MONI Smart Security vs. ADT vs. Protect AmericaBy - 12/12/2016
It’s no secret that the ADT brand name is high on the list for anyone browsing home security systems. The company operates nationally and was among the first in the U.S. to offer home alarm systems over 100 years ago. The company would certainly like us to believe they’re the best option on the market. However, that may not necessarily be the case. Today, we’re putting ADT to the test against two smaller competitors: MONI Smart Security formally known as Monitronics and Protect America.
Sales Process Compared
We’ve reviewed ADT’s service before. However, we wanted to give ADT a fair shake, so we started with a clean slate. My first stop was a trip to their website to see how much information I could glean about their services. It became annoyingly apparent that ADT was not going to give me any information unless I provided them with my information first. Though they claim to offer “free quotes”, this requires a conversation with a sales rep in your home.
After visiting the site to no avail, I called the 1-800 number displayed on their website. When my colleague, Rose, shopped ADT, the sales rep went through the standard procedures (name, address, email address, home ownership status) and then transferred calls to a local rep without waiting for consent. I was interested to see how my experience would compare. It was the same.
Over the course of a half hour, I spoke to two different people. The first customer service person took my basic information: name, phone number, address, etc. He then transferred me over to a different customer service rep for a company called Protection 1. Though Protection 1 is technically a separate company, they are both owned by Apollo Global Management post an acquisition in early 2016. Most consumers wouldn’t know this, and neither ADT or Protection 1 explained this to me upfront.
That aside, the entire 25-minute phone call was extremely friendly. The rep tried to curate a package for me which best fit my living situation. As I rent a home, he suggested a wireless package that involved a self-install — e.g., no professional installation required. He suggested that it would be no money down and that all I would be paying for is the equipment (a suspicious claim). It dawned on me that ADT probably transferred me to Protection 1 as I’m a renter. Calling back and posing as a homeowner confirmed this to be true. ADT does not service renters.
In general, the Protection 1 rep was more open to answering my random questions about things like contract length (3 years, according to him, for the package he was trying to offer) and types of monitoring, although I felt at times like it was pulling teeth on some topics. When he found out that I have a brother who was in the Air Force, he kept pushing me to get a USAA discount by acquiring the membership number from my brother. That ADT offers a discount for military veterans and families is great, as it would bring down the price down.
Other than the fact that he kept pressuring me to contact my brother about his USAA membership, at no point did I feel like he was trying to force me to make a decision or trying to mislead me purposefully. That said, when I asked about alternative packages than the one he wanted to sell me, he seemed almost unwilling to mention anything else. At one point, when I asked about plans with shorter contract terms, he quickly mentioned a month-to-month option but did not expound on that much. By contrast, ADT refused to provide pricing information without an in-home visit.
- Extremely Friendly and Professional
- Overall Unwillingness to Offer Alternative Plan Pricing as Well As Month-to-Month Pricing
- Transferred Me to a Seperate Company Without My Permission
MONI Smart Security
As with ADT, my first stop was to head over to the MONI website to see how they begin the sales process. We’ve reviewed MONI previously, but without a secret shopping experience. This gave us a good opportunity for a refresh. Their website provides helpful cost information (again, something that ADT simply does not do). You can also request a price from them, but they don’t force you to call to obtain it.
I found their 1-800 number at the bottom of the page. Initially, I was pleased. The first customer service rep was quick and efficient. She took about 30 seconds to get all the information she needed (name, house type, rental) and then transferred me to a sales rep. That’s when the confusion began.
I thought I was being transferred to a sales rep for MONI Smart Security. Instead, I was transferred to another company, the name of which I didn’t catch at first. When I explained I was trying to investigate getting a system with MONI, he sounded confused. I asked if they’re a subsidiary or contract with MONI. Nope. They don’t. The phone call ended abruptly. Of course, I didn’t give up there. I tried again.
