Since 2004, I have used the credit monitoring service offered by my Discover Card issuer. Recently, I received this notice with my monthly Discover bill:
"For Discover Identity Theft Protection members who receive membership materials through the Internet: This is to inform you that we are in the process of changing the service provider of the Discover Identity Theft Protection product. Effective on or after September 1, 2008, the provider of Identity Theft Protection will become ConsumerInfo.com, Inc. an Experian company. Experian is one of the three major U.S. credit reporting companies."
Well, that seems innocent enough. Discover is definitely free to switch service providers, especially if Experian gave them a better deal. Similarly, I am free to switch credit monitoring service s too, to get the best deal possible. Several years ago, Discover called its credit monitoring product ProfileProtect. I checked my documentation from 2005, which listed Intersections, Inc. of Chantilly Virginia as the credit report services administrator for Discover's program.
The printed paper notice from Discover also said:
"In an effort to ensure that your Identity Theft Protection membership continues without interruption, the following changes will occur:"
- "Our new provider of Identity Theft Protection will obtain and monitor your credit report(s) beginning June 1, 2008 to ensure that you receive your Quarterly Updates without interruption.
- During your membership, you elected to access your Identity Theft Protection services through the Internet. Effective on or after September 1, 2008, we will no longer be able to offer this product to you through the Internet. Please note you will receive all materials via First-Class, but you will no longer have access to the online Credit Analyzer.
- You will begin receiving your membership materials from our new provider on or after September 1, 2008.
- If for any reason you do not want your Identity Theft Protection membership to be serviced by our new provider, which will require that they obtain your credit report for continuous monitoring, please call Member Services at 1-866-329-5760."
This presents a problem. I signed up for Internet access for a couple reasons. One: Internet access provides greater security than updates via snail mail. Two: Internet access provides fast e-mail alerts about my credit reports. E-mail alerts alerts are important because the sooner a consumer discovers abuse on a financial account, the sooner you can take action and the less money you are likely to lose.
Three: it seems that Discover and Experian are unable to agree to provide me with uninterrupted service via the Internet. This vendor change smells more like a hand-off than a true swapping of vendors. I expect uninterrupted service given the money I am paying monthly. Four: Experian already makes money by selling my credit reports, so I am reluctant to give them more money. The combination of credit reports and a credit monitoring service in a single company is something I don't find attractive, while Experian tries to restrict independent credit monitoring service companies.
Five: Experian operates several consumer credit monitoring services besides ConsumerInfo.com. Experian operates FamilySecure.com, which offers several features not found in ConsumerInfo.com. This makes me wonder why this vendor swap included ConsumerInfo.com and not FamilySecure.com. Was it Discover's choice? Was it Experian's demand? Or was it based on cost?
A comparison on price: FamilySecure is $19.95 per month, ConsumerInfo is $11.95 per month, and I have been paying $9.99 a month for Discover's existing credit monitoring service. Discover's notice didn't saying anything about price, so I assume the monthly price remains the same. But that isn't a good value for me, because I'd be paying the same monthly amount for fewer services. In plain English, that's a price increase. And I lose access to online updates, online features, and the Credit Analyzer.
I wonder what brainiac at Discover Financial Services negotiated this agreement with Experian.
Regardless, I had planned this Spring to evaluate my credit monitoring services, since my year of free credit monitoring services with Kroll (thanks to IBM) ends in June. My ultimate choice for a credit monitoring service is not based on price alone, but on value: the balance of features, benefits, and price. Discover's vendor change just added another item to my existing list of reasons to evaluate the available credit monitoring services.