the day, the Credit Sesame app gets the job done. We got alerted if they found our information where it shouldn’t be and could easily access our reports.
Credit Sesame Customer Support
When we were researching Credit Sesame, we noticed that their pricing page didn’t include identity theft insurance, a standard feature for identity monitoring services. But when we looked at the app page on the Google Play store, we saw that they offer policies with maximum reimbursements of up to $50,000 for free users. So which one was it? To find out, we turned to Credit Sesame’s customer support.
After searching “identity theft insurance,” we found out pretty quickly that free users get up to $50,000, while all paid users get up to a million in reimbursement. This was pretty simple to find, but the company is pretty skimpy on the support options. Aside from their online FAQs, they also provide a web form and a mailing address, with no phone number, email address, or live chat to speak of. So if you’re having a problem with their website or app, your choices are pretty much only their online help center, a definite drawback of Credit Sesame.
Hot Tip: If you’re looking for support over the phone or live chat, Credit Sesame may not be the best option for you.
How Secure is Credit Sesame?
Credit Sesame kept all the information we provided to them, like:
- Phone numbers
- Social Security numbers
- Passport ID numbers
- Medical ID numbers
- Credit card and banking information
- Usernames and passwords
- Website transactions
- Marital Status
- Household and employment information
And more, to name a few. Now, we chose which of these pieces of data we wanted to provide to Credit Sesame, but they also collected some information from us automatically:
- IP address
- Type of browser
- “Browsing actions and patterns”
- Pages we visited before and after Credit Sesame
- Operating system.
This is certainly more information than totally necessary, but the good news is that they won’t share this information with third parties for marketing purposes. Still, for those super-concerned about privacy, steer clear of Credit Sesame.
That’s not to say that our information wasn’t protected. Like we said, we were able to turn on Touch ID to access the Credit Sesame app, which made us the only people able to access it.
FYI: To ensure that you’re the only person opening your Credit Sesame app, turn on Touch ID, which involves fingerprint or facial recognition.
Credit Sesame also encrypted all our information using AES-256,3 the military-grade standard, plus SSL, a Secure Socket Layer that uses a handshake method to authenticate us and make a secure connection.4 So even though they keep a lot more information than we’d like, they do protect it well with solid encryption methods. And if you don’t believe us, the company hasn’t had any data breaches, which definitely made us feel much safer in their hands.
Is Credit Sesame Worthwhile?
Credit Sesame has its positives and negatives, but overall, it’s not one of our top picks for an identity monitoring service. As we said, the company is much more focused on offering us credit cards than it is on protecting our identities. That being said, they do cover the basics of identity theft protection plus the industry standard for identity theft insurance, but only with the top-tier package which costs $19.95 a month, not the lowest price in the market by a long shot.
Go with Credit Sesame if you’re looking for…
- Basic credit and identity monitoring: Credit Sesame does a decent job monitoring credit and criminal areas.
- Multi-factor authentication: Touch ID ensured that only authorized users accessed our accounts.
- Identity theft insurance: Even if you don’t pay for a plan, you can be eligible for up to $50,000 if your identity is stolen, and that number goes up to $1 million with any paid plan.
But avoid Credit Sesame if you don’t want…
- Clunky sign up: The company’s website didn’t make signing up for ID protection easy.
- Credit card offers: Since Credit Sesame primarily deals with, well, credit, expect to be bombarded with offers every time you open their desktop site or mobile application.
- Limited customer support: The only way to reach technical support with Credit Sesame is online via their FAQ section or a form, which is insufficient in our book.
If Credit Sesame doesn’t sound like the right service for you, there are a ton of other options; a good place to start is our best identity theft protection page. However, while you’re deciding, why not sign up for Credit Sesame’s free plan? If your identity is stolen, you could get up to $50,000 in reimbursement, completely on the house, a feature we haven’t seen with any other company. See, everything has a silver lining!
Federal Trade Commission. (2003). Identity Theft Survey Report . ftc.gov/sites/default/files/documents/reports/federal-trade-commission-identity-theft-program/synovatereport.pdf
HashedOut. (2019). How strong is 256-bit Encryption?
HubSpot. (2020). A Beginner's Guide to SSL.