Identity Guard, the direct-to-consumer credit-monitoring brand from Intersections, has a new logo, homepage design, and a compelling new offer: six months of free credit monitoring (Good Start option) PLUS 30 days of access to your credit report and score (see previous look here).
And unlike most offers in this industry, this freebie is made with no obligation. Intersections does take billing info as part of the sign-up process, but unlike most others, they will not automatically begin charging a monthly fee at the end of the six-month free trial (see note 1). Last year, Intersections offered the six-month free trial (post here), but did not include the free credit report/score (see note 2).
Identity Guard hompage (11 August 2008)
Separately, I ran across the company’s banner ad today at Amazon’s IMDB site (below). Here, the company is taking a more traditional approach, offering a 30-day free trial plus $3/mo discount on its flagship Total Protection service (regularly $17.99/mo).
Identity Guard banner at IMDB (12 August 2008)
Landing page from the IMDB banner (12 Aug 2008)
1. I tested the free offer last year and can confirm that they did NOT bill me for the service after it expired, nor did they pester me to become a paying customer at the end of the trial.
2. See our Online Banking Report on Credit Monitoring Services for more information.
Intersections, with 4.7 million subscribers (as of March 30, 2007), is a leader in the U.S. credit monitoring business. Its private-label programs are offered by Bank of America, Capital One, Discover, Citibank and many more leading financial institutions. I have personally used the Intersections service for nearly a decade through its distribution agreement with American Express, a partnership which ended last year.
Last year, Intersections redesigned its core consumer-direct website, Identity Guard, to feature four levels of protection (see screenshot below):
- Good Start (single-bureau monitoring only): Free for six months, then $4.99/mo
- Watchful Eye (above plus Internet fraud database scanning and quarterly credit report and score): $7.99/mo or $69/yr
- Extra Caution (same as above, but expanded to all three credit bureaus plus $20,000 id theft insurance): $12.99/mo or $119/yr
- Total Protection (above plus constant scanning of public record databases): $17.99/mo or $159/yr
The free six-months of service is a great way to get customers accustomed to using a daily monitoring service. However, the company does themselves a disservice by completely ignoring the obvious customer question: What happens after six months? As far as I could tell there is no way to get an answer to that question without calling or emailing prior to starting the application (see note 1). That's unacceptable for any eCommerce application, but especially in credit monitoring, which has had its share of questionable marketing practices.
We'll look at the Identity Guard application process and products in detail in our upcoming new report, Online Banking Report: The Market for Fraud Protection, Identity Theft, and Credit Monitoring Services (available at the end of July here).
Identity Guard homepage showing four product choices
1. My first email about the potential fee has not been answered or confirmed 48 hours later. But my call to customer service this morning was answered promptly, I was speaking with someone in about 50 seconds from dialing. He was a little unsure of the fee, saying "I believe it's $5.95/mo" and he "thought" that yes, you would be charged automatically to a card entered at signup. But overall, he did a decent job answering my question and surprisingly did not try to get me to signup even though I was obviously hesitant.
This week, I took a two-day break from writing the next issue of Online Banking Report, an update to our popular report on Credit Bureau Monitoring and Identity Fraud Protection (2002 report here), to attend the Mobile Commerce Summit.
Much to my surprise, an email received today nicely integrates those two topics. The offer sent was sent with the subject, "Mobile Identity Theft Protection," and it came from WireFly an online wireless reseller where I'd previously purchased a Blackberry.
Very interested to see the mobile connection, I looked at the full message (below), a well-crafted offer for Identity Guard services from Intersections. The seemingly to-good-to-be-true offer: a full year of credit monitoring, with SMS alerts, free of charge.
Apparently, Intersections, like PayPal and SunTrust, is using free credit report monitoring as an introduction to its full-service credit report and ID theft protection services. It's an aggressive move that has repercussions for the industry. We'll look at its strategy in detail in the new report to be published in July.