Checking your credit score has become easier and more affordable. Several credit monitoring platforms, including Credit Karma, offer free credit scores.
This review looks at the most common questions people ask about Credit Karma’s free service.
Table of contents:
- Pros & cons
- Safety & security
- What is Credit Karma?
Credit Karma is a San Francisco-based app and website that provides subscribers with free credit scores and access to some of their credit report data.
However, it offers more than just a free credit score. This service can also help you better understand the type of data that creates your credit score.
This kind of knowledge can help you start improving your credit history, which can, in turn, help you lower interest rates on future loans. It can also help subscribers avoid (and resolve) identity theft.
What does credit karma offer?
As a Credit Karma member, you'll get access to a variety of helpful data:
Credit Karma offers its members credit scores and credit report data from two major credit bureaus, TransUnion and Equifax. It does not pull data from Experian, the other major credit bureau. It calculates your credit score using the VantageScore 3.0 credit scoring model.
You won't be able to read your credit reports verbatim, but you can see data pulled from them. The data is organized into categories, such as payment history and available credit, which makes things a lot easier than scrolling through an entire credit report. However, you can also see your full credit report from all three credit bureaus by visiting annualcreditreport.com.
Monitor credit inquiries
Credit Karma also helps you monitor inquiries on your credit. Credit inquiries happen whenever you apply for new credit (hard inquiries) or check your own credit score (soft inquiries).
Hard inquiries require your consent and happen when you apply for a loan or place a security deposit on an apartment or house. This app allows you to track when an organization has pulled your credit as a hard inquiry, which can be helpful because if you didn't consent to the hard inquiry, then someone else may be using your identity to open a new credit card account.
Credit Karma uses soft credit inquiries to gather the information it provides you, so using this app will not adversely affect your credit scores or good standing.
Free credit scores daily
Some platforms may only show you your free credit score once a month or once a year, but Credit Karma will display your TransUnion and Equifax scores any time you open the app or log in to your account online.
Prompt access to your score is a great first line of defense against identity theft or errors on your credit report. Sudden drops in your credit score will let you know that you need to look deeper and find out what's going on with your credit profile.
Help with identity theft
Credit monitoring can help you defend yourself against identity theft, but it isn't always enough. You have to take immediate action to protect your credit information once you detect a problem. Luckily, Credit Karma can walk you through the steps you need to take if you do become an identity theft victim.
Credit score simulator
The credit score simulator helps you see how a personal finance decision could affect your score. The simulator is not exact and purely hypothetical, but it could still help you understand the potential credit impact of a personal finance decision. You can see how getting a certain personal loan, balance transfer credit card or auto loan would affect your score and/or how much your score would increase if you paid off your student loans.
Its credit score simulator is fun to use. You can experiment by trial and error without experiencing any of the actual, real-life negative effects of a bad decision.
Credit score comparison
Here's another interesting feature: it can compare your credit scores with scores of other anonymous subscribers who are also in your age and income categories. You can see how your Credit Karma score compares to existing averages.
Other Credit Karma services
Credit Karma has a few other tools of note outside of free credit monitoring. You would be under no obligation to use or open these Credit Karma accounts as a member, but they're nice to know about:
- Auto insurance rate finder: You can see auto insurance quotes through Credit Karma, but this service doesn't add much value when you're shopping for coverage.
- Credit Karma savings: This bank account pays online-bank caliber savings rates. Right now, in the current low-interest rate climate, the rate isn't super impressive. But it remains competitive with other high-interest savings accounts. Plus, the account doesn’t charge any fees and there's no minimum balance requirement. You'd have to connect the account to one of your other bank or credit union accounts to withdraw or deposit money. However, some customers have reported technical problems when withdrawing their money.
Is Credit Karma free?
Yes, Credit Karma is completely free to its subscribers. It won't ask you to enter your credit card information to register. There is no free trial involved that may charge you if you do not unsubscribe in time.
The free credit score offer is not a scam. However, you will have to enter your Social Security number and the system will ask for your phone number and an email address. The service also pledges that it will never sell your contact information or other personal data.
How does Credit Karma make money?
Credit Karma's free credit reports and free credit monitoring are possible because of advertisements. Banks pay it to advertise new loans and credit card offers you might qualify for based on the information recorded on the site.
While this may seem alarming at first, a variety of companies use this business model and it’s very similar to how Facebook uses your information to send you targeted ads. It does not share your data with third parties.
Credit Karma also receives a commission when you take a new loan or sign up for a credit card with one of its partner companies. These companies also benefit from economized marketing.
Credit Karma pros and cons
- User-friendly: It presents your credit scores from TransUnion and Equifax on a graph on your account dashboard when you sign in. The credit simulator also helps visual learners see how their debt repayment or borrowing decisions could affect their credit scores.
- Daily credit score: While other platforms may restrict your access to a free credit score to once a year, Credit Karma will show you your scores whenever you like. Seeing your score on demand helps a lot when you’re trying to improve bad credit or monitor your credit usage.
- Bonus financial services: You can use Credit Karma's online savings account free of charge. While you can also find these same financial products elsewhere, some users like using the same platform for multiple features.
- FICO scores: Credit Karma provides data and credit scores from Equifax and TransUnion using the VantageScore 3.0 credit scoring model. This can provide a lot of insight, but most lenders will check your FICO score, which could be different. Still, your VantageScore 3.0 score will follow the same trend lines as your FICO score.
- Advertisements: Ads make Credit Karma’s business model possible, but they can also annoy users. Just know that you should always make your own decisions about new loans, refinances and credit card offers. You'll see a lot of ads, but ultimately, that's a small price to pay for constant access to your credit scores.
Credit Karma Safety and Security
Should Credit Karma users worry about a data breach? After all, this platform has millions of Social Security numbers in its database, right?
Credit Karma assures its customers that its data is safe thanks to the platform's 128-bit encryption system with 24/7 monitoring. This level of security is the industry standard for financial services.
Due to some security problems on Credit Karma’s mobile app, the government requires the company to turn in security reports every two years until 2034. This works out well for users who are concerned about a data breach.
Credit Karma does not store your full Social Security number. It only stores the last four digits so that it can pull soft credit inquiries when you check your scores.
Why should you use Credit Karma?
You'll want to know your credit score before applying for a new loan, and Credit Karma offers a free and simple way to track your score from two major credit reporting agencies.
Even if you don't use Credit Karma. you should find another way to monitor your credit score so that you can protect yourself against any discrepancies as a result of an error or identity theft.
If you don’t mind an ad or two and some affiliate offers, Credit Karma is a superb — and free — way to monitor your credit.
Update: This article has been updated to reflect current Credit Karma practices and customer services.
Disclaimer: This story was originally published on October 7, 2019, on BetterCreditBlog.org. To find the most relevant information concerning Credit Karma, please visit their website: https://www.creditkarma.com/credit-monitoring