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With data breaches occurring on a regular basis, consumers are on high alert. The massive Equifax breach in late 2017 is one of the most high-profile examples, exposing sensitive information of nearly 146 million Americans. As a result, more people are looking for ways to keep an eye on their credit than ever before.
However, monitoring your credit information is also just smart. It empowers you to take action should something erroneous occur, take steps to improve your score, and prepare should you require financial services in the future.
What is Credit Sesame?
Credit Sesame is an app that allows users to keep an eye on their credit report and score for free. But, in a sea of credit monitoring service options, is it the right service for you?
Is Credit Sesame Actually Free?
With so many sites claiming their credit report, score, or monitoring services are free when they actually aren’t, some level of suspicion makes sense. However, Credit Sesame is actually completely free if you stay with the basic service.
The basic account will never cost you a dime, no matter how long you use it. In fact, Credit Sesame doesn’t even ask you for a credit card when you sign up, so they can’t charge you by surprise.
If you want a higher service level, then you will have to pay for an upgrade, but that is completely optional.
How Does Credit Sesame Work?
When you sign up with Credit Sesame, you gain the ability to monitor your credit accounts and credit score. You’ll see tips about how you can improve your credit according to their analysis. Plus, it includes basic credit monitoring. If something on your credit report changes, like a new inquiry pops up on your report, they will let you know.
You also get to see a credit score from TransUnion, which is updated every month. However, it’s important to note that this isn’t a FICO score, the one most lenders use in credit decisions. Instead, it’s an alternative called the VantageScore 3.0.
A VantageScore 3.0 is used by some lenders, and uses a 300 to 850 range, just like a FICO score. However, the algorithm that completes the calculation varies from FICO. A 720 VantageScore does not equal a 720 FICO score.
However, just because a VantageScore and a FICO score aren’t the same doesn’t mean the VantageScore isn’t valuable. You can still use it to monitor your progress as, when your VantageScore goes up, your FICO score might be going up too.
To use Credit Sesame, you do have to provide them with some personal information. Considering that many people flock to credit monitoring services because they want to make sure their data hasn’t fallen into the hands of cybercriminals, it’s only natural to wonder whether Credit Sesame is safe to use.
If you do a basic internet search for “Credit Sesame Reviews,” you’ll see at least a few headlines that scream that it’s a scam. However, most of these articles aren’t legit. Instead, they are simply trying to acquire more traffic by scaring people into clicking. And, usually, once you do, you actually land on a positive review.
While no system is 100 percent secure, Credit Sesame is predominately safe. They take active steps to protect your information. Plus, using Credit Sesame doesn’t impact your credit score. While a “hard pull” on your credit can cause your score to fall, Credit Sesame doesn’t do a hard pull, so there is no fallout.
Credit Sesame is essentially as accurate as any other alternative. Since information from your credit report is the basis, they are using the same details as any other service, more or less.
The only point of debate tends to be Credit Sesame’s use of the VantageScore instead of a genuine FICO score. Since lenders usually don’t rely on a VantageScore for credit decisions, and your FICO score is likely different from the VantageScore you see, it can be somewhat confusing.
But, any decision that leads to a higher VantageScore usually benefits your FICO score too. It’s just important for users to understand that these two models do not produce the same results, so your FICO score may be higher or lower than the VantageScore you see.
If Credit Sesame is Free, How Do They Make Money?
One way Credit Sesame makes money by offering paid services to customers. While the base service is available at no cost, you have the option to get more advanced features and monitoring options for a small fee.
Additionally, Credit Sesame displays credit card and loan products that may interest you based on your profile. Typically, this is an example of an affiliate program at work. If you choose to apply, Credit Sesame receives a commission.
However, even though they may receive varying amounts of compensation, that doesn’t mean their advice isn’t reliable when they make a recommendation. Credit Sesame will only stay in business if they live up to their core mission of helping consumers. Their suggestions are based on analyzing your situation and finding options that benefit you, and not necessarily what will help them make money.
It is important to note that Credit Sesame does also have paid advertising partners, similar to banner ads on any webpage. The ads are targeted, so it takes your information and interests into account before one is displayed.
Should You Upgrade Your Account?
While you can always stick with your free Credit Sesame account, you also have the option to upgrade. This gives you access to more features, which can be valuable if you are working to improve your credit.
Credit Sesame Advance Package
The “advance package,” which costs $9.95 a month, gives you access to an updated VantageScore every day, not just once a month. Additionally, there is a monthly credit report download available, giving you more valuable information about where you stand.
Credit Sesame Platinum Protection
The “platinum protection” plan adds more credit monitoring services and identity theft protection, including $1 million in identity theft insurance. At $14.95 per month, it is less expensive than similar products through many of their competitors.
Will Credit Sesame Save You Money?
Yes, Credit Sesame can save you money. However, it doesn’t happen automatically by using the service.
If you want to save money by using Credit Sesame, there are a few ways you can proceed. For example, if you use the tools to improve your credit, you can secure lower interest rates on products like loans or credit cards, allowing you to reduce the amount you spend on interest.
Similarly, Credit Sesame may recommend a product you wouldn’t have found on your own. If it’s a better deal (such as one with lower interest rates or fees), you can save a pretty penny.
Credit Sesame is pretty adept at showing alternative financing options that may benefit you. This can include new products as well as ways to reduce your interest rates, such as by transferring your existing credit card balances to another card or using a loan to pay off your credit cards.
Can Credit Sesame Help You Make Smarter Decisions?
Yes, Credit Sesame can help. Aside from the financial product recommendations, they also have an amazing “What If” tool that lets you analyze various choices.
For instance, the tool can let you see what happens if you make certain credit decisions. This includes if you can get a better (or worse) deal if your credit score or debt load changes. This can be a powerful motivator if you are considering paying off some debt to improve your standing as you’ll be able to see what options may be available after your situation improves.
It’s important to note that the tool isn’t 100 percent accurate. Instead, it’s an estimate of how your score may change if you make specific choices. However, even though you aren’t guaranteed those results, it provides a solid indication of the impact of any particular decision.
Is Credit Sesame the Right Credit Monitoring Service for You?
Since Credit Sesame has a completely free service, nearly everyone can benefit from signing up. You can monitor various aspects of your credit report and score with ease, and access information that helps you make better decisions as a borrower.
Plus, Credit Sesame reviews from most reputable sources are positive and have been since the company came onto the scene in 2010. Since you don’t have to pay a dime (or even give a credit card number) to give it a try, why not create an account and see if Credit Sesame meets your needs? You’ll likely be happy you did.