Sometimes, comparing two identity theft protection services is difficult. Most options have some sort of gimmick, special focus, or other factor that might tip the scales their way even if their core functionality isn’t quite up to snuff with the other competitor.
I’ll make no bones about it: this is not one of those times. Costco Complete ID offers nothing of appreciable value over Identity Guard at any stage of the game.
Nevertheless, let’s take a look at all the details laid out on the table so you can get a better idea of what I’m talking about.
Why Should You Trust Us?
Our goal when reviewing these services is to get real data out of them using direct experience with the product. At every stage of the review process we review things the exact same way a normal customer would. We search for the best deals we can find, and try to find the lowest available pricing for each service. Then we plug in real user data into their system and sit on it for a while to see what kind of performance the service has to offer for its users.
This combination of real use-case scenarios and an expert eye toward what functionality is the most useful is what drives our review process.
Once all the data is collected, we then rank each product based on a number of universal factors, tiered in order of most to least important:
- Monitoring and Alerts
- Threat Resolution
- Ease of Use
- Additional Services
On these criteria each option is graded from 1 to 10 on a total (not comparative) scale. A score of 1 basically means the service provides an option but is completely incompetent at it, while a score of 10 implies near-perfection. Rarely, services are not graded on specific criteria because they lack them completely. This is often (but not always) a huge mark against their service unless it’s something that is completely irrelevant.
Why Even Bother with Identity Theft Protection?
Identity theft is distressingly common: much more so than people think. Some variants of identity theft are relatively minor, but the scary part about all identity or data breach events is that they’re ticking time bombs. While a singular event may not have a huge impact at the exact moment it occurs, it’s usually only a matter of time before something further comes of it, whether that time be weeks, months, or even years later.
Having identity theft protection is an excellent safety net for you, and one most people will need at least once in their life. While being very careful and curating your online habits – as well as keeping a vigilant guard against fraud in other areas – can go a long way toward protecting you, one of the most frustrating things about identity theft is that you can do everything right and still suffer.
You entrust your information to legitimate businesses on a regular basis: banks, credit agencies, your own employer, and so on. And when their security fails and data is breached it’s not them that suffers for it.
Having protection is doubly important if you have children, who are much more likely to be victims of identity theft protection. The majority of identity theft victims are children, with the average age of a victim being only 12 years old (as children have few protections from identity theft).
Ultimately, protecting yourself and your family is something that is always going to be a priority, and with how common identity theft is becoming you almost can’t afford to just leave things to chance.
|Criteria||Identity Guard (9/10)||Costco Complete ID (/10)|
|Ease of Use||9/10||4/10|
|Monitoring and Alerts||10/10||8/10|
Ease of Use: Winner – Identity Guard
This one is really no contest. Identity Guard is by far the best user experience I’ve had looking at any of the identity theft protection services I’ve used so far.
By contrast, Costco’s Complete ID service has possibly the worst, with one potential contender that matches it in awfulness (Zander Insurance).
Looking at the dashboards of these two services is like night and day.
Below is Identity Guard’s dashboard. The first thing you see when you log in.
It’s elegant and well laid out. There are quick navigation buttons that take you to the most commonly used pages, with relevant at-a-glance information being presented in easy to read ways, like your pending alerts and most recent credit score.
The dropdown boxes are likewise easy to use and take you wherever you want to go with little hassle. The categorization is good, and the dropdowns aren’t finicky like some websites.
Now let’s take a quick look at Costco’s site.
Everything here is awfully laid out. This isn’t even the entire page. You have to scroll up and down a lot to find what you need, and there are no icons or anything to help break up the page and make it easier to find what you’re looking for. It’s barely a step up from late 90s or early 2000s websites that could just be a wall of links.
The most galling thing is this isn’t the worst of it. This is mildly annoying, but workable. It’s no worse than I’ve tolerated from other services before. What really irks me is the navigation bar at the top.
This is how you get to everything else you need to look at. Notably, there is no visible way to navigate to your Alerts page. Nothing that gives you an indication that there might be pending alerts or anything.
