Since the dawn of the online credit bureau era (1997/1998), online credit report marketing has been dominated by the specialists: Experian, Equifax, TransUnion, ConsumerInfo.com (now owned by Experian), Fair Isaac, Intersections, and others.
Now, financial institutions are becoming more involved. For example, Citibank’s AdWords spot pitching its Credit Monitoring Service showed up fourth overall (and second in the right-hand column) in a search today for "credit report monitoring" on Google (click on inset right for a closer view). With 84 advertisers vying for space on the first page or two of results, that’s expensive real estate.
Citi’s $9.95/mo service (after one free month) is powered by Intersections <intersections.com> and includes info from all three credit bureaus, daily alerts based on Equifax info, $20,000 in identity theft insurance, and other benefits (see screenshot below for a full listing).
Another surprise advertiser in the category is Wal-Mart whose ad appears in the sixth position along the right side of the search results (see inset above). The retail giant’s $7.46/mo service is co-branded with TransUnion’s TrueCredit (click here for screenshot).
We are big fans of credit report monitoring, having personally used it for more than a decade. And while the service does deliver significant value, we think the single $9.95/mo price point is too high for the mass market. Granted, ten bucks is better than the $14.95/mo charged by TransUnion’s TrueCredit for a similar service (see inset for an email received today). But the $120/yr is simply too much for information that can be extracted relatively easily by consumers themselves.
Better would be a multi-tiered offering: Regular/Gold/Platinum that starts at under $5/mo and peaks at $9.95/mo for an individual, $14.95/mo for a family. That way, more customers would receive the benefits of proactive monitoring while the truly paranoid could use the pricier options for added peace of mind.
Another puzzling aspect of Citi’s service: it’s impossible to find it through the home page. It not only lacks its own link in the product menus, but also comes up blank in searching on "credit report monitoring" or even "credit reports." You shouldn’t have to use Google to find such an important service, especially at a bank that’s spent tens of millions promoting itself as a safe haven against identity theft.