Credit Karma Review: How to Get Your Credit Score for Free

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There’s a lot of fear tied to personal finance.

Many people are scared to invest in the stock market, and others are afraid to check their student loan balance.

Another common fear? About 40% of Americans don’t check their credit scores at all. Some people avoid it because they think checking their credit score or credit report will hurt it. But that’s not true.

Your credit score is one of the most important factors used in determining your financial future. Knowing how to improve your credit score could be the difference in tens of thousands of dollars saved over the life of a loan. 

Fortunately, there are companies on a mission to demystify credit and credit scores. Banks, lenders, and other financial service providers are now offering their members free access to their credit scores with no negative effects.

One of the biggest providers in free credit scores and reports is Credit Karma.

What Is Credit Karma?

Credit Karma is a personal finance company based in the U.S., U.K., and Canada. It’s best known for offering free credit scores and reports. The company has more than 100 million members and an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, with no unresolved complaints.

Free Price Credit score, monitoring, and other tools
DollarSprout Rating Many free tools and resources

Credit Karma offers a way to check your credit score and report for free. The app also offers free credit monitoring, financial calculators, and a credit score simulator that shows how a decision would impact your score. In addition to its free credit tools, Credit Karma provides personalized recommendations for ways to improve your credit.

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Pros

  • Completely free
  • Offers reports from both TransUnion and Equifax
  • Many tools and calculators to help you make financial decisions

Cons

  • No FICO score
  • Doesn’t pull your Experian credit report
  • In-app advertisements

Credit Karma has been offering members free access to their credit scores since 2008 and full credit reports since 2014. The company’s mission is to give people free tools and recommendations to help them feel confident about their finances.

Related: How to Freeze Your Credit If You Need To Stop Fraud In Its Tracks

Credit Karma Review: How Is This Service Free?

Credit Karma starts by letting you check your credit report and credit score for free. It then analyzes your credit report and makes recommendations on credit cards, loans, and other services that could help save you money or earn rewards. For example, it may offer recommendations for cash back credit cards or auto loans. 

If you sign up for a product through any of its suggested links, Credit Karma gets a commission from the bank or lender who offered it. Credit Karma only works with financial partners who share its mission so it can offer you products that actually fit your needs.

Related: 6 Places to Check Your Credit Score for Free

How Does Credit Karma Work?

To join Credit Karma, you’ll create an account by entering your email address and creating a password. You’ll then enter your personal information, including your Social Security number, and verify your identity by answering questions based on information from your TransUnion credit report.

Once your identity is verified, you’ll be able to use Credit Karma’s entire suite of services.

Free Credit Score

You can get your free VantageScore 3.0, updated weekly, from two of the three major credit reporting bureaus, TransUnion and Equifax. Credit Sesame also offers your TransUnion score and report for free. 

Your VantageScore is different from your FICO score, which is still the primary score used by mortgage companies. But since its update to 3.0, the VantageScore uses the same credit score range as FICO, so you can expect them to be similar.

Related: DollarSprout’s Credit Sesame Review

Credit Karma credit score
Source: CreditKarma

Free Credit Report

Your TransUnion and Equifax credit reports are free through Credit Karma. Your credit report includes information that impacts your credit score including payment history, credit limits and balances, length of credit history, and more.

Credit Karma grades each part of your credit using the VantageScore model with suggestions on how you can improve your credit score. Unlike the FICO model that weighs the aspects of your credit by percentages, VantageScore grades them by impact ranging from high to low.

Your payment history, credit card usage, and derogatory marks like liens, bankruptcies, or loans sent to collections have the highest impact on your score. Your credit age has a medium impact and total accounts, and hard inquiries have a low impact.

CreditKarma score details
Source: CreditKarma

Credit Monitoring Service

Credit Karma’s free credit monitoring service will help you quickly spot credit report errors and identity theft. If a hard inquiry is made on your account, Credit Karma will notify you so you can take action.

You’ll also get notifications if your name shows up in a company’s public data breach, on the Dark Web, or if anything important changes on your TransUnion credit report.

CreditKarma identity monitoring
Source: CreditKarma

Related: Credit Monitoring Services: All You Need to Know

Loans and Offers

After you view your credit score and browse your credit report, you can see Credit Karma’s recommendations for loans, credit cards, and other financial products.