It took me a fair bit of searching around before I found it. Take a look at this next picture.
This is the alerts page. How did I get here?
Check the top right of the screen. Yes, it’s that little bell there.
Normally, you would associate that with system messages and the like. Maybe telling you when there are pending alerts. Generally clicking on something like that opens up a dropdown box full of previous messages.
Not so here. Instead it just navigates you to this Alerts page. There is no indication that this is the case.
Typically I wouldn’t be so bothered by this, as in the grand scheme of things it only took a few seconds out of my day to figure this out, and now I know. But no other identity theft protection service on the market has this level of incompetent website design.
Monitoring and Alerts: Winner – Identity Guard
Identity Guard gets another clear win here, but Costco doesn’t embarrass itself: it also has a pretty good showing in a few respects.
The main difference here is in terms of monitoring breadth.
Costco Complete ID offers a pretty good basic suite of monitoring tools:
- Dark web and data breach monitoring
- Payday loan monitoring
- Social security number monitoring
- Bank account monitoring
- “Neighborhood watch alerts”
That last is what is usually billed as “sex offender and criminal registry monitoring” by other services, Identity Guard included.
The problem here, of course, is that Identity Guard’s highest tier plan (Ultra) offers all of this and then some, adding a pile of other features to the deal:
- USPS address change monitoring
- Social media insights
- 401(k) and investment monitoring
- Home title monitoring
Alongside a few upgrades to things Costco offers, like dedicated credit and debit card monitoring on top of bank account monitoring.
When it comes to accuracy, things look a bit more even. Identity Guard has top- of- the- line monitoring accuracy, and on the few types of monitoring that Costco Complete ID offers it delivers similar levels of accuracy.
However, it does fall significantly behind on speed as opposed to Identity Guard, taking about a day to populate initial results, and roughly the same whenever a new alert is detected. In the grand scheme of things though, this isn’t a huge deal, as it’s not like the wait of several days or even up to a week that some identity theft protection services require.
This would put Costco’s Complete ID service at a bit of a lower score than I ended up giving it, but the exemplary nature of its “neighborhood watch alerts” gives it a leg up over similar “minimalist” identity theft protection services.
The level of detail it grants (giving not only the presence or absence and maybe name of the criminal registry, but physical description and a synopsis of the charges) is so far beyond anything else around that it’s almost worth recommending taking a look at Costco Complete ID on these merits alone, and as a result give s it a bit of a leg up over what would normally be the score (I’d normally peg it as about 1 point lower).
Threat Resolution Services: Winner – Costco Complete ID
In terms of threat resolution, both services offer pretty much the same thing: excellent customer service representatives.
Both are quickly available, friendly, and competent. I’d probably give the edge in overall knowledgeability to Identity Guard’s customer service (as they tend to retain customer- support team members for several years) but it’s not a huge gap by any means.
Identity Guard offers a few minor frills, like wallet protection (a dedicated line that will help you cancel and reorder credit cards and the like if your wallet is lost or stolen), but does suffer from one major flaw that plagues it in comparison to some other services: its service hours. Identity Guard is open late compared to smaller services, but still retains distinct business hours: 8 AM to 11 PM (Monday through Friday) and 9 AM to 6 PM on Saturdays (they are always closed on Sundays).
Costco Complete ID has no such limitations, giving you access to their customer support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week which is always pretty much the most you can hope for from a service like this.
Insurance: Winner – Identity Guard
There are no real surprises here, as the main crux of Identity Guard being our victor is that when it comes to insurance, more is better. And it simply offers more than Costco Complete ID does.
Complete ID is no slouch, mind you, offering up to $1 million in expenses and lost funds reimbursement (referred to by them as “cash recovery”; Costco uses several pieces of nonstandard terminology in their product descriptions).
Identity Guard offers the same, at least on the surface.
However reading the fine print turns up one major difference: Costco rolls these two together, while Identity Guard will cover each separately.
