Using unique and strong passwords is a core part of a good cybersecurity practice, and a password manager—an app that can securely store your passwords—makes this much easier.
The best password managers can help you generate strong passwords (the type that are too long and random to ever remember), fill in your login information, sync account info between devices and utilize various additional features.
Password managers are increasingly important, as data breaches can leave your personal information available for sale on the dark web. If you have a commonly used password (such as "password"), you're reusing the same password across accounts or you have a common password-creation approach (such as the company's name plus an add-on), it may be easier for hackers to break into your accounts.
But there are many password managers to choose from. While the best options all offer similar basic features, there are differences that could make one a better fit for you. Here are four of the top password managers to consider.
1Password doesn't offer a free plan, aside from free options for politicians, activists and journalists. Still, it has reasonably priced plans and comes with a variety of practical and useful features. There are apps and extensions that let you use 1Password with most web browsers, as well as Windows, iOS or Android devices, and the app can quickly generate and autofill passwords that are synced across devices.
You can also create and store other sensitive information in your encrypted vaults, including notes and credit card information. And, you can selectively share notes or logins using a secure link, including with non-1Password users. The family plan supports up to five people; each person can have their own private vaults and access shared vaults between family members.
Additionally, you can use 1Password as an authenticator app if you're enabling multifactor authentication (MFA) on other accounts to improve their security. You can also add MFA to the login process for your 1Password account to make it more secure.
- Noteworthy features: The Watchtower feature highlights potentially weak or reused passwords and can tell you if your information is detected in a data breach. There's also a Travel Mode, which can remove vaults that aren't marked as safe for travel from your device; this could be helpful if you're stopped at the border and asked to unlock and turn over your device.
- Cost: Individual plans start at $35.88 a year, while a family plan with support for up to five people costs $59.88 annually (additional people can be added for another $1 per month).
|Compatible with most devices and browsers||No free plan|
|Unique Travel Mode for keeping info private||More expensive than some other options|
BitWarden might not have as many features as other password managers, but its free plan covers all the basics and comes with a lot more functionality than other options' free plans. Plus, if you want even more features, there are low-cost individual and family plans.
For instance, the free plan supports an unlimited number of passwords and devices, can sync passwords across devices and lets you share your vault items with another user. The paid plans add additional MFA security options, more robust password health reports and support for encrypted file attachments—and they also allow you to designate an emergency contact who can access your vault.
- Noteworthy features: The free option supports multiple devices, unlimited passwords and sharing between two users. BitWarden is also open-source, meaning anyone can review the code and report bugs or security concerns, and it undergoes third-party security audits.
- Cost: The free plan includes unlimited passwords and devices, and allows you to share vault items with another user. Individual plans start at $10 annually and include extra features. Family plans support up to six users for $40 a year.
|A free individual plan||Might not offer as much support during setup as other options|
|Host your info locally or in BitWarden's cloud||Paid plans don't have many extra features|
Dashlane is more expensive than many other password managers, but it also has features and tools that could be worth paying for. There's a free plan as well, but it may be too limited for many people because it only covers one device and up to 50 passwords, and it doesn't let you store secure notes.
In addition to all the basics of creating, storing and filling in passwords, Dashlane's paid plans include dark web monitoring for up to five email addresses, a virtual private network (VPN) and a password health tool that can warn you about weak and compromised passwords. The paid plans also include coverage for unlimited devices and unlimited password sharing, which lets you securely share (but not reveal) passwords with others.
- Noteworthy features: You can use Dashlane's password changer to change your passwords on multiple sites with a single click, but the tool is only included with a paid plan.
- Cost: The free individual plan stores up to 50 passwords on one device. Individual plans start at $59.99 annually, and family plans that support up to six users cost $89.99 a year.
|A free individual plan||Relatively expensive subscriptions|
|Bundled features and tools that you may otherwise pay for||The free plan is limited to 50 passwords|
LastPass is another option that works on a wide variety of devices and browsers. There is a free plan with unlimited passwords, but it's limited to a single type of device (such as computers or phones, but not both). The free plan also comes with a secured vault for your passwords and other account information, and lets you share saved items with one person.
The subscriptions are reasonably priced compared to other password managers and come with helpful additional features, including dark web monitoring, a security dashboard and score, and support for an unlimited number of devices.
- Noteworthy features: Paid plans unlock additional options for using MFA to secure your account, and they let you share passwords and notes with multiple other people at once.
- Cost: There's a free plan that supports a single type of device with unlimited passwords, but it has limited features. Individual plans start at $36 annually. A family plan that supports up to six users costs $48 a year.
|A free individual plan||Free plan limited to single device type|
|Reasonable cost for paid plans||No customer support for free users|
How to Benefit From Using a Password Manager
The best password manager is the one that you actually use, so factors like the user interface and apps could be important to consider but are somewhat difficult to quantify. Even if there isn't a free plan, many password managers have a free trial that you can use to see how well the app works for your needs.
Once you've found a password manager you like, here are a few ways to make the most of it:
- Use it as much as possible. Even if you're creating an online account that you think won't have any valuable information, it's easy to use your password manager to create and autofill a strong password. You may be surprised what hackers and fraudsters find valuable—even hotel and airline loyalty programs are targets.
- Use a strong master password. You'll generally have one master password that you use to unlock your password manager—although some let you use an authentication app or biometric data (for example, the mobile app might scan your face) to unlock your account. Make this password especially strong and something you can remember.
- Keep your master password safe. The password manager often doesn't have access to your master password, which is a good thing because a data breach won't give hackers access to your account. Some apps have backup or emergency access options. Learn how these work and what you need to do to ensure you don't get locked out of your password manager and the rest of your accounts.
It's Worth Trying Out a Password Manager
At minimum, it's best to use unique and strong passwords for your online accounts that have sensitive and personal information, such as financial accounts. Even if you're not ready to pay for a password manager, trying out a free service (or a free trial of a paid service) may be a good idea.
There are also other steps you can take to see if your information has already been compromised and protect yourself. You can look for your usernames or passwords on HaveIBeenPwned, which returns results from previous data breaches, and get a free dark web scan from Experian. If you're worried about identity theft, Experian IdentityWorksSM comes with dark web and credit monitoring, identity theft insurance and fraud resolution support.