Whether you want to know more about a potential new roommate, neighbor or someone else, you may be looking for a free or cheap background check service. These can be great for helping keep you and your family safe without alerting someone that you’re looking into their history.
In this article, I’ll take a close look at some of the best and most affordable background check services that you can use to gather trustworthy information on a person’s criminal history, social media posts, contact information and more.
I’ve checked out each of the services listed below to see what’s available for free, how much the full version costs, how to get started and more.
The Best Alternatives to Free Background Check Services
There are countless reasons why you may be looking for a free or cheap background service. Whether you want to verify the identity of someone you met online or you’re curious about the person who just moved in next door, there are several safe and legal ways to look into someone’s background. Unfortunately, free background check services often don’t include any more information than a simple Google search. For this reason, it may be worth it to you to pay for a reliable service.
Even if you do pay for a background check service, it’s important to know what you can and can’t legally do with the information you get. Many background check services are available only for personal use and can’t be used to make decisions about consumer credit, employment, insurance, tenant screening or any other purpose that would require Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) compliance. If you are looking for an FCRA-compliant background check service, be sure to check out GoodHire (details on it later in this article).
I recently looked into a few of the most popular online background check services to determine which are worth paying for. The factors I used to evaluate them included pricing, Better Business Bureau and Trustpilot ratings, whether there was a trial offer available, if customer service was available, how easy the website was to navigate and how thorough of a report you can expect to receive.
Here, you’ll find six of my top picks for 2021:
|Intelius||Connecting with old friends||$29.63/month||$1.99 for 5 days|
|Instant Checkmate||Criminal and arrest records||$35.12/month||$1 for 5 days|
|TruthFinder||Public records search||$28.05/month||$1 for 5 days|
|BeenVerified||Beginners||$26.89/month||$1 for 7 days|
|PeopleFinders||Fast, simple reports||$29.95/month||$2.95 for 3 days|
|GoodHire||Employees||$29.99 each||Not available|
Below, you’ll find more detailed information on each of these background check services including how to get started using them and what kind of information you can expect to get from each.
Best for: Connecting with old friends
Intelius is a popular background check service that’s great for connecting with old friends or getting in touch with lost/distant relatives. You can use the website to look someone up by name, phone number or address. Intelius has an A+ rating on Better Business Bureau and three out of five stars on Trustpilot.
A background report from Intelius will include a person’s date of birth, phone numbers, address history, related persons, arrest records, court records, and social media profiles including email addresses. It may also include additional information like traffic offenses, misdemeanors and more.
When I looked up pricing for Intelius, I found this special offer that includes a five-day trial for $1.99. After that, you’ll be charged $29.63 for a full membership that will automatically renew every 30 days. If you do sign up for a subscription, you’ll be able to access unlimited background reports.
|Reverse phone number lookup is available.||Intelius isn’t free; a subscription costs $29.63 monthly.|
|You can get unlimited background checks for five days for $1.99.||There’s a turnaround time from three to 30 minutes to get any type of report.|
Best for: Criminal and arrest records
According to the website, Instant Checkmate provides information that includes arrest records, phone numbers, addresses, demographic data, census data and more. You can use the service to find lost friends, reconnect with family members and even look up unknown callers.
Like Intelius, Instant Checkmate is available only to subscribing members. As a member, you’ll have access to unlimited reports and the company’s member care team which offers assistance during weekdays. When I created an account on Instant Checkmate, I was given two subscription options: $35.12/month or $84.28 for three months. As I was searching for Instant Checkmate’s pricing, I also found this special offer for a five-day trial for $1. During the trial, you can get unlimited background reports. After the trial, you’ll be charged $34.78 monthly. Of course, you can cancel your membership at any time.
Instant Checkmate’s pricing is a little confusing because you may see a different monthly membership fee depending on how you sign up for the service. There are two ways to do this: begin a public records search by entering a person’s information on the homepage (you’ll be prompted to choose a membership option when the report is ready) or sign up for this special offer online.
|Get unlimited detailed reports with membership.||It takes several minutes to get a report back.|
|The website is easy to use and offers reverse phone number lookup.||There is no free trial or single report price: You can only sign up for a monthly membership.|
|You can view reports online or download and print them.||Pricing isn’t the most transparent; you can claim the special offer price or start a search to view additional membership options.|
Best for: Public records search
What I found to be one of the best affordable background check services, TruthFinder is a highly trusted resource that can help you reconnect with family and friends or look up criminal records online. The company is accredited by the Better Business Bureau and maintains an A+ rating on the review site. It also has a 4.2-star rating on Trustpilot.
According to the website, a background report from TruthFinder may include information on birth and death records, possible relatives, possible associates, friends, roommates and exes, a detailed location history report, contact information, criminal records, arrest records, traffic records, education and job history, social media profiles, dating profiles, assets and more. The report that you’ll get should be quite extensive, which also explains why it may take a little longer to get your background check from TruthFinder than from competitors’ sites.
When I checked out TruthFinder, I was offered two different membership packages: one month of unlimited reports for $28.05 or two months of unlimited reports for $46.56. Both subscriptions renew automatically. When I didn’t choose either of those plans, I was offered a $1 trial for five days. You can get the same special offer here.
|The TruthFinder app on Google Play has a 4.5-star rating based on more than 57,000 reviews.||You can’t purchase a single report; instead, you’ll have to sign up for a monthly membership.|
|TruthFinder is accredited and highly rated by BBB and Trustpilot.||Pricing isn’t completely transparent: You have to start a search for a report before you can view and choose a membership plan.|
Best for: Beginners
BeenVerified is worth trying out, especially if it’s your first time running a background search. The website is really intuitive, and you just need to enter a name to get started.
