Nowadays, there are plenty of websites that offer free credit scores. Whether you’re working on repairing your credit or getting ready to apply for a loan, knowing your credit scores can be beneficial.
Credit Karma offers its members free credit score updates, credit monitoring services, and personalized advice on how to improve your credit score. It’s currently one of the most popular “free credit score” sites on the Internet.
So how does it stack up to other sites? And is the information truly reliable? We dug deep to find out precisely what they bring to the table and whether it’s worth taking the time to sign up. Read on for our full Credit Karma review.
How does Credit Karma work?
Unlike other sites, you never have to enter your credit card information on Credit Karma, so you don’t have to worry about hidden charges, fees, or trial periods that end suddenly.
How to Set up Credit Karma
Getting started with Credit Karma is super-easy and it will take you only a few minutes to be up and running. When registering, you need to provide your name, social security number, address, and a few finance-related personal details. However, you don’t have to worry about someone stealing your personal information.
Credit Karma offers several security measures, including 128-bit encryption to keep your data safe when being transmitted. The company also explicitly states that it won’t sell your data to third parties.
You can set up two-factor authentication to request a code every time you log in from a different device. After logging in, you will access your Credit Karma dashboard, where you will see your credit summary at the top of the dashboard. The dashboard includes:
- Equifax and TransUnion credit scores represent your credit scores from two of the three major credit bureaus; Equifax and TransUnion. While they are not your FICO scores since Credit Karma uses VantageScore, they give you a range where your FICO score would stand. You can also access the different types of information each bureau is receiving to determine your score.
- Factors impacting your score: Your credit score is determined by several factors, including credit inquiries, collections, bankruptcies, credit utilization ratio, payment history, and reported delinquencies. You can also see any discrepancies between information reported to Equifax and TransUnion, which could affect your overall score.
There are also additional sections, features, and tabs with tons of helpful financial information about credit, loans, and savings.
Is Credit Karma safe?
Credit Karma prides itself on keeping your personal information safe, and part of their success in doing so is that they don’t request that much.
As mentioned above, they don’t ask for a credit card number, and you only have to enter the last four digits of your social security number to get started. Furthermore, even that information isn’t stored permanently, so there’s no risk of someone hacking in and stealing part of your social security number.
Credit Karma doesn’t sell or rent your information to any third parties, including your contact information and your credit information. In addition, your information is safe on the website because they use encryption services to protect online users.
Credit Karma Complaints
Credit Karma’s BBB rating is currently a B+ partially due to the 330+ complaints filed within the last three years. However, with more than 100 million members, that’s quite a drop in the bucket, and the company works to resolve all complaints.
The Better Business Bureau also cites a slow response time to complaints as part of the reason behind their rating. Still, a B+ is an improvement over the last couple of years. It demonstrates that they’re taking clear steps to improve their customer service.
The FTC also sued Credit Karma in 2014 for security risks in its mobile app, but they have addressed those issues.
Who runs Credit Karma?
Credit Karma was founded in 2007 by Kenneth Lin, Nichole Mustard, and Ryan Marciano and has grown to a multinational company with over 100 million users. In December 2020, Intuit, which runs TurboTax, finalized the acquisition of Credit Karma in an $8.1 billion valued deal, including cash and stock.
Currently, Kenneth Lin is the chief executive officer, Ryan Marciano is the chief technology officer, and Mustard is the chief revenue officer.
How does Credit Karma make money?
Credit Karma makes money by offering promotions and financial services to its members from partner companies.
For example, if you apply for one of the “personalized credit card offers” using their link, they’ll get a kickback from that credit card company. So while you can easily opt-out of emails at signup, you’ll still get offers when you visit the website.
Some of the recommended credit cards Credit Karma offers include:
- Balance transfer credit cards
- Cashback credit cards
- 0% and low-interest credit cards
- Rewards credit cards
- Travel credit cards
- Hotel credit cards
Each credit card recommended on their “best credit cards” list is based on your credit profile.
What You Get with a Credit Karma Account
What benefits do you receive once you’re ready to open an account?
The website primarily centers around breaking down your credit information and analyzing it to help you make financial decisions and gauge what areas need attention. One of the most appealing features for many users is their free credit score.
