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Home » Credit, Reviews

Credit Karma Review

Last updated by on 58 Comments

Ever since I first brought up Credit Karma in my 10 free financial services post a while back, I’ve had a ton of curious friends and readers ask me more about them.

- Have you used their service?

- Is it REALLY free to get your credit score?

- Is Credit Karma safe?

- Is Credit Karma a scam?

I had all of those questions myself. So what follows is a Credit Karma review that hopefully answers these questions about the service and whether or not I’d recommend you use it.

Is Credit Karma Free?

Yes. This was a big question that I had going in. Most, if not all, other credit score services offer you a “free” credit score. You’ll notice that when you sign up for their service, they ask for your credit card. And then, a month later, you’ll unsuspectingly get charged. After going back to read the fine print, you’ll notice that free was really only free for the first month, and if you didn’t cancel your subscription, you’ll get a monthly charge. That’s why they asked for your credit card.

Not at Credit Karma. They don’t even ask for your credit card. There’s really no way to get screwed on unsuspecting charges with them.

credit karma review

How Does Credit Karma Make Money?

You’re probably wondering how Credit Karma makes money if they don’t charge you for their service. It’s a legit question to ask. From everything I’ve seen, they have almost an identical business model to Mint.com. If you’ve signed up for Mint’s service, you’ll periodically get Mint partner offers that could potentially save you money. It’s a form of advertising. Credit Karma has the exact same model – ad-based offers from partners.

You can elect whether or not you actually want to receive these offers right on the sign-up page under communication preferences. I appreciate the transparency and that I didn’t have to find some secret unsubscribe link hidden deep