Credit karma vs free credit report
Credit Karma Review: A Great Way to Get Your Free Credit Score
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Credit Karma offers free credit scores and tools to help consumers better manage their money. Credit Karma is a good option to help you better understand how your credit report and score will affect your financial future.
Credit Karma offers free credit scores and tools to help consumers better manage their money. Is it worth it? Bottom line: Yes, as long as you don’t mind the ads.
I’ve used Credit Karma for years to track my credit score. It updates my score monthly, showing the factors that are helping and hurting my credit score. It also provides detailed information on my credit report, all in one place. As useful as I’ve found Credit Karma, I’ve also fielded a ton of questions about the service:
- Is Credit Karma really free?
- How accurate are the credit scores?
- Is your information secure?
- What’s the catch?
In this full Credit Karma review, I’ll answer these questions. I’ll also demonstrate the key features of Credit Karma.
Credit Karma Credit Score
CreditKarma is a website that can help you control your finances by providing a report card of sorts. This overview covers your credit report and score, savings account advice, credit card guidance, and other financially specific resources. Unlike other credit reporting sites, you’ll find two major differences that exist in the Credit Karma philosophy:
- There is no monthly trial membership or initial credit card charge for signing up. Yes, it is totally free.
- You are given credit report card. This report outlines the main categories of your credit report like inquiries, past due balances, bankruptcies, etc, based on data from TransUnion and Equifax.
When you log into your account, you will land on a personal dashboard that shows you an immediate credit summary. This includes:
- TransUnion and Equifax Credit Scores–This is not your FICO score, but your credit scores from two of the three major credit bureaus, TransUnion and Equifax (the other is Experian). These will give you a very good idea of where you would stand with your true FICO score, though. You can also see the difference between the information each bureau is receiving to determine where any differences in score may be originating. Here’s a screenshot from my account at Credit Karma:
- Factors Affecting Your Credit Score–These include reported delinquencies, inquiries, collections, credit utilization, and your average age of accounts (AAoA). You will also see the discrepancies (if any exist) between what is being reported to TransUnion and what’s reported to Equifax.
In addition to what you initially see, there are also additional tabs, sections, and features with tons of information about credit, savings, loans, and many other financial topics. The perks that come with signing up for a Credit Karma account are found in some of their neat resources, which you simply can’t find anywhere else.
Is Credit Karma Really Free?
I answered this question above, but it’s worth repeating. Credit Karma is free. There are no trial periods and no credit card is required.
Key Credit Karma Features
Credit Karma offers a lot more than just credit scores. Here is a list of the key features that I find the most useful.
- TransUnion Credit Score: You’ll see your credit score based on credit data at TransUnion. The score is calculated using VantageScore 3.0. You’ll also see a history of changes to your score over time.
- Equifax Credit Score: You also get your credit score based on data maintained by Equifax. This score is also based on the VantageScore 3.0 formula. Because the credit data on file can differ between TransUnion and Equifax, your scores will likely be different as well. In my case, the difference was 11 points.
- Credit Factors: You’ll receive a list of the factors that are either helping or hurting your score. These factors include credit utilization, payment history, derogatory marks in your credit file, the age of your credit history, credit inquiries, and total accounts. We’ll dive into this a bit more below.
- Credit Reports: You can see the details of your credit reports at TransUnion and Equifax. A nice feature is the way this information is presented. Credit reports in their raw form can be difficult to decipher. The information at Credit Karma, however, is very easy to understand.
- Track Your Spending: If you want, you can connect bank accounts and credit cards to your account at Credit Karma. This enables you to track your spending over time. You can categorize your spending for budgeting as well.
- Credit Score Simulator: This tool can be helpful to understand how certain events will affect your credit score. For example, you can get an idea of how applying for a new credit card will affect your score. This can be very useful if you plan to buy or refinance a mortgage and want to avoid lowering your credit score. I’ll cover this feature in more detail below.
- Search for Unclaimed Money: This is a new feature that Credit Karma recently added. You can search for unclaimed money that may belong to you. The search is by state, and you’ll be directed to a state-specific resource where you can conduct an online search.
One big aspect of the CreditKarma.com genius is their credit simulation feature. This tool can help you predict how your credit score will be affected by certain actions. Do you plan to close a credit card, or purposely make a late payment because you can’t afford to send the check on time? Well, using this simulator, you can determine whether or not your credit score changes with each action.
You can simulate all of the following:
- Open a New Credit Card
- Add a New Loan
- Add Credit Inquiries
- Increase the Credit Line on One Card
- Open a New Credit Card and Transfer Your Balances
- Close Your Oldest Credit Card Account
- Increase or Decrease Your Credit Card Balances
- Pay Off All Credit Card Balances
- Allow ONE Monthly Payment To Become Past Due
- Allow ALL Monthly Payments To Become Past Due
- Have An On-Time Credit History
- Add Public Record To Your Account
- Have One Account Go Into Collections
Another cool feature is the Credit Factor report. This tab allows you to get a birds-eye view of your credit report according to TransUnion and Equifax. You can see exactly how much of your credit is being utilized, how many collections or late payments are being reported to each bureau, the number of inquiries you’ve racked up, etc. And what’s always interesting to me is that they are almost never a perfect match between the bureaus.
