Credit Karma provides access to your credit score and report for free. The free credit scores and reports are made available through TransUnion and Equifax, two of the main credit bureaus in the United States and Canada.
Is the credit score provided by Credit Karma truly free? Is the platform safe? How does Credit Karma make money?
This Credit Karma review answers these questions and more.
Credit Karma Review
Credit Karma was founded in 2007 and started offering free credit scores a year later. As of this writing in 2019, Credit Karma has over 100 million members and operates in the United States and Canada.
Credit Karma Free Credit Score
I have used Credit Karma for several years to keep tabs on my credit score. It used to be that one needed to pay up to $20 per credit score check, however, with the free service offered by Credit Karma, this is no longer necessary.
When you sign up for an account, you receive access to your scores from TransUnion and Equifax, two out of the three major credit bureaus.
The credit scores are updated as often as every week, making Credit Karma a great tool to use in monitoring your credit file for potential identity theft or fraud.
The scores you get on the platform are computed using VantageScore 3.0 and range from 300 to 850.
The VantageScore 3.0 algorithm was designed by Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. It varies from your FICO score, however, it’s not expected to be much different.
An increasing number of lenders now use VantageScore 3.0 to assess credit applications.
In addition to your free credit score, Credit Karma shows you the various factors you can work on to improve your credit score.
Credit Karma Free Credit Reports
Credit Karma also provides free credit reports from TransUnion and Equifax and they are updated on a weekly basis.
A credit report captures your credit profile including personal information, open credit accounts, credit inquiries, payment history, public records (e.g. liens, bankruptcy), lawsuits, court judgments, accounts that have gone to collections and inquiries from lenders.
When you apply for a loan, lenders pull your credit report and this inquiry shows up in your credit report as a “hard inquiry.”
I routinely check my credit reports from all three credit bureaus in order to identify any errors and/or suspicious activity.
Credit karma alerts you when there are important changes to your TransUnion or Equifax credit reports. If you notice an error on your TransUnion report, you can submit a dispute directly from your Credit Karma account.
Note that based on Federal law, you can always request one free credit report per year from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You can access this annual report by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.
Personally, I do not find that one credit report is adequate for me to monitor my credit so it’s great to have access to the free updated weekly credit report on my Credit Karma dashboard.
Credit Score Simulator
Credit Karma has a score simulator tool you can play with to see what could potentially happen with your credit score if there are changes to your financial situation.
For example, how does missing your minimum monthly credit card payment impact your score? What happens if you obtain a new personal loan? What impact does closing your oldest credit card have on your credit score?
How To Open a Credit Karma Account
Signing up for an account is pretty easy and takes only a few minutes.
- Visit Credit Karma.com here.
- Verify your identity by entering your personal information and the last 4-digits of your SSN.
- Membership is free and your credit card details are not required.
You can also check your credit score and report using the Credit Karma app which is available on the App Store and Google Play Store.
Their mobile app is well-rated with a 4.8/5 rating on the App Store (~150,000 reviews) and 4.7/5 rating on Google Play (~ 880,000 reviews).
The Truth About Credit Karma – How Do They Make Money?
Credit Karma offers to give you free credit scores and credit reports every week. What’s the catch? How do they make money?
The truth is that you won’t need to pay to access your credit score or report using Credit Karma. They make money by sending you personalized recommendations for credit cards, insurance and loans.
If you decide to apply for any of these offers, the lenders and advertisers pay them a commission. There is no obligation to apply for any of these offers.
What else do they offer?
1. A personal finance blog with a ton of resources relating to finances, credit score health tips, debt management and credit card reviews.
2. Free financial calculators including a debt repayment calculator, a simple loan calculator, an amortization calculator and a credit score simulator.
3. Community advice where you can chat with other members on Credit Karma and seek out their advice, knowledge or experience.
4. Credit Karma Tax: They offer a free tax service that is aimed at helping you get the maximum tax refund possible. This service is not available in Canada.
Is Credit Karma Safe and Legit?
When you are providing your private information to a third party, you want to be sure that they are legit.
Credit Karma is not a scam. They are a legitimate company with over 100 million members in the U.S. and Canada.
However, you should know that they collect a lot of information about you, which is how they are able to provide you with free credit scores, reports and other personalized offers.
do not share your credit reports or scores with unaffiliated third parties…
do not sell your personal information to or share your personal information with unaffiliated third parties for their own advertising or marketing purposes.
Credit Karma uses 128-bit encryption to protect your data and they have an A rating on the BBB.
Is Your Credit Karma Score Accurate?
There are so many versions of your credit score out there. Is it possible that the TransUnion and Equifax credit score you obtain from Credit Karma is different from what your bank gets?
Yes, this is possible and may account for many of the complaints you will come across online about free credit scores.
There are so many scoring models out there.
Credit Karma uses the VantageScore 3.0 scoring model. Other models in use include FICO (most popular) and TransRisk.
Generally, credit score models take the following factors into consideration:
- Payment history (35%)
- Debts owed (30%)
- Length of credit history (15%)
- New credit and inquiries (10%)
- Type and variety of credit accounts (10%)
Different weightings are allocated to these factors to calculate your score. The percentages shown above indicate what is used for your FICO score. An updated VantageScore 4.0 was introduced in 2017, however, it is not yet as popular as the 3.0 model.
Apart from the different models being used, you may also notice differences between your Experian, Equifax and TransUnion scores due to other reasons such as:
1. Lenders may not report to all three credit bureaus leading to differences in the credit report provided by each credit bureau and different scores.
2. Reporting may occur on different dates. For example, one credit bureau may reflect your loan repayment activity before another one does so.
3. There are credit scores created for specific industry purposes e.g. home and auto insurance.
So, what’s the use of a free credit score? It gives you a rough idea about the health of your credit file.
Does Credit Karma Hurt Your Score?
Using Credit Karma to obtain your credit score does not impact it one way or another.
When you request your own credit score, it’s considered a “soft inquiry” and does not negatively affect your score.
If a lender pulls your credit file because you are applying for a loan or credit card, this can affect your score.
What is a Good Credit Score?
A credit score is a three-digit number varying from 300 to 850 (United States) or 300 to 900 (Canada).
The higher your score, the easier it is for you to get approved for a loan or credit card.
Here’s how credit scores are graded:
- 800-850: Excellent
- 740-799: Very Good
- 670-739: Good
- 580-669: Fair
- 300-579: Very Poor
A good credit score is a score above 670.
As of September 2019, the average FICO score in the U.S. was 706 which means that the majority of Americans have a credit score that is good or better.
Credit Karma provides a free service that is worth checking out. Instead of paying for credit monitoring services, I use Credit Karma to obtain my updated credit score and report.
Another service in the U.S. for free credit scores is Credit Sesame.
If you are a resident of Canada, you can obtain your free credit score from Borrowell here.