Having a good credit score is essential for accessing many financial services, from mortgages to credit cards. You may even get credit-checked for something as simple as getting a job.
If you have a low credit score, this not only means you run the risk of rejection but could also lead to you having to pay a higher interest rate.
It’s therefore important to understand what your credit score is, which factors affect it, and how to improve yours.
Although many online services exist to help you find out your credit score, most of them require a subscription fee. Even if you can get a free trial, you’ll probably have to enter your card details first, so if you forget to cancel, you’ll have to pay.
In contrast, Credit Karma was born from a belief that nobody should have to pay a fee to find out their credit score: their service is free.
What Is Credit Karma?
The American entrepreneur Kenneth Lin created Credit Karma back in 2008, and it now has over 60 million members, making it one of the most popular credit-checking services on the web.
After signing up, you’ll receive a refreshed credit score every day and a new credit report every week; you can view the updated versions as often as you like without paying. You’ll also be able to review the highlighted sections, which emphasize the parts you should focus on if you want to improve your credit score.
The credit score you’ll receive is your VantageScore 3.0, which is an algorithm developed by three major credit reporting agencies: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. You’ll receive two VantageScores in total: one from TransUnion and one from Equifax.
Don’t panic if your TransUnion score is slightly different from your Equifax score; this is common and nothing to worry about.
What started as a simple website to check your credit score has since expanded into other domains. You can now also access various tools to help you improve your credit score, compare yourself with other Credit Karma users, and assess your debt holistically.
CreditKarma's self-guided navigation and W-2 import system make the daunting task of filing less intimidating for first-time filers.
How Can I Get My Credit Score For Free?
Credit Karma provides a quick and easy way to get your credit score for free.
It has a simple sign-up service that mimics most websites. There are three stages to creating your account: giving your email address, filling in your personal details, and confirming your identity. The whole process only takes a couple of minutes.
Without entering in your credit card details or subscribing to a credit monitoring service, you’ll be able to get a free credit score and credit report.
To verify your identity, you must enter the last four digits of your social security number and answer some additional security questions. This prevents random people from being able to find out your credit score.
However, a huge benefit is that you don’t need to give Credit Karma any of your sensitive details, like your card number or full social security number.
What Else Can I Do On Credit Karma?
Credit Karma offers a multitude of useful services besides just giving you a credit score and credit report.
You’ll be able to receive a Credit Report Card; named as such, because you’ll receive a ‘grade’ from A-F.
Credit Report Card Factors
- Utilization: The amount of total available credit you’re using
- Payment History: Your percentage of on-time payments
- Age of Credit History: The average length of your open accounts
- Total Accounts: Includes both open and closed accounts
- Credit Inquiries: ‘Hard pulls’ for credit applications
- Derogatory Marks: Includes things like bankruptcies and civil judgments
This is incredibly useful for anyone who is struggling with their credit score and needs some help to know where they’re going wrong.
If you want to improve your credit score, but you’re not sure about the most effective way to do so, you can use Credit Karma’s simulator. This simulates the effect of certain actions involving credit limits, payments, and public records.
Activities You Can Simulate With Credit Karma
- Opening a new credit card
- Adding a new loan
- Adding credit inquiries
- Increasing the credit line on a card
- Opening a new credit card and transferring your balances
- Closing your oldest credit card account
- Increasing or decreasing your credit card balances
- Paying off all credit card balances
- Allowing one monthly payment to become overdue
- Allowing all your monthly payments to become overdue
- Having an on-time credit history
- Adding a public record to your account
- Having an account go into collections
There is a wide range of other calculators too, which help you plan for your financial future.
Full List of Calculators
- Home Affordability Calculator: lets you work out the maximum house price you can afford and the monthly repayments needed.
- Debt Repayment Calculator: calculates the monthly payments needed to repay a loan within a given period.
- Simple Loan Calculator: estimates the monthly payment of a loan.
- Amortization Calculator: breaks down your loan payments into interest and principal.
Now that you know more about your credit score, you’ll be able to compare yourselves with others. Credit Karma assesses over 5 million credit cards every month, meaning they have a huge amount of data and insights into the credits scores of other people.
You can filter by demographics such as age, state, and income. This may sound like a pointless exercise, but it can provide a useful marker for what’s achievable for somebody who looks the same as you on paper.
This isn’t the only way you’ll be able to use the vast client base of Credit Karma to your advantage. You’ll also be able to use the reviews of other members to help you make better financial decisions, and you can discuss your experiences with other members directly in the forums.
Credit Karma Forums
It’s not only other consumers you’ll get to speak with on the forums; there are some finance professionals who frequent them too.
Lots of these professionals also frequently post articles on the site. This includes ‘Your Weekly Money Scoop’, which compiles the best-quality finance articles posted online, and Credit Karma’s own blog. The Credit Karma blog includes sections like Karma Culture, Company News, Industry News, Engineering, and Pressroom.
Additionally, you can use Credit Karma to search and apply for credit cards. To help the process, you’ll be able to find information about debt accounts and receive recommendations about which credit cards will be most likely to approve you.
You’ll also be able to see data about whether companies approved or rejected other Credit Karma users.