This means you could potentially draw $2 million in funds from Identity Guard, though this is admittedly unlikely. If you lose a total of $1 million in sheer theft they’ll cover that, but it won’t dip into your coverage for expenses (eg. lost wages, lawyer and consultant fees, childcare, etc.). Complete ID draws both from the same $1 million pool.
This is still good, but demonstrably, objectively worse than what Identity Guard offers.
Additional Services: Winner – Identity Guard
There’s not much to talk about here. What Identity Guard offers is…not much. They have some educational resources available for people who enroll in their service, that’s about it.
Costco offers a bit of this too, but they are far less in-depth and issues with Complete ID’s pricing system would actually tempt me to peg Complete ID as offering “negative value” in this regard, hence the lack of score.
Identity Guard is, in other words, winner by default since it has…something. Neither is impressive in this regard, but at least I can score Identity Guard as “poor” rather than “N/A”.
Cost: Winner – Identity Guard
There is absolutely no contest here, and it’s a real shame given that Costco’s Complete ID service COULD be a tempting budget option if not for the problems with its pricing.
The main issue here is that pricing Complete ID in a vacuum is meaningless. You can take a quick look at their prices below.
|Complete ID||Business and Gold Star||Executive|
|Child Identity Monitoring||3.99/month (47.88/year)||2.99/month ($35.88/year)|
And to briefly compare and contrast these prices, here is Identity Guard’s pricing array:
|Month to Month (Individual)||$7.20/month($86.40/year)||$15.99/month($191.88/year)||$23.99/month($287.88/year)|
|Annual (Individual)||$6.67/month ($80.04/year)||$13.33/month($159.96/year)||$20.00/month($240/year)|
|Month to Month (Family Plan)||$11.99/month($143.88/year)||$23.99/month($287.88/year)||$31.99/month($383.88/year)|
|Annual (Family Plan)||$10.00/month ($120/year)||$20/month($240/year)||$26.67/month($320.04/year)|
On the surface, Costco Complete ID looks like a decent alternative to Identity Guard’s Total plan. It’s close to the same price (only a tiny bit more expensive annually) but it actually offers quite a lot more. This would make Complete ID an excellent budget- friendly alternative to Identity Guard Total.
However…there is one severe problem with Costco Complete ID: it is only available to Costco customers.
This means the prices listed above are not the final pricing total, they are only the price listed without a Costco membership.
These are in two distinct pricing tiers. Business and Gold Star members pay $60 per year for their membership, and Executive members pay $120; this brings the final price yearly up to the exact same amount for both ($227.88 per year).
This is equivalent to the annual price for Identity Guard Ultra…which Costco Complete ID has absolutely no hope of competing with.
Complete ID’s family plans are also a joke, only offering child identity monitoring without throwing in an extra adult membership as well; you’d have to shell out full price for one of those.
All of this combined makes Costco Complete ID an incredibly poor value. It’s borderline, possibly good if you already have a Costco membership, but is exorbitantly expensive if you plan to buy a membership just to gain access to Complete ID, given its relatively limited monitoring tools.
Final Verdict: Identity Guard
It’s a bit of a shame that Complete ID completely fails to offer good value, because it’s a fairly solid service despite my gripes with some of how it works (like the awful website). It’s similar in many ways to other budget identity theft protection services like Identity Force or IDShield which I think very fondly of.
However what those have that Complete ID lacks is a less absurd pricing scale. Complete ID is simply too expensive for what it offers. Even when you take the mandatory Costco membership out of the picture, it’s fairly expensive compared to other options out there. It would be a bit hard to justify buying, but you could do it if you like its main unique features (the very good “neighborhood watch alerts”) enough.
Unfortunately though, “could maybe justify getting it under rare circumstances” doesn’t a very great identity theft protection service make. It leaves Costco Complete ID as ultimately good in a vacuum, but lacking in the context of comparisons to quite a few other identity theft protection services, much less a juggernaut of the industry like Identity Guard.