After Discover changed its credit monitoring vendor, I started looking for a replacement service. Since the three national credit bureaus all offer credit monitoring services, I thought that I'd look at Equifax's offering. This blog contains posts with reviews of the Experian Triple Alert service and a comparison of several services from Experian.
I performed a simple Google search since I didn't know the name of Equifax's service. The first search result included a link to the Equifax home page, and that's where I went:
First impressions are everything. In the center column, several bullet points summarized the company's credit monitor service features. This was easy and quick to read. Next, the page presented a huge "Get Started' button. The problem: the page lacks links to important service details. To properly evaluate a service, consumers need:
- Examples of their credit report formats from all 3 national credit bureaus
- Examples of the e-mail notices
- Details about the ID-theft insurance
- Expanations of why Equifax's offering is superior to other credit monitoring services
The page didn't present links to any of this information. If the site has it, the presentation forces users to hunt for it.
My first impression: the company produced a consumer unfriendly home page that lacks links to important service details.consumers need to properly evaluate the service. The "Get Started" button links directly to a service registration form page. The home page seems arrogant in its expectation that 4 bullet points are enough for consumers to make an informed purchase decision. No, that's not enough. Either Equifax doesn't understand this, or doesn't care.
This poor presentation is a strong indication to me that Equifax would likely be a difficult brand to interact with, if I registered for their credit monitoring service.
Normally, at this point I would move on to a competitor's web site, but I decided to give Equifax another chance. I clicked on the "View All Products" button which linked to:
This page was a little better. It provides links to the service detail page for each service. The presentation makes it difficult to compare offerings. Does the "3-in-1 Monitoring" service contain everything that the "Credit Watch Gold" service contains? The copy doesn't say so explicitly, so the consumer is left to guess or to read lots of copy. If a consumer doesn't know much about credit monitoring, this page is difficult to use. (I would later discover the site has a service comparison page, but the link to that comparison is buried on the service detail pages and not on this page where it should be.) I selected the "3-in-1 Monitoring" service link.
If I've learned one thing when evaluating credit monitoring services it's this: closely read the page content. There's a lot of explanatory copy on the 3-in-1 Monitoring service detail page. The service detail page lacks links to examples of the various service features. The service contains some basic features (e.g., monitoring of the consumer's credit reports at all 3 national credit bureaus, automated alerts, insurance, 24/7 access to customer service) and some nifty value-added features (e.g., customizable alerts, lock/unlock Security Freeze on your Equifax credit report). The $20,000 of insurance is more than what's available in the Experian Triple Alert service, but the Equifax site doesn't provide any links for users to read details, terms, and conditions about its insurance offering. As a wise person once said, "the devil is in the details."
This is important: the 3-in-1 Monitoring service summary on the All Products Page says, "... unlimited access to your Equifax Credit Report." This is important because only provide the full text of the consumer's Equifax credit report. If there's a problem with the consumer's Experian or TransUnion credit reports, this service provides minimal help. It only alerts you to any changes in those credit reports, and does not provide access to the full text of other branded credit reports.
This means the consumer is left on their own to retrieve their TransUnion and Experian credit reports from those services or another credit monitoring service provider. This could be time consuming; a potential inconvenience if the consumer is trying to determine and fix a credit report with errors, or damage done by an identity thief. Also, additional fees will probably apply to retrieve other branded credit reports.
Consumers need access to the full text of all three credit reports, not just one. Any service that describes itself as comprehensive really isn't comprehensive if it doesn't provide the full text of a consumer's credit reports from all three national credit reports.
Note: the "3-in-1 Monitoring" service page does not mention outsourcing and whether Equifax offshore outsources any of its operations. I know from prior research that all three national credit bureaus announced offshore outsourcing in 2003. (I haven't seen any evidence since to the contrary.) To stay competitive and to manage costs, credit bureaus currently offshore outsource portions of their credit reporting operations, and likely do the same for their credit monitoring services. I would expect a credit bureau like Equifax to mention its offshore outsourcing arrangements so consumers can make a truly informed purchase.
Is $20,000 in insurance enough? You have to decide that for your situation. It's hard to tell because the site doesn't provide a link to the contract or legal terms and conditions. I've Been Mugged readers should read my review of the Experian Triple Alert service to understand the insurance issues.
The bottom line: the Equifax 3-in-1 Monitoring service didn't look like a good deal to me. It claimed to be comprehensive, but isn't. It was a frustrating site to use, and my guess is the actual service isn't any better. Site pages lacked links to important service details and examples. While the service detail pages include a "Take a Tour" link to examples, this content was incomplete and didn't answer most of my concerns. Plus, the "Take a Tour" link was in a tiny font size and easy to miss.
Like the Experian site, the Equifax site was skimpy on explaining important details and benefits. The site didn't show me how its customized alert feature works. The site did a poor job of proving the benefits it claimed. The site didn't contain a copy explaining why it is better service than competitive services. I got the impression that the site pitched weak claims that would be easily believable by uninformed consumers.
Frankly, if the site pitching Equifax 's services to potential customers is this bad, then the actual service for customers probably is worse.
All of this left me with the impression that Equifax is: a) a difficult brand to do business with, and b) not very consumer focused. If I signed up for Equifax's 3-in-1 Monitoring service, it would probably be a frustrating experience. No thanks. I'll continue looking elsewhere for a credit monitoring service.
If you use the Equifax 3-in-1 Monitoring service, please share your experiences. Why did you sign up? What works well? What works poorly? How well do the alerts, credit resolution, and insurance reimbursement services work?