In 2013, my then-boyfriend gave me one of my favorite gifts: password manager 1Password. That’s when I knew he was the one for me. We got married the next year.
I consider 1Password my most treasured tool, whether I sit down at my computer or I’m on my phone. If an app signs me out and I don’t remember what my login is, 1Password does. If I’m signing up for a new site or service, 1Password will generate a strong password and then save the login for me. All I need to do is log in to 1Password, and it does the rest.
If you’ve been hacked because of a password breach or you lost that piece of paper with all your passwords on it, you know that keeping track of passwords is important. But that doesn’t mean you have to do that daunting task on your own. That’s where password managers come in.
What is a password manager?
Password managers are applications that save all your passwords in one place — well-known examples include 1Password and LastPass. You have one master password that logs you in to the password manager, so you don’t have to keep remembering every password you’ve ever had.
The password for a password manager is meant to be hard to figure out for hackers. If you do have a difficult master password — which you should — it’s good to have it memorized or keep it in a safe place.
Password managers: pros and cons
Not all password managers are created equal. But for the most part, they have a few things in common.
- They house all your passwords for safekeeping.
- They allow you to generate passwords when you update or sign up for new apps and sites to avoid using a password you’ve already used before.
- Some allow for sharing password information with family and friends who also have the same password manager.
- You can store other information, like identification and credit cards, for easy access when inputting information online.
- Most come with a price tag.
- They’re not a catch-all protection service. You still need to use other measures — such as not using public Wi-Fi and setting up two-factor authentication — to stay protected.
- Setup can be tedious, as you have to input every login you have.
Which password managers are the best?
There is no one-size-fits-all password manager. So, you should review the websites of a couple of password managers before signing up and take advantage of any free trials to determine which is best for you.
I will die on the 1Password hill because I believe it’s the best. And I say that as someone who has also used other password managers.
“Either 1Password or LastPass will do the trick,” Stacy says. “I personally find LastPass a bit more user-friendly, but not by much.”
One factor that might help narrow down your options is cost.
LastPass offers a free plan as well as a premium plan, which is for one user and costs $3 a month, billed annually. If you sign up for the free plan, you will get a free 30-day trial of the premium plan.
LastPass also offers a family plan, which is for up to six users and costs $4 a month.
Free 30-day trials are offered by 1Password for both its personal and family plans, but it doesn’t offer a free plan.
The 1Password personal plan costs $2.99 a month, billed annually. The family plan, which is for up to five users, costs $4.99 a month. You can add more users to the family plan for $1 per person.
Is a password manager right for you?
Signing up for a password manager can make a huge difference in your online security, but it’s not for everyone.
If you tend to reuse the same passwords for many logins, especially when it comes to banking and money-related accounts, a password manager could save you from getting scammed. Hackers tend to try the same password in different places.
In general, you’re better off with a password manager than without one.
If you don’t visit many websites that require login information, you probably don’t have many passwords to remember. In that case, you may want to skip getting a password manager. However, the increase in security and the ability to house other data, like credit cards and identification information, may still be beneficial to you.
If you’re on the fence, think about how much safer you would be if you had the strongest passwords but you didn’t have to remember them.
The bottom line
Don’t be turned off by paying for a password manager. It’s an investment in your safety and security. A few dollars a month can save you from potentially far more money lost due to hackers and scammers in the future — not to mention the headache or the energy put into restoring your accounts.