Compared to the other background search services on this list, BeenVerified has very average ratings. The company scores a B+ with the Better Business Bureau and has a 3.2-star rating on Trustpilot. The app itself, though, is highly rated on both The App Store and Google Play by thousands of users.
After you enter a person’s name on the website, you’ll be able to select the information you’re looking for. You can choose contact information, criminal records, social media accounts, court records, car ownership, properties, relatives, personal details or all of the above. According to the website, BeenVerified prides itself on being easy, affordable, fast and responsive.
When I checked out BeenVerified, I wasn’t able to find a free trial or any level of free service. Instead, I found two different membership plans: one month of unlimited reports for $26.89 or three months of unlimited reports for $52.44. When I didn’t choose either option, BeenVerified offered me a seven-day membership trial for $1. You can claim the same special offer here.
|Property information including vehicle ownership is available.||There isn’t a free trial or single report option; you’ll have to pay $1 for seven days or sign up for a monthly membership.|
|Membership includes unlimited background reports, phone lookups and email lookups.||Although the website prides itself on being fast, it still took several minutes for a report to be prepared when I tried out the service.|
Best for: Fast, simple reports
PeopleFinders is another great background check service that you can use to look up a person using a name, phone number, email or home address. PeopleFinders has an A+ rating on the Better Business Bureau website and a 4.7-star rating on Trustpilot.
According to the company website, PeopleFinders prides itself on being “fast” and “accurate.” When I tried it out myself, I did notice that I received results more quickly than any other background check service I tried. While other reports took up to 10 minutes to process, PeopleFinders had a report ready in less than two minutes.
PeopleFinders offers a variety of pricing options ranging from single reports to trials to monthly memberships. When I started a search on PeopleFinders, I was offered two different reports: a search report that included a full name, current address, phone number, prior residences, relatives, aliases and age or a background report that included additional information including property records, bankruptcies, misdemeanors and criminal/sex offender checks.
The search report was available for $0.95 and included a three-day trial subscription. But if you choose that option and then want to cancel, you’ll have to pay a $2.95 fee to avoid the monthly membership charge. If you choose the single report without the three-day trial, the cost is $1.95.
The more extensive background report cost $3.95 plus the three-day trial, which the site said was 75% off its usual price of $19.95. The report alone was available for $9.95 (on sale from $39.95). Monthly membership options ranged from $24.95 to $29.95 depending on which report you request.
|With so many pricing options, you can choose what best fits your needs.||Pricing and options are confusing and range from a $0.95 one-time fee to a $29.95 recurring monthly membership.|
|PeopleFinders provides the quickest results compared to other services on this list.||If you sign up for a free trial, you have to cancel your membership before it’s over and pay a $2.95 cancellation fee.|
Best for: Employers
GoodHire is designed specifically for employment background checks. The reports you get from GoodHire are FCRA-compliant, which means you can use the information to make decisions about your business and people you would potentially hire. If this is something you’re looking to do, you can learn more about the employment background check laws in your state on GoodHire’s website.
Because GoodHire is an employment screening service, the price is a little higher. If you’ll need only 25 checks yearly, you can get pre-set packages starting at $29.99 each. If you’ll need more than 25 checks each year, you can get a custom quote from GoodHire.
With a GoodHire criminal background check, you’ll get information gathered from national, federal, state and county databases. Reports include felony and misdemeanor criminal convictions, as well as pending criminal cases. In addition to criminal background checks, GoodHire also offers driving record checks, credit checks, civil court checks, identity checks, employment drug tests and more.
|You can use the information from a GoodHire report to make decisions about potential employees.||The site is complicated, which means it isn’t the best option for beginners.|
|Custom quotes for businesses running more than 25 background checks yearly can bring the price per report down.||GoodHire is more expensive than personal-use background check services.|
When it comes to free background check services, I found that you get what you pay for. Most background check services that give you quality information will cost something, but that doesn’t mean you have to go for the most in-depth report or pay for an FCRA-compliant service.
It’s also important to know what you can and can’t legally do with the information you receive. With personal background check services, you can’t guarantee that you’re getting the right information. You may be looking at the report of someone with the same name, and there’s no way to verify that the information is completely accurate and up-to-date.
“Don’t take what you find on any of these as absolute truth, because there will be errors.” advises money expert Clark Howard.
Still, using a free or cheap background check service can provide some peace of mind. If you’re ready to try one out yourself, know that the most affordable background check service on this list is Intelius. It’s great for finding social media profiles and other basic information. For a more in-depth report, especially when it comes to criminal and arrest records, try out Instant Checkmate instead.
TruthFinder is perhaps one of the best background check services, which makes it worth checking out. It’s highly rated, easy to use and you can try it for five days for $1. Similarly, BeenVerified is great for beginners and offers a week-long trial for $1.
If you need only one report, you’ll want to consider PeopleFinders: It’s the only background check service on this list that doesn’t require you to sign up for a recurring membership. And if you’re an employer who needs FCRA-compliant background checks regularly throughout the year, GoodHire is the best service for you.
Have you used a free or cheap background check service that isn’t on the list? Let us know in the comments below!