The second time around the questions were the same. However, the individual I spoke with, upon finding out that I rent, told me that MONI does not offer packages for renters. Instead, she said she could transfer me to their sister company, LiveWatch. This must have been who I was transferred to the first time I called. Previously, the service rep transferred me without letting me know that I was getting transferred to LiveWatch. The second experience was more positive.
When I asked the new MONI rep if I could at least get information about service on an owned home, she didn’t tell me no, but she basically refused to tell me anything at all. Instead, she directed me to the sister company which, for all intents and purposes, is not MONI. Ironically, like ADT and Protection One, the two companies are related thanks to a recent merger. Thankfully, MONI offers information on their website about their services, but I was left feeling disappointed and somewhat shunned.
I called them back the next day for a third go round and avoided giving them any information about myself. Instead, I simply inquired about whether they sell equipment individually. I was able to get some clear answers here as a non-customer (yes they do), but the rep refused to let me know much about this until I was a signed up, paying customer.
- Fast Response to Phone Calls
- Transfer to “Sister” Service for Renters – Without Warning or Explanation
- Generally Rude and Intent on Getting Callers Off the Phone Far Too Quickly While Avoiding Answering Questions
After heading over to Protect America’s website, I actually couldn’t wait to get their sales rep on the phone. The company makes some rather bold claims about pricing on their website (Up to $1,400 in free equipment! No installation fees!). Like MONI, they also list different prices for different packages, giving me a bit to go on when secretly shopping customer service. We’ve reviewed their service before as well as compared them to other companies. And we’ve secret shopped them with mixed-to-positive reviews. What changes would we find this time around?
I called the 1-800 number listed on their website. I was greeted by the automated message which redirected me to my sales rep. Over the next 18 minutes, I nearly ruined my secret shopping experience by actually buying a security system from Protect America. Their sales representative was that good, aside from the fact that he talked far too quickly for me to catch everything he was saying, and the fact that he almost peer-pressured me into buying a system without telling my wife first. The emotional tactics he used were daunting.
I did manage to drill him on their “no equipment cost” idea, in which he admitted that the cost is rolled into the monthly payments. That being the case, with Protect America, you don’t own the equipment. So if you end service before the 3-year contract ends (the only kind they offer), you’d have to return the equipment.
I spent some time going back and forth with him over whether purchasing a system from Protect America was better than other services I’d investigated, such as ADT. When it appeared I wasn’t budging on the idea that Protect America might not be the best option for me right that second, he offered me a “7-day matching” option. This option, which the company does advertise on its website, locks in whatever rate they offer you, while providing you the opportunity to “price shop” for a week to see if there’s a better deal to be found. If you find one, Protect America says they will match it.
For clarity, the rate he offered me was just over $40 a month, with a security camera included at no extra cost. That was something I demanded, and he relented a bit and threw me a bone for good measure. Originally the camera would have cost me $10.00 extra per month for service and equipment. This at least shows Protect America is willing to haggle on the price and included equipment. They do mention the 7-day matching, but they certainly don’t mention that they’re willing to negotiate.
- Few Upfront Costs/li>
- Self-Install Devices>
- Willing to Negotiate on Prices>
- Extremely Aggressive Sales Tactics
- Do Not Sell Devices Directly
Sales Process Winner
- Protect America
This was a difficult decision between ADT and Protect America. ADT slightly wins out here given how easy it was to deal with the customer rep. Protect America’s rep was good at his job, and I like that he allowed some negotiation to occur, but his tactics were too aggressive, hedging on slightly immoral. Given MONI Smart Security didn’t want to deal with me or treat me kindly, it’s easy to see why they don’t top the list.
Monitoring Costs Compared
ADT, MONI, and Protect America each offer multiple packages ranging from basic security coverage to complete home automation. Below you’ll find a comparison of their top-level plans, including a look into 24/7 monitoring, equipment, activation costs, control panels, smart door locks, smart lights, and more.