You may be used to checking your credit through only one or two bureaus. However, it would be very useful to check at least two, if not all three. Having a compare-and-contrast option within Credit Karma’s dashboard makes this simple and quick.
There are plenty of other smaller features within Credit Karma that help consumers manage their loans, savings and CD accounts, credit cards and almost any other financial account you can think of. The site also has its fair share of outside credit card and free-trial offers because providing a free service means they have to make money somehow. If you can avoid signing up for offers and don’t mind providing your contact information to a third-party provider, Credit Karma is a reasonable option to help you better understand how your credit report and score will affect your financial future.
Ease of Use
Credit Score Accuracy
- Totally Free
- Very easy to use
- TransUnion credit score
- Equifax credit score
- No FICO score
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18 Responses to “Credit Karma Review: A Great Way to Get Your Free Credit Score”
CreditKarma is THE cat’s meow. This is the second year using their free tax service. I used to use and pay for Tax Act. CreditKarma is WAY more responsive to help. Today is the SUNDAY 4/14. I asked a support question this morning and have received a relevant response by NOON the same day. I NEVER received this level of support elsewhere this close to filing. Presumably they make their money via credit and credit card affiliates and recommendations, I uses them for the same. I have no issue with this. Keep it up CreditKarma. I have been with you for many years.
Every time I tell creditkarma that I forgot my password, and then try to get a new password, they give me the run around with bringing up the same screen that says, e-mail address. I put the e-mail address in and guess what? That same screen comes up again. I can not reset my password. I finally gave up on creditkarma.
I recently purchased a secured credit card recommended by CK for $300. A week or so later, I checked my credit score and my transunion had jumped 54 points! Sound great? Compared that score with Credit Sesame and saw no such improvement! Who is right? Was I lead to believe something that actually didn’t happen by CK? OR, is CS behind, and it will increase in the future? Will have to wait and see!
Okay, this is how Credit Karma works and you need to pay very close attention in order to understand that this is a company in business to make money. Lots of it. In fact, between $682 million in 2017 up to $837 million more recently. They do so by not only applying a simple “vantage” formula to provide you with a score, but undertake some very embittering practices in making certain that your score fits within the criterion of their so-called “partners,” who are in reality nothing more than lending companies seeking a credit spectrum that is commensurate with interest rates ranging from 14.99% to 28.99% or higher. If you’re a Credit Karma member, you will become inundated with offers by these partners attempting to lure you into taking on a credit card or loan with interest rates in the spectrum that’s being designed through Credit Karma. The company tells you that they’re there to help you and provide you with guidelines to improve your credit scores through their system. What they’re not sharing with you is that they take steps to provide you with scores that make you believe your credit-worthiness is only in the range to obtain credit and interest rates being provided by their partners. It is absolutely not your FICO scores being reported to you on their system, a factor which determines your actual credit-worthiness that is more often than not well above what Credit Karma is telling you.
The way the company escapes the rules of deceptive trade is that the program is entirely non-compelled with free membership and they are utilizing a vantage score based upon a formula that is regularly tweaked to maintain as many members as possible within the score range that permits its partners to provide you credit with absolutely astronomical interest fees by comparison to your actual merit if you go direct to your own bank, credit union or other lending source and have them pull your true FICO scores. Additionally, if your plan is to purchase an auto, there is an entirely different FICO score for such purchases that is utilized by car dealers that will be verified by you at the point of purchase. In many cases, it’s much higher than you may think and certainly has no relationship whatsoever to “vantage” scores being provided by Credit Karma.
Every year, by law, you’re allowed a free copy of your official credit report from all three credit reporting agencies, TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. While they charge extra for a FICO score, it’s worth the money for a snapshot of where you actually stand credit-wise. Furthermore, since the economic downturn a few years back from the sub-prime mortgage scam and Wall Street derivatives debacle, so many consumers were negatively impacted that the more important rule being used to determine credit qualification is debt-to-income ratio, again having absolutely nothing to do with monitoring or knowing your “vantage” calculated score. If your ratio is within the proper spectrum, you’ll likely receive the credit you seek. Otherwise, it’s a sign that you need to adjust your numbers in order to be applicable. It’s designed to help keep you from entering the zone of no return by allowing your debt to exceed your income, something that many folks were previously permitted to undertake with little attention to the devastation that might result from any number of related factors.
