Why The Monitoring Center Isn't As Cheap As You Think
The Monitoring Center, like other alarm companies, offers an introductory price. For only $9.99 per month, they can provide 24/7 monitoring to customers in Ontario, BC, California, and Florida. Is there a catch? Kind of, and kind of not.
The Monitoring Center is a legitimate alarm company. They truly offer a $9.99 per month package. They also have a decent online reputation that is backed by an A+ rating from the BBB. However, it is difficult to find out what exactly is and is not included in the $9.99 per month price. So let’s start with what is included.
- 24/7 Burglary, Fire, CO, and Medical Monitoring
- Landline Monitoring
- Monitoring For Existing or New Equipment
Landline Monitoring is Old Technology
The only “catch” is that the $9.99 per month fee assumes that you have an existing landline. If you don’t, we don’t suggest you run out and add one.
Landline monitoring is obsolete and not the most secure form of monitoring. First of all, any semi-enterprising burglar can defeat a landline security system by cutting the wires using a $4 pair of wire cutters. Second, you want a signal that will remain strong during natural disasters and power outages.
If you happen to have a VOIP line, that is also an option, but they do not guarantee compatibility with all VOIP providers. Instead, my recommendation is that you go with The Monitoring Center’s cellular monitoring option.
Cellular and Remote Monitoring
The most secure and safest form of alarm monitoring is called cellular monitoring. The Monitoring Center (TMC) offers cellular monitoring as the primary form of communication between your alarm panel and the monitoring center, but they also offer dual path communication (cellular with Wi-Fi backup or Wi-Fi with cellular backup). No matter which path you choose, the price is the same. The price is broken down into three parts: equipment, monitoring and upfront fees.
1. Cost of Monitoring
The cost of monitoring will depend on which services you want to add. Let’s start with basic cellular monitoring.
Cellular Only – Add $10.00 per month
If you only want to add cellular monitoring and nothing more, your monthly fee will increase by $10 per month, bringing your total to $19.99 per month.
Remote Security Services – Add $12.00 per month
If you want to add Remote Security Service, your total monthly fee will increase by $12.00, bringing the total to $21.99. Keep in mind that this fee includes both cellular monitoring and Remote Services.
Remote Security Service makes alerts more interactive. Through this service, you can set up instant email or text alerts.
Everything, Including Home Automation – Add $14.00 per month
Finally, you can have it all for a total of $23.99 per month. This option includes cellular monitoring, Remote Security Services, and home automation.
Of course, some features will be limited by your alarm panel and the equipment you own. If you choose to bring your existing alarm panel to TMC, make sure your alarm panel supports the features you want. If it doesn’t, you may want to speak to The Monitoring Center about purchasing a new alarm panel. They sell multiple panels. I recommend their Honeywell panel. TMC also recommends the Honeywell LYNX Touch.
The Honeywell panel supports Z-Wave and Z-Wave Plus and offers lock, light, and temperature automation. The only “automation” feature they are missing is video surveillance. You can not add security cameras to the system.
Through the mobile app, you can create rules, even those based on your presence thanks to geofencing. For example, you can create a rule that says, “When I arrive home, unlock my door, turn down the temperature, and turn on the lights.”
As a side note, you can purchase a Z-Wave controller separately. For some, this may be a better option than buying a new panel. The team at TMC can help you decide how to use your equipment most efficiently.
TIP: The Monitoring Center has other upcharge options beyond those discussed above. You can learn more about them on their website.
2. Cost of Equipment
Next, you need equipment.
To add cellular monitoring, you will need to purchase a Cellular Backup (GSM) unit. The cost will depend on the control panel you are using. TMC sells two GSM units including a $99 model and a $149.00 model. As with all TMC equipment, you will own the device once you purchase it. Ownership of equipment helps to keep your monthly monitoring fee low.
As far as security sensors, you can bring your own, but TMC also sells equipment. They sell packages or you can buy equipment a la carte. For example, their $299 equipment package includes an alarm panel, keypad, door sensor, and a motion sensor, plus everything you need to get started.
3. Upfront Fees
Finally, TMC’s equipment is professionally installed. They charge a one-time $99.00 activation fee to make sure you are up and running.
Comparing The Monitoring Center and Link Interactive
To break it down, you can monitor for $9.99 per month if you have an existing landline. However, we recommend cellular monitoring with remote notifications which will run $21.99 per month. If you want to use your panel for smart home control, you will pay $23.99 per month.
Let’s compare TMC’s top tier plan to Link Interactive.
|Base Monthly Fee||$9.99||$39.99|
|Setup Service||Setup Service|
|Cellular Upcharge||$10.00 / mo||included|
|Smartphone Control Access Upcharge||$2.00 / mo (includes cellular)||included|
|Home Automation||$2.00 / mo||included|
|TOTAL MONTHLY FEE (monitoring, remote access, and smart home)||$23.99||$39.99|
|Cellular Equipment Charge||$99.00 or $149.00||$0.00|
|Equipment Fee as Outlined Below||$249.00||$97.00|
|TOTAL EQUIPMENT AND ACTIVATION OUT OF POCKET||$348.00||$97.00|
|Own Equipment||Right Away||Post Contract|
|Cellular Chip or Backup|
|# Door/Window Sensors||1||2|
|Other Included Sensors||Motion Sensor||Motion Sensor and Smoke/Heat/Freeze Sensor|
|Text and Email Alerts|
|Technician Install Time||2-6 hours||NA|
|Product Warranty||2 Years||2 Years|
|Return Period||30 Days||30 Days|
|Contract Length||1 Year||1 or 3 years|
|Setup Service||Setup Service|
Customer Service and Policies
We’ve already briefly touched on TMC’s ability to deliver customer service, including their A+ rating with the BBB, but we haven’t talked policies. They have policies that are both good and bad.
First of all, though they professionally install your equipment, they will allow you to return it within 30 days. They will even send the technician back out to your home to collect the equipment. This is fantastic.
Second, though they advertise “no contract,” they kind of have a contract. While we’ve listed all of the fees as monthly, they require that you pay annually. If you want to cancel within that year, you will find that in most cases, you will not receive a refund. The service is transferrable, so that’s always an option.
Third, the number one complaint on Yelp is that the monthly fee is not locked in meaning that they might increase the fee as you continue service.1
Fourth, if you want to move, they will transfer your service, but they support a limited geographic region. If you move outside of their area of coverage, you will probably lose any money you’ve pre-paid.
Fifth, several readers have commented that tech support can add up as it involves the dispatch of a technician. A reader named Kal shared that he was charged $299.00 to replace a motion detector.
Is The Monitoring Center a Good Option?
The Monitoring Center is a good fit if you live within the geographic range they cover and don’t plan to move. We think their most compelling offer is that they can takeover and monitor existing security equipment at a reasonable rate.