Applying for Loans
As well as credit scores, you’ll be able to use Credit Karma to search and apply for personal and automobile loans and receive home and auto insurance scores.
These predict the likelihood of an individual filing an insurance claim using factors like active accounts, payment history, credit card utilization, and age of credit history.
They’ll base your recommendations on your credit score.
You can use Credit Karma to analyze other financial information too. There’s the option to track your spending by connecting your bank accounts and credit cards. However, it might be a better idea to use an alternative piece of software instead.
Finally, you’ll be able to search for unclaimed money too; many people have money left in bank accounts they’ve forgotten about.
How Accurate Is Credit Karma?
It’s common for credit reports to contain errors, which can be down to either clerical errors or identity theft. Although Credit Karma is generally accurate, you can’t rely 100% on one credit report.
That’s why it can be a good idea to compare your score with that of another website from time to time; a few Credit Karma alternatives are listed further down.
Another thing to be aware of is that there are a few different types of credit scores. Credit Karma gives you a VantageScore 3.0, but not all lenders use this score.
The most common type used by lenders is the FICO (Fair, Isaac, and Company) score. It’s, therefore, possible that there will be some discrepancies.
However, from 2015 to 2016, credit providers used VantageScore eight billion times. It’s becoming increasingly common and may soon replace FICO scores.
Is It Safe To Use Credit Karma?
You might worry about facing identity theft because of using Credit Karma, especially if you’ve kept up with the press in previous years. The company had some difficulties back in 2014 due to allegations that they did not keep customer information safe after disabling an SSL certificate validation.
However, Credit Karma has regularly submitted security assessments, and are proving to be very secure thus far. Thanks to the extra push in security, you don’t have much to worry about. The site has a DigiCert EV SSL certificate, which provides the highest level of authentication available to websites.
There’s also a high level of encryption for the details you enter. Finally, they monitor their services and have firewalls in place.
You won’t even need to input your credit card details to use the service, and you only need to enter the last four digits of your social security number rather than the entire thing. This means there’s little chance of your data getting hijacked.
Using Credit Karma can actually help to protect you against identity theft. You can set up alerts to let you know if there are any important changes to your credit report, as this could be a signal that somebody has taken your identity elsewhere.
However, one downside is that Credit Karma will use your personal data to advertise the loans and credit cards best suited to you. Although this is common practice for internet advertising, the idea of such sensitive data being used in this way can make some people uncomfortable. Unfortunately, it’s the price you pay for a free service.
Credit Karma FAQs
Is Credit Karma Really Free?
No matter how many times or how often you want to check your credit score, Credit Karma remains a free service.
This might seem doubtful, but it’s made possible by the use of advertising. Credit Karma makes money by using your financial data to give you personalized recommendations for loans, credit cards, and other financial products.
Companies pay Credit Karma for the chance to get featured on their website; this is how money is made rather than by charging users.
Is It Bad To Check Your Credit On Credit Karma?
Making credit inquiries on websites for loan and credit card providers can harm your credit score, so you might worry that making a similar credit inquiry on Credit Karma could also damage your score.
However, checking your credit on Credit Karma is harmless. That’s why it can be useful to check your score on Credit Karma before you make an application for a financial product.
Are Credit Karma Reviews Accurate?
Credit Karma has millions of users, and anybody can submit a review, so it’s wise to take what you read with a pinch of salt. However, if you notice a general trend of positive or negative reviews, then the information is likely to be true.
Of course, it’s always a good idea to look for reviews elsewhere before you make a final decision about whether to choose a financial product.
Can I Use Credit Karma On Mobile?
Credit Karma has its own mobile app, which is available for both Android and Apple devices. The reviews speak for themselves: on the Google Play store, the Credit Karma app has an average rating of 4.7/5 out of over 900,000 reviews. It’s also the fifth most popular finance app on Apple.
The app is entirely free and allows you to access most of the online features.
It can be useful to use alternative services as well as just Credit Karma. As mentioned previously, credit reports aren’t always accurate, so it’s best to use a range of measures.
- Annual Credit Report will give you three free copies of your credit report per year, and you can view each report once a year.
- Credit Sesame is another site that offers you free access to your credit score as well as ways to help you to improve it. It also offers a credit score, credit monitoring, and basic identity theft protection for free. However, Credit Sesame only uses Transunion; it doesn’t include Experian or Equifax. Like Credit Karma, it takes revenue from commissions and adverts.
- If you’d like to know your FICO score, one of the best sites is Discover Credit Scorecard. It’s free, and there’s no penalty for checking your score, but you’ll only be able to see it once a month.
Is Credit Karma a Good Idea?
Having a good credit score is a vital part of keeping your financial health in order. Taking care of it will give you more access to financial products and make your life a lot easier.
Without checking your credit score regularly and finding out which services are likely to accept or reject you, you could end up harming your score by applying for unsuitable loans or cards.
Credit Karma is one of the best services out there on the web to find out your credit score. It’s free, lets you check your score as often as you like, and even helps you to improve. What’s not to like?
Just remember not to put blind faith in all the recommendations given to you since this part is more about funding Credit Karma than helping you.