Lastly, if you’re not credit-worthy at the time, it’s nothing more than a task that you have to take directly in hand and deal with yourself, not by utilizing some program that claims to be there to help you reach your goals, something that is directly counterproductive to a company like Credit Karma who makes millions each year luring customers into credit marketing that in all likelihood only puts your head further underwater rather than bail you out. If you’re truly upside-down with respect to your debt-to-income ratio, do something real about it. Get a second job, change your spending habits, look at your yearly free credit report straight from the consumer credit reporting agencies to determine how to begin heading in a positive direction. Pay down your credit with the highest interest rate first, followed by the others in similar fashion. Get your total credit card debt paid off if possible, but at least less than 30% of your total credit available. Start dealing with cash, meaning your debit card or currency itself and build your budget around that limitation until your credit is completely satisfactory and under no circumstances whatsoever should you be lured into any balance transfer options regardless of how easy the lenders make it appear. It will only drive you deeper into debt, possibly one that could prevent you from paying off the balance within your natural lifetime and that’s no joke. It is the design of credit lenders to essentially get you hooked up to the milking machine so that you are working merely to pay your credit bills, with little flexibility or choice otherwise. There are also huge fees for late payments, etc. that will only cause you to fail in your quest for truly remedying credit problems. Credit Karma is not an institution for credit repair or help in any sense otherwise. It’s there to provide you with numbers that they hope you will come to trust in making credit lending decisions with their partners who will bombard you with lending offers that take on but part of your total debt and do so at interest rates sometimes reaching the legal limit under consumer credit lending laws.
So there it is, straightforward and to the point. Never allow a company who makes millions per year in revenue by selling credit or loans to give you an assessment of your credit scores or to offer you even more credit or loan opportunities claiming to help you out of debt. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Though Credit Karma is free and has all the useful tips you described, the scores are misleading and a huge discrepancies in scoring at times when comparing to FICO Scores.FICO, although comes with a monthly fee is more important than Vantage scores and should be the recommended research for major purchases as FICO Scores is what qualifies you and additionally determines your interest rate, not Vantage Scores. CK is helpful in terms of education however additional research is necessary to obtain accurate credit score readings. Obtain your report from all three of your credit bureaus for your scores.It is free!
I have tried to get customer service to help me with my account and no one has responded to any of my emails. No phone number to contact so now I have to work with another company. Horrible customer service
Credit karma is not accurate at all give you incorrect information on mortgages, loans and everything. Their 649 credit score say it’s fair but the real truth its pretty bad and if you based your credit decision on opening a account on another credit card or loan it will go against your credit score even further due to false information.
I cannot get into my account and I have tried numerous times to get them to send me a code to reset my password. I have not received a code yet. WHY?
Credit Karma used to be AWESOME and THE best way to keep track of your credit and manage your accounts. But now they have changed their format and it is really hard to use. The BEST feature was their red-yellow-green side-by-side “leaderboard” of your credit accounts. It had everything laid out in a great color-coded chart that let you see at a glance all of your accounts, their status, relative status, and made it super easy to make decisions on how to manage/pay off your accounts. It really helped me to improve my score and get a couple of credit cards which were perfect for my personal and business use.
The new format has eliminated that feature, and is no longer useful to me. I am looking for a new website with something comparable to the old features.
I’ve been using Credit Karma for a few years and really like it. My whole family uses it – me, my mom, and my sister. We love how they email us updates and increases/decreases to our scores. Our scores have actually increased dramatically since using it which is awesome!
I try to look at Credit Karma about 5 days a week. I like the fact that once I log in my credit scores from two credit reporting agencies appear right on the top of the screen. For free it is really worth it to sign up.
Yes but their scores are not accurate and they always ask you to take out a loan.
I used credit karma and quizzle I had a 669 score on quizzle and a 702 score on karma ,so I went to see about a loan and they said I have no credit score at all with fico ,does not make any sense.
John, that really doesn’t make any sense. But you can confirm it yourself by getting your FICO score directly from FICO. Just follow this link.
On Dec. 9 I completed a 7 day free credit report through CreditKarma. I cancelled the service within minutes. On Dec. 10, Transunion charged me $29.95! I called the phone number given on the website and it was for Transunion. I explained the 7-day free trial, that I canclled it immediately, and the Transunion rep refused to reimburse me. We ended up in a shouting match, this woman told me that I may have filled out a 7-day free trial, but it did not apply to Transunion. I am going to every website I know of to complain, including BBB and the District Attorney, to file false representation.
Glad I read your review. Score was at 666[. ], but now down to 634. $24 K in student loans is the reason–pay back began in Feb, 2013.
Tried to get annual free credit reports, but security questions a bit off, so don’t know if I answered correctly. Will now have to call.
But thanks for the articles, and referral to credit karma (don’t remember what article led me here.)
I had never heard of this – is this really FREE? I can’t believe that. Anyway, thank you very, very much for passing this information along and for being so transparent. I appreciate this resource! Thanks again! T.
I’ve been using CreditKarma for over 10 years now; they truly are free!! It’s the best tool I’ve found to get educated!! I didn’t realize until reading this article, though, that the credit score reported isn’t the FICO score. I wonder how those two are different; I need to do some more research, clearly!