Credit Karma Review: Get Your Free Credit Report and Credit Score

Nick Carroll
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Credit Karma delivers free credit scores and gives free monitoring alerts when there are important changes to your credit reports. With Credit Karma, you can check your credit report as frequently as you'd like without impacting your credit score.

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Is Credit Karma Free?

When consumers read or hear the word "free," it is usually too good to be true. In this case, Credit Karma provides the public with the ability to pull their credit score for free.

 

How Does Credit Karma Make Money?

Companies offering free products are either losing money or receiving revenue in another form. Credit Karma is not any different.  

 

Credit Karma's business model does offer free credit reports but earns its money not from account holders directly, but through advertisers. Online marketers and advertisers pay Credit Karma to post ads and products to its website. In return, Credit Karma receives payment. 

Source: Credit Karma

Is Credit Karma Safe?

Credit Karma uses encryption data to protect information and the transmission of data.  To ensure security protocols are adequate, they've hired independent third-party entities to test the website for holes and vulnerabilities in its capability to protect data.

To learn more about Credit Karma's Security Practices, click here.

 

Pros and Cons of Credit Karma

 

Getting a free credit monitoring service for free is always a plus and a great thing.  With this free service, you can pull your credit report and score at anyplace and anytime without impacts on your credit score.  

Another great feature of using Credit Karma is the vast amount of free resources their website offers.  If you are struggling to understand what is a good credit score, Credit Karma has an article about it.  If you are looking for low-interest credit credits to transfer your high credit card balance, Credit Karma has recommendations based on your credit score.

Credit Karma uses the credit scoring model, VantageScore, which was developed by the big three credit bureaus.  This is different than the most widely used FICO score, which was a safely guarded secret until a few years ago.  

Vantage has the leading edge because all three credit bureaus collaborated on this model to provide a transparent scoring model.  

Finally, the last benefit to add to the list is their Q&A.  Credit Karma has a dedicated space for consumers to ask credit and finance questions from people seeking help on credit repair to how to remove negative inquiries.  Credit Karma has staff to monitor the community board regularly, promptly answering any issues.

Credit Karma is quite an intuitive model; however, when it comes to getting something for free, there are always drawbacks.

With Credit Karma, it is unfortunate their service only includes information from two of the three credit bureaus: Equifax and TransUnion, not Experian.  Having access to only two of the three credit bureaus is a disadvantage as different banks and lenders may use Experian, especially small lenders and credit unions.

Should you apply for a loan, having checked only the Equifax and TransUnion, you may be denied credit because of an erroneous mistake on your credit report.

Credit Karma Reviews

If you've read our insurance article, "We Compared Prices on 9 Auto Insurance Companies and You Won't Believe What We Found", you'll know we like to read reviews from ConsumerAffairs.

 

While not highly rated by consumers in Overall Satisfaction with 3 stars out of 5, the majority of the reviews were very positive.  The negative comments mostly pertained to one's phone number being tied to the account for security measures.  When consumers changed their phone numbers, it is a complicated process getting the account updated.

The popular tech magazine and online website, PCMag.com, gave Credit Karma 4 out of 5 stars.  The IT company loves its "excellent user experience" and recommended solutions to resolve problem areas in one's credit report and score.  

The negative aspects highlighted by PCMag were the vast number of products being pushed.  The other issues were the same issues outlined above in the Pros and Cons of Credit Karma.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) rated Credit Karma an "A".

 

Is Credit Karma Legit?

Rest assured that Credit Karma is a legit credit monitoring service offering you free access to your credit report and score.   With that being stated, don't expect a recent credit report to be reflected.   One of the concerns of Credit Karma offering a free credit monitoring service is their inability or unwillingness to provide reports that are within several days.  

Typically, most reports monitored and products recommended are estimated to resolve issues that occurred 60 to 90 days later.  

In the end, it is a free service, and Credit Karma is not a scam.  With credit reports being pulled from Equifax and TransUnion, Credit Karma can provide you an honest look at your credit position.

Is the Credit Karma Score Accurate?

Credit Karma uses the VantageScore model, which is a direct competitor of FICO. Because of Credit Karma's business model, which seeks to return clients, there is a vested interest in ensuring credit scores are as accurate as possible.

 

Because of Credit Karma's transparency, account holders know the company uses the VantageScore 3.0 credit scoring model. The model "sets a new standard for inclusiveness with its ability to provide a credit score for an additional 30–35 million consumers who are unable to be scored using traditional models", and has the "ability to better distinguish between consumers with a clear track record of unfavorable credit behaviors from those who simply lack credit histories is a significant advantage."

 

Since Credit Karma uses VantageScore 3.0, you should know that VantageScore has a new model out, 4.0, which "offers predictive performance lift across all credit industries, outperforming VantageScore 3.0 in all major credit categories". 

 

It is also important to note that VantageScore and FICO try to predict the same outcome, yet the two models are not identical. To read more, visit Experian's "The Difference Between VantageScore Scores and FICO Scores."

 

According to Credit Karma, "VantageScore 3.0 is a credit scoring model. It takes the information in your credit report and turns it into a score. There are many scoring models out there, including ones from FICO and other companies. Each one calculates your score a bit differently, but they all use information from your report."

How Do You Sign Up for Credit Karma?

To obtain your free credit report from Credit Karma, go to creditkarma.com and select "Get Started." If you do not already have an account, click the "Sign up now for free" under "Don't have an account?".

 

On the next page, you will provide your email address and type in a password that you will remember. It is important to take your time on this step as many account holders expressed frustration with getting this corrected afterward. Therefore, slow down and pay attention.

 

 

How do I get my free credit report from Credit Karma?

 

After signing up for a free account, use the credit karma login.  Your latest available credit report, and score will already be pulled. If this section is not updated, in the top menu bar, select My Overview and then Score Details.

 

On this page, you can toggle between TransUnion and Equifax to see both scores and which direction your credit score is trending. Under your Credit Score, you can select Credit Factors or Credit Report.

 

Credit Factors provides useful financial metrics to help you see where you can make improvements. For example, if you have a high utilization rate, you can see what percentage it is. This can drive you to make a higher credit card payment and stop using the credit card, which will lower your credit utilization rate while increasing your credit score.

 

The Credit Factors section is also useful to quickly scan for Derogatory Marks or Hard Inquiries on your Credit Report.   

 

Selecting Credit Report, you have the option to view or print your latest report. This is a great feature, because it delivers quick, scannable financial data points from current balances on loans, if the accounts are in good standing, and you can view past credit reports. 

 

Should You Sign Up with Credit Karma?

After reviewing the benefits and downsides of this credit monitoring website, for a free account, Credit Karma offers a lot of insight that helps consumers make wiser decisions.  

 

Credit Karma offers free and safe access to your credit reports that make it easy for all to gain their information in one spot. By signing up for the credit alerts, you will receive real-time pointers to help improve your credit score and make smarter decisions. Give Credit Karma a try!

 

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