Here’s everything you’ll get with your membership:
- VantageScore 3.0
- TransUnion credit report, credit score, auto insurance score
- Equifax credit report and credit score
- Free credit monitoring
- Credit report card to help identify weak areas in your credit report
- Credit score simulator shows how certain actions could potentially raise or lower your credit score
Credit Karma displays all of this information in easy-to-use dashboards. For example, you can look at what factors impact your credit score. Credit Karma breaks down each weighted category in the scoring system to show your rating in each one.
This helps you know what areas of your finances to focus on to improve your credit score. In addition, if you notice any errors or possible signs of identity theft on your credit report, you can take action by disputing them with the major credit bureaus.
You might have an “excellent” rating for credit utilization, but only a “fair” rating for payment history. So you know that your highest potential for future growth lies in making regular, on-time payments for your bills each month.
You can also click each category to detail further how they calculate different ratios and what statistics have changed since last month. They also show you how you compare to other Credit Karma users with similar demographics as your own.
It’s quite an in-depth breakdown of all the factors that factor into your credit score. This can be very helpful if you’d like a complete analysis of what you need to do to help improve your credit score.
New Features from Credit Karma
Credit Karma has recently rolled out a few extra features to offer members. The first is called Unclaimed Money. You can perform a free search to see if you qualify. When companies owe you money but can’t reach you, for example, they’re required to turn that money over to the state.
Credit Karma members can search a free database to see if they have any outstanding money to claim from the government.
Cash App Taxes
The second new member feature is a free tax return service called Credit Karma Tax. It was actually acquired by Cash App, but still available through Credit Karma’s website. It’s similar to TurboTax and H&R Block’s software services, with a maximum refund guarantee. Plus, both the federal and state returns are free to file, as are any additional forms you may need.
Credit Karma Money
Credit Karma Money Spend and Credit Karma Money Save are 100% free checking and savings accounts that come with no minimum balance requirements. The accounts also come with no inactivity fees, no annual fees, no monthly maintenance fees, and no withdrawal fees.
You can use your Credit Karma Visa Debit Card for free withdrawals at over 55,000 ATMs in the Allpoint ATM network. Funds in your account are FDIC insured up to $5 million. You can also get your paycheck up to two days early when you set up direct deposit.
See also: Top 5 Credit Monitoring Services of 2022
Credit Karma Credit Simulator
One outstanding feature of Credit Karma is its genius credit simulator. This feature predicts how specific financial actions will impact your credit score. For instance, if you plan to close a credit card or want to transfer balances to a new card, you can use this tool to determine how such an action will affect your credit score. Some of the actions you can simulate include:
- Open a new credit card
- Open a new credit card and transfer your balances
- Add a new loan
- Add credit inquiries
- Pay off all credit card balances
- Increase or decrease your credit card balances
- Have an on-time credit history
Credit Karma has excellent UX and UI designs that offer a seamless browsing experience on Android and iOS apps. In addition, you can access the Credit Score Simulator, calculators, and other resources and tips to help you improve your credit score.
The Credit Karma app offers an attractive and compact design that allows quick access to your dashboard, including your credit scores and reports. You also have access to recommendations for economical financial products and suggestions to improve your score.
In addition to all these unique features, you can turn on alerts and push notifications to be alerted every time there are changes on your account or credit profile. Credit Karma also suggests checking for the latest app version to ensure you are up to date and prevent running into issues.
If you need assistance related to Credit Karma’s service, you can do so online. You can either contact them through their secure messaging service after logging in to your account or email them directly through the email address you use when you log in.
Credit Karma also has a vast online help center where you can get answers quickly after searching your question. Unfortunately, if you want to contact Credit Karma to dispute your credit score, they may not handle it for you. Instead, you will likely have to contact the credit bureau in question directly to have your issue resolved.
Is Credit Karma free?
Credit Karma is indeed completely free, and the company claims that it will remain so indefinitely. That’s great news for users, but it’s still wise to be cautious when browsing the website.
It might be tempting to take out a loan or get a new credit card that you might not otherwise consider when you see all the various financing offers available to you.
Perhaps it’s a positive thing for some people; after all, everyone needs some form of financing at some point in their lives. Or maybe your credit has improved, and you are eligible to refinance a current loan at a better interest rate and save some serious cash.
Why is Credit Karma free?
One minor complaint from some users is that the dashboard has many ads and offers from third parties — maybe too many for some.
Of course, these ads and offers make money and can provide members with perks such as a free credit score. However, you shouldn’t take out a credit card or loan that you don’t need just because they offer you what seems like a good deal.
