While I was perusing the transaction history for one of my Citi credit cards, I noticed a banner ad at the bottom touting a credit monitoring service for $8.95/month (30% off their normal price of $12.95).
If you have a Citi card and login to your account, there’s a good chance you will see this promotional offer, too. But is it worth it?
Well, the price of $8.95 is definitely not a ripoff when compared to the $14.99 to $29.95 that some credit monitoring services will charge you. So I decided to review it for myself.
Part One: Signing Up
After I clicked on that banner I am taking to a page which says this:
Your credit score can affect your finances. The higher your credit score, the lower your interest rates could be. See how healthy your credit is with Citi IdentityMonitor. For just $1 for the first 30 days, then only $8.95 a month (30% off the regular monthly price of $12.95), you’ll get all these benefits and more:
- Stay informed about certain changes to your credit file with alerts that could be potential indicators of fraud or theft so you can stop fraud in its tracks.
- View your reports and scores on your time with 24/7 access
- Access to 3-in-1 credit reports, credit scores and monitoring based on data from the three leading credit bureaus
- Explore how your credit may change based on your credit actions
So the Citi credit monitoring service is actually more than just credit. They claim they’re alert you in the event of fraud, too (we’ll find out in a minute what that means).
Below their pitch is a field to enter your Social Security number and birthday:
Then under that are Terms of Service that you have to agree to before clicking submit:
I authorize Intersections, Inc., a service provider of Citi, to obtain my credit files and information from the credit reporting agency(ies) in order to provide my credit report to me and to monitor my credit files for as long as I am enrolled in Citi® IdentityMonitor®. I confirm that I am requesting my own personal information and no other.
Hmm… who is Intersections, Inc? I checked out their website and it looks like they specialize solely in credit monitoring and identity theft.
The own/operate IdentityGuard, which interestingly enough charges $16.99 for their cheapest plan that offers 3 bureau credit scores + monitoring. That’s more than Citi credit monitoring, so I guess it’s cheaper to get the service through Citibank (the plans aren’t identical, but close enough).
By clicking the Enroll Now button, I understand the $1 fee for the first 30 days and then the monthly fee for Citi® IdentityMonitor® – which is only $8.95 – will be automatically billed to this credit card. I may cancel at any time by calling 1-866-279-9637 and my membership will continue until the end of my current paid period.
I can handle one buck. So I agree and click submit.
Part Two: Using The Service
After agreeing to the last page I get redirected to the “Citi Identity Monitor” page where I have to confirm who I am by answering 5 questions such as who I have a loan from, what my middle name is, etc. After that rigmarole, I create a user/pass and then enter my account.
As you see, the website is pretty basic and no frills, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Part Three: Credit Reports
Citi credit monitoring generates my report – one from each bureau – and the data is displayed side-by-side in 3 columns:
I actually really like the way they present the info to you. By having the 3 reports displayed next to each other, you can quickly see discrepancies. If I had to review the 3 credit reports in separate documents, there might be a discrepancy I would otherwise not notice.
You get to view all the info on you credit reports:
- Public Records
- Collection Items
- Consumer Statement (if applicable)
- Personal Information (incl. employment)
- Creditor Contact Information
- Account Information
Part Four: Credit Scores
Now in this section, Citi doesn’t do a very good job explaining what you’re getting. Will you be getting a credit score generated using data from each of the 3 credit bureaus? Yes. But will this score be a FICO? No.
Citibank gives you a score that runs on a 350 to 850 scale (FICO is 300 to 850). So what type of score are we getting? Well if you look in the fine print at the bottom of the page you will get the answer: “CreditXpert Credit Score”
For me, these 3 “CreditXpert” scores did correlate relatively close to my real FICOs – within 10 to 15 points. But just because it correlated closely for me doesn’t mean you will necessarily experience the same thing. Remember they’re using a different credit score type, with a different formula than FICO.
So how useful are these scores? Well if you just want a good idea of where you stand, then credit monitoring from Citi might be useful. However, if you actually need to know your credit score because you’re about to apply for a mortgage/loan, then you really should be getting your true FICO instead since that’s what will be used in the lending decision.
Part Five: Credit Monitoring & Alerts
When I clicked the tab for Citibank credit monitoring I was shown this:
So apparently, you are enrolled in alerts for all of these things by default. And what if you don’t want to be alerted about everything? Too bad, because it appears Citi’s credit monitor service doesn’t let you customize the alerting.
How good does it work? That I cannot say, since I didn’t have any activity during my trial that would have triggered one of these monitoring alerts.
Part Six: Credit Analyzer
To be honest I didn’t fool around with this feature much, so I don’t know how useful it is. They describe it as a tool that let’s you estimate the potential impact on your credit score by doing things like paying down debt, increasing debt, paying on time, and about a dozen other scenarios.
Aspects of this will be useful for some, but I really don’t think you need to use a simulation tool to say, find out that paying your accounts on time will increase your credit score.
Part Seven: Identity Theft Expense Reimbursement Insurance
This benefit provides up to:
- No coverage for FL
- $10,000 in coverage if you’re in AK, HI, NY, OH, PA and WA
- $25,000 in coverage for other states
You can read the details of the insurance policy here. In a nutshell this coverage pays for the time/expense involved in correcting identity theft. It does not reimburse you for any money that was stolen from you.
Is Citi Identity Monitor worth it or not?
Well $12.95 (the normal price) means you would be paying $155.40 per year. For the $8.95 price tag that equals $107.40 annually. Both of those amounts are obviously not a small chunk of change. So you will have to review the pro/cons to determine whether it’s worth it.
For me personally, I only signed up for Citi’s credit monitoring services for research and writing this review. I called and cancelled during the 30 day trial, so it only ended up costing me $1.
Unfortunately you can’t cancel Citi Identity Monitor online. You will have to call 1-866-279-9637. It’s not a 24 hour line; 8 am to 11 pm M-F and 9 am to 6 pm (all times EST).
When I called on a Saturday to cancel after a woman answered after a brief hold. She said my account couldn’t be cancelled because it was less than 72 hours old and I would have to call back.
So I call back about a week later to cancel. As a last ditch effort for me not to cancel Identity Monitor, they offer me $50 worth of prepaid gift cards. However, this wasn’t a straightforward offer as they said you can only use one per month for 5 months. I didn’t want to hassle with this so I turned it down, but if you bite the bait I suppose that will make your monitoring subscription the equivalent of being free or close to it for the first 6 months (30 days for $1 + $10 gift card per month).
With all said and done, this appears to be a good service with a straight forward cancellation process and reasonable pricing. The only drawback of course is that the scores are not FICO.