SunTrust launched a new checking account acquisition strategy built around free credit-report monitoring (see personal homepage right). And this is not a low-budget identity-theft "insurance" policy (see PNC Bank, NetBanker Feb. 3 and Washington Mutual, NetBanker, Nov. 7, 2005), but full-blown Equifax Credit Watch Silver costing $6.95/mo or $50/year at the Equifax website.
Credit Watch Silver includes:
- Weekly credit-report inquiry and balance-change alerts
- One initial Equifax credit report.
- $2500 in identity fraud insurance with $250 deductible
How it works
SunTrust is offering the free monitoring on most of its checking accounts, including its standard $9/mo account that is fee-free with a $1500 minimum balance. The free offer is not available to "free checking" or "senior checking" customers. However, they can buy it for a discounted rate of $3.45/mo or $35/year, a substantial discount from the regular price of $6.95/mo.
Of course, customers will have to wade through relatively gentle up-sell pitches for Equifax Credit Watch Gold, which will cost customers $6.95/mo or $70/yr, about one-third less than the list price of $11.95/mo or $100/yr; or Gold with 3-in-1 Monitoring for another $30/yr. Also, customers that want to extend the Equifax Silver coverage to both members of a joint account will have to pony up an additional $35/yr.
Credit Watch Gold includes:
- Daily credit-report inquiry and balance-change alerts
- Unlimited Equifax credit reports
- $20,000 in identity-fraud coverage with zero deductible
Checking account customers must enroll for the free service at a co-branded Equifax website. It's a jury-rigged sign-up process that requires the use of an offer code that includes the customer's 13-digit SunTrust checking account number.
New customers must first open a checking account, then enroll at Equifax at least two days later. SunTrust offers online account opening, but there is no link to an online option from the credit monitoring landing page (click on inset for a closeup).
This is an excellent value for SunTrust checking customers and could potentially have little out-of-pocket cost for the bank. The bank's costs depend on four factors:
- 1. How many checking customers take time to enroll for the free service
- How many of the enrollees elect to accept credit-monitoring upgrades
- How many enrollees opt to buy additional credit-report viewing during the course of the year
- How often a fraud situation involving a SunTrust account is thwarted due to the service
The only real problem with the program is that it is not integrated with online banking. The separate enrollment and sign-on make it a hassle to use (of course, this holds down the bank's costs). We expect other banks to offer similar programs during the next 12 to 18 months.