Because Credit Karma has access to so much of your personal and financial information, they can make highly targeted individualized offers to each member.
Be sure to use your judgment wisely before committing to any product Credit Karma offers you. But hopefully, if you’re using Credit Karma, you’re already determined to manage your credit responsibly so you can achieve all of your financial goals.
How accurate is Credit Karma?
The free credit score you receive from Credit Karma comes straight from TransUnion and Equifax, two of the three credit bureaus. It is not your FICO score, the scoring model used by most lenders. In the credit industry, these credit scores are referred to as “FAKOs.”
If you’re interested in getting your FICO scores for free, check out our article, 13 Credit Cards Offering Free Credit Scores. Some credit card companies don’t even require you to be a customer to access your FICO score.
While VantageScore 3.0 was created by all three major credit bureaus, it’s still not as popular as the FICO model. When it comes time to apply for a loan, your FICO score may be quite different from the credit score you’ve been tracking through Credit Karma.
There’s no way to tell how big the difference may be; in fact, member reports greatly vary. Some users claim that their credit scores from Credit Karma are much lower than their FICOs. It leads them to wonder if the website purposefully reports lower credit scores to keep customers coming back.
Other people are disappointed when they find out that their FICO score is lower and they don’t qualify for as competitive interest rates as they had hoped.
Still, others say their FICO and Credit Karma credit scores had negligible differences. It seems like personal experiences can vary widely, so it’s best to take your personal information with a grain of salt.
Does checking your credit score on credit karma lower it?
No. Checking your credit score on Credit Karma doesn’t hurt your credit score. When you request a credit report from Credit Karma, they perform a soft inquiry on your credit report, which isn’t reflected on your report. Only applying for a loan or other new credit will result in hard pulls.
Should I use Credit Karma?
Credit Karma is an excellent option if you want to keep an eye on your credit score regularly. In addition, it’s beneficial when you want to repair or build your credit score. Your credit score is critical in your financial health, and it’s essential to know how the scores change.
Unlike other services that charge between $15-$20 to view your credit score, Credit Karma allows you to check and track your score for free without needing a free trial or a credit card.
Using Credit Karma doesn’t affect your score because it performs a soft inquiry on your credit report, which will not be reflected on the report. However, most services will make a hard inquiry on your credit report, which will likely knock off a few points on your credit score.
What services does Credit Karma provide?
Credit Karma provides free credit scores, credit monitoring, and insights to help you take control of your credit. It alerts you to important changes to your credit reports and offers recommendations and tips to help you manage your credit wisely and for improving your credit score. Other helpful services Credit Karma provides include:
- A graph depicting your credit score over time
- A credit report card showing how debt utilization and payment history affects your credit score
- How your credit score compares to others by income, age, and state
- Tools to simulate how applying for a new credit card or paying debt affects your score
- Free credit report with weekly updates
What credit bureau does credit karma use?
Credit Karma uses your credit information from TransUnion and Equifax to show your credit rating. And while you can get free credit reports from annualcreditreport.com, you are limited to receiving the updates once every 12 months. With Credit Karma, you can access free TransUnion and Equifax credit reports and get updates weekly.
However, it’s not uncommon for the scores to be different. This is because not all your lenders report your credit history to all the three major credit bureaus. On the “Overview Menu”, under the “Score Details” section, you can toggle between Equifax and TransUnion to see factors that have the most and least effect on your credit score.
Using Credit Karma’s service to track and analyze your free credit score can be a big help when you’re in the process of looking for a loan. Just remember that when you are shopping for a loan, you should always talk to several lenders and compare offers before choosing one.
If you’re unsure how accurate your Credit Karma credit score is compared to the score your lender will pull, you can wait until you are ready to take the loan out. That way, you can batch all of your credit inquiries together and find out your credit score during the application process.
By doing so, you won’t risk hurting your credit score with multiple hard pulls on your credit reports from different lenders. Even if most lenders use a FICO score instead of the VantageScore 3.0 provided by Credit Karma, they still offer a helpful service.
So does Credit Karma prepare you for the loan application process? Yes, they provide a credit score that comes directly from the information (and formulas) furnished by the three credit bureaus.
If you’re looking for a free, reliable credit monitoring service, Credit Karma provides real-time updates and personalized advice to help you raise your credit score.
But nothing is an exact science, and you can’t rely solely on Credit Karma’s credit scores to determine how likely you are to get approved for a loan. However, more information is always better than none, especially when free.