The equipment below is included either in the top-level packages or as a part of the monthly monitoring cost. Protect America comes out as the least expensive option, and includes a lifetime warranty on equipment.
|ADT Pulse Video||MONI HomeTouch Premier||Protect America Platinum w/ Cellular Monitoring|
|24/7 Monitoring||Burglaries (Others Extra)||Burglaries (Others Extra)||Burglaries, Medical, CO, Flood (Fire Extra)|
|Monitoring Type||Cellular||Cellular||Cellular or Broadband|
|Control Panel w/|
|Door/Window Sensors||3 Included||3 Included||14 Included|
|Motion Sensor||1 Included||1 Included||1 Included|
|Key Fob Remote||1 Included||1 Included|
|Other Equipment||Indoor Video Camera|
|Mobile App Access|
|Smart Home Services|
|Contract Length||36 Months||36-60 Months||36 Months|
|Return Period||3 Days||3 Days||14 days|
|BBB Rating||A+||No Rating||A|
|Installation||Professional||Professional||DIY (Guidance Available)|
ADT’s pricing structure is complex. They have business/corporate packages with separate pricing as well as reseller pricing for local affiliates. Here’s the pricing for Safe Street ADT, which is similar to, but not the same as buying through ADT corporate.
|Premium Protection with ADT Pulse|
|24/7 Burglary Monitoring|
|Fire/Co Monitoring||Extra Fee||Extra Fee||Extra Fee||Extra Fee|
|Mobile App Access|
|Smart Home Features|
- Some Resellers Offer Same Day Installation or Self Installation
- Not All Packages Are Wireless
- Pricing Differs From Reseller to Reseller
MONI Smart Security
As noted earlier, MONI only offers home security services for those who own their home and for businesses. Renters of all stripes will be forwarded to a “sister” company, which is not the same as a reseller. All prices reflect those available only to the limited pool of customers they serve.
|Standard Home Security||HomeTouch Security||HomeTouch Premium|
|Full-Color Touchscreen Keypad|
|Pet Sensitive Motion Detector|
|Indoor Video Camera||Optional|
|Heat, Smoke, and Freeze Monitoring|
|Carbon Monoxide Monitoring|
|Email & Text Alert Notifications|
|Local Weather Alerts|
|Live and Recorded Video||Optional|
|Door Lock & Temperature Automation||Optional|
|Lighting & Small Appliance Automation||Optional|
|Garage Door Automation||Optional|
- Fairly Simply Packaging Options
- High Quality Monitoring in Top Tier Package
- Wireless Only Offered Upon Request, With Extra Charge
- No Business Packages or Packages for Renters
- No Broadband Option
Protect America has a somewhat complicated pricing structure between its business and residential packages. There are five residential packages and one business package. Furthermore, prices can vary for any of those depending on whether you use a landline, broadband, or cellular monitoring.
|Per Month Landline||$19.99||$37.99||$42.99||NA|
|Per Month Cellular||$41.99||$49.99||$54.99||$44.99|
|Fire Monitoring||$9.99 Monthly||$9.99 Monthly||$9.99 Monthly||Included|
|Smart Home Services||Light Automation Included (Other Services Require Ultimate Plan $5.00 More / Month)|
|Video Monitoring||$9.99 Monthly||$9.99 Monthly||$9.99 Monthly||Requires Ultimate Plan ($5.00 More / Month)|
|Mobile App Access||Requires Cellular or Broadband Monitoring||Requires Cellular or Broadband Monitoring||Requires Cellular or Broadband Monitoring|
|Equipment Warranty||Lifetime||Lifetime||Lifetime||3 Year|
|Control Panel Included|
|Return Period||14 Days, $79 Restocking||14 Days, $79 Restocking||14 Days, $79 Restocking||30 Days, Risk Free|
|Our Review||Frontpoint Review|
- All Plans Come with Free Equipment and Installation
- All Plans Have Cellular and Broadband Options with No Cost Difference Between Broadband and Cellular
- Free Equipment is Not Actually Free. Cost is Rolled Into Monthly Monitoring Rate
Monitoring Cost Winner
- Protect America
This one was a bit difficult, but ADT takes the top spot. Their plans, while varied depending on reseller, are far more inclusive for what you’re getting, especially at the higher level. The only stipulation is that MONI’ top level plan does exceed that offered by the other two companies. However, MONI’ other two plans are far too limited. For Protect America, the “free” equipment is misleading, and the plan differences are too slight to justify the cost increases for a few extra pieces of equipment.
