Based out of California, Credit Karma has been featured in multiple news articles including MSNBC, SmartMoney, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and TechCrunch. Beginning with two credit reports and scores, the heart of personal finance, they bring more transparency and certainty to credit and finance with free monitoring, data-driven resources and personalized recommendations. This review explores Credit Karma's free credit monitoring service in greater detail.
Credit Karma’s biggest selling point is that it is free. At absolutely no cost, they’ll provide members with unlimited free access to their credit reports from both TransUnion and Equifax, and even more impressively, they refresh these reports on a weekly basis.
By coupling these free reports with credit scores, account alerts, outstanding educational resources, easy-to-use interface, relevant offers, and a credit score simulator, it’s hard to find fault with Credit Karma’s product.
Credit Karma is free. They don’t even ask for a credit card as part of the signup process. They make their money by including non-intrusive ads with their product. For instance, while viewing their credit report, a user might see a small ad for a credit card that Credit Karma thinks they’ll qualify for, based on credit history. If the user signs up for the card, Credit Karma makes money.
Two Official Credit Reports
Straight from Equifax and TransUnion, these fully-functional reports are updated every week. Credit Karma provides users with an easy-to-use interface for navigating and understanding their credit report, including suggestions for improving their credit.
Although CreditKarma, unfortunately, does not provide official FICO scores (more on that in a minute), they do provide a VantageScore 3.0 for each credit report. VantageScore is a newer scoring model that has gained traction but is still not necessarily either the most popular or accurate measure of one’s creditworthiness.
Either way, you can see your VantageScore go up and down over time on well-presented graphs and reports, which can give you an indication as to whether you’re on the right track. One cool feature is that you can actually compare your credit scores to others in your area, age group, and so forth.
Credit Karma provides fully-configurable alerts panel to notify you by email of anything from a change to one of your credit reports to large purchases, withdrawals, change of interest rate, and so forth. Every time you log into your account, you can check for changes on your credit report since the last refresh.
Sleek Mobile App
Credit Karma has a well-designed mobile app for both Android and Apple devices which allows you to access all information on your credit reports, scores, and alerts while on the go. The app currently has an average rating of 4.5/5 stars in both the Google Play and App Store.
Excellent Credit Education
Credit Karma maintains an up-to-date library of credit-specific educational resources that are well-written, informative, and accurate. Additionally, they have an active community where you can get advice on all aspects of your credit and scores.
Credit Karma provides everything from debt repayment and loan calculators to fully-featured credit score simulators powered by TransUnion. The Credit Score Simulator allows you to see how different decisions, like paying off part of your credit card debt, or getting a home loan, might affect your credit score in the future.
Although there is a lot to love about Credit Karma’s free service, it isn’t perfect.
Only Two out of Three Credit Reports
The service has absolutely no way of pulling your credit report from Experian, which is a significant blind spot in any comprehensive credit monitoring strategy.
No FICO Scores
The credit scores provided by Credit Karma aren’t true FICO scores, so they aren’t the same credit scores most lenders will see when they pull your credit. There have been reports of Credit Karma’s VantageScore being off by as much as 100 points from what a lender saw when they pulled that customer’s FICO score from the same bureau.
Privacy & Security
There have been a significant privacy questions raised by the FTC in regards to Credit Karma’s mobile app not being as secure as the company claimed, resulting in a settlement in 2014, wherein the company agreed to submit to annual independent tests to verify their apps are secure for the next 20 years.
There are a significant number of complaints against Credit Karma with the Better Business Bureau. A close examination of the nature of these complaints indicates that many of them are the result of confusion on the part of the customer which the company makes an effort to respond to, usually by providing some education about the company and its services.
There is no customer support available via telephone, which is problematic. The fact that customers are taking the time to complain with the BBB for a free service merits examination and consideration.
The Bottom Line
Between the frequent refreshes, lack of membership fees, and outstanding educational resources, Credit Karma’s approach is unique in the industry and popular amongst its users. They provide enough information to gauge where you’re at and what direction you’re going, giving full access to your credit reports at absolutely no cost.
For these reasons, we recommend Credit Karma for those who are tight on cash or are just getting started in learning about credit, as one can save hundreds of dollars on credit monitoring services and learn a substantial amount by using their platform.
Credit Karma is free for all members and never requires a credit card.
Credit Karma does not offer trials. The service is free to all customers.
Scores & Reports Provided
Credit Karma offers each member a copy of their Equifax and TransUnion credit reports and their accompanying VantageScore 3.0 credit scores for each report.
Credit Karma offers integrated error disputing wherein they will contact the credit bureau on your behalf to dispute a particular item in your credit report.
Credit Karma sends members alerts when their credit score or reports change which can be seen in their member profile.
Credit Score and Report Refreshes
Credit Karma offers their members weekly updates to members’ Equifax and TransUnion credit reports and scores.
Credit Karma uses 128-bit encryption for their website and protects the transmission of customer data to their site. Their data center is staffed 24/7 with security personnel.
Important to note is that in March, 2014, Credit Karma entered into an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission to address the security of their mobile apps (Android and iOS). The settlement included the company’s acknowledgement that they did not take proper and appropriate steps to ensure that their mobile apps were secure and could transmit sensitive consumer data over a non-secure channel. Credit Karma made adjustments and their apps were certified to be secure. The company must comply with annual security checks of their mobile apps for the next twenty years to verify that the apps remain secure.
Identity Theft Protection
Credit Karma does not provide identity protection beyond a customer being able to self-monitor their credit reports for changes which can signal that they may have been a victim of identity theft. They do not offer identity protection insurance at this time.
Alerts for members of Credit Karma are sent to the member’s online profile or email. These are not sent via SMS at this time.
Better Business Bureau Score
Credit Karma is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau and has a rating of C+. The company has received many complaints in the last three years which were filed with the BBB – 282 complaints were filed in the last three years, with 108 of them being filed in the last 12 months. These complaints are balanced fairly evenly between problems with the product, advertising, and warranty. Being that the company offers a free product, it is significant that there are such a large number of complaints which members felt the need to go through the process of filing complaints with the Better Business Bureau.
Time in Business
Since March, 2007.
- (415) 692-5722
- PO Box 520, San Francisco, CA 94104-0520
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