Personalized offers and recommendations include:

  • Credit cards
  • Personal loans
  • Auto loans
  • Home loans

In June 2019, Credit Karma stopped offering recommendations for student loans, business loans, and debt relief solutions.

While some might see these offers as cumbersome, they can be helpful. When looking for credit cards or loans, Credit Karma will compare your credit profile with that of others who’ve been approved for the same product or card and determine your odds of approval.

This can save you from applying for a card or product you might get denied for and protect your credit score from dropping due to a hard inquiry.

Related: 6 Reasons Your Credit Score Just Dropped

Additional Features

If you’re wondering how a financial decision might affect your credit score, the Credit Score Simulator lets you view various scenarios and uses your credit score to explore estimated outcomes.

The Credit Karma blog is full of informative articles to help you understand credit and all aspects of spending and debt. You’ll also find financial calculators and thousands of member reviews on credit cards, loans, and more. This should help you make informed decisions.

You can also dispute errors on your TransUnion credit report with Credit Karma, file your U.S. taxes for free through Credit Karma Tax and search for unclaimed money that belongs to you.

CreditKarma unclaimed money
Source: CreditKarma

Credit Karma Review FAQs

Below are some common questions about the Credit Karma app and service.

How does Credit Karma get my credit score?

Credit Karma pulls your information from TransUnion and Equifax to provide your VantageScore 3.0.

The process doesn’t require a credit card and only takes a few minutes to complete. Credit Karma will then continue to update your scores weekly so you can track your progress. You’ll also get email notifications when something changes, like if you’ve opened a new card or if your score changed.

How accurate is my credit score?

The VantageScore was jointly developed by the three major credit reporting bureaus to compete with the more well-known FICO score.

FICO’s reporting model can take up to six months of credit history to establish a FICO score while you can establish a VantageScore in as little as a month of opening a credit account. Because of this, the FICO score neglected a large number of consumers, leaving them unable to get financial services.

VantageScore also ignores paid collections accounts from your score, makes allowances for consumers affected by natural disasters, and counts all hard inquiries made in a 14-day period as one inquiry so you can shop for rates without worrying.

These factors make the VantageScore the most accurate and consistent credit scoring model, especially for consumers with a short credit history.

CreditKarma credit score factors
Source: CreditKarma

Will using Credit Karma affect my credit score?

Credit Karma requests your credit report information on your behalf from TransUnion and Equifax as a “soft inquiry,” so using Credit Karma won’t affect your score. But signing up for one of its partner services or acting on a personalized recommendation might.

Applying for credit, such as a loan or credit card, is considered a hard inquiry and will impact your credit score. If you apply for credit through Credit Karma or somewhere else, your credit score could take a hit.

However, if you act on a recommendation from Credit Karma to decrease your credit usage or increase your amount of credit, your score could increase.

Is Credit Karma safe?

Credit Karma is safe. Signing up requires you to submit personal information, including your Social Security number, so keeping your information safe is Credit Karma’s highest priority.

It uses 128-bit or higher encryption to protect members’ personal information. If for any reason it suspects suspicious activity, you’ll get an alert, and its dedicated security team will investigate and respond as quickly as possible.

The company also works with independent third parties to regularly assess vulnerabilities.

Will Credit Karma sell my personal information?

Credit Karma doesn’t sell or share your personal information with unaffiliated third parties.

When you sign up for one of its partner’s services, Credit Karma will share your information with your permission, but you’re protected under the company’s privacy policy.

Credit Karma Review Summary: A Safe Way to See Your Credit Score

Your credit score isn’t just used to get a loan. Utility companies, landlords, insurance, phone, and even potential employers can all check your credit before starting your services or approving your application.

Anyone who wants to improve their credit score, find unclaimed money, or learn more about their finances will find Credit Karma useful.

A good credit score is never something to take for granted. Credit Karma is a legit way to see the impact your choices have on your credit and offers simple actions you can take to improve your score.

Author
Jen Smith

Hi, I'm Jen! As a best selling author on Amazon writing about minimalism, spending less, and making more money, my work has been featured in U.S. News and World Report, Yahoo Finance, Money Magazine, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2017 my husband and I finished paying off $78,000 of debt and that's what I help others do here.

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