Equipment Costs Compared
All three companies provide some equipment upfront. However, you can purchase equipment from each separately. The costs here vary.
All three companies can give you the option to self-install some types of equipment. For Protect America, you’re on your own all the way. ADT leans more toward providing installation services, as this nets them a bit of money. ADT installation bills can quickly reach the $1000 mark. MONI requires professional installation as well, and costs can add up.
For all three, purchasing extra equipment is not so much a matter of “owning” it as it is “incurring more fees”. For example, deep within the MONI Terms and Conditions page is this statement:
“Equipment fees and monthly charges apply if additional equipment (is) ordered. Installation work performed by licensed personnel where required by law.”
That means that yes, you can buy more equipment, but your monthly payments may increase. And you’ll likely have to get another professional installer to come in and set it up. For Protect America, you never own the equipment. They do. You’re simply renting it from them, in a similar fashion to the cell phone company U.S. Cellular.
So how much does it all cost? Below you will find a chart that outlines the information I was able to obtain. The only issue here is with MONI. They hold information tightly to their chest. I called and asked for pricing information, to which the service representative told me that yes, they sell equipment individually, but that pricing information is only made available to current customers. So you tell me, would you want to sign up for a service and find out the added cost later? Me either.
|App iTunes Rating||2 Stars||3.5 Stars||2.5 Stars|
|App Google Store Rating||3 Stars||4.5 Stars||3 Stars|
|Indoor Security Cameras||$199.00||Unknown||$199.00|
|Glass Break Sensor||$120.00||Unknown||$99.99|
|Other Equipment Available||Unknown|
Equipment Cost Winner
- Protect America
- MONI Smart Security
This one comes down to pure clarity. MONI makes it tough to learn about their products until you sign on the dotted line. Protect America has the edge over ADT as they are slightly less expensive and don’t charge for installation. However, the fact that Protect America maintains equipment ownership is confusing and not ideal.
Who Has the Best Reputation?
|BBB Rating||A+||Not Rated||A|
|Return Period||3 Day||3 Day||14 Day|
|Restocking Fee Charged||Unknown|
|Moving Policy||May incur a financial penalty for moving.||Move For Free Anytime||Move For Free Anytime|
- ADT and Protect America
Both ADT and Protect America have fairly robust policies, all of which are well spelled out. Both companies are also willing to provide this information to customers and potential customers alike. ADT has an overall well-rounded policy, while Protect America’s return policy is more extensive.
MONI Smart Security, however, lacks any real information on its services. Service representatives were unwilling to provide information to me, a non-customer, while their website and Terms and Conditions statements are overly lacking in details.
- Protect America
- MONI Smart Security
While ADT has a lot of shortcomings, it still has the edge over Protect America and MONI. ADT’s biggest downside is the upfront cost and all of the hidden costs, although you can wrangle out of some of these if you put in the effort.
As a result of its fairly open policies, Protect America places second. The company could probably ease up on its sales tactics a bit, but the fully DIY service makes it a worthy pick. The biggest downside is that you never own the equipment and must inevitably rent it.
As for MONI? Just don’t. Sure, they have a popular app that they contract out from Alarm.com, but as far as my experience goes, that’s the most positive thing about them. That said, the MONI brand is new for them. Perhaps they will shake their Monitronics past and present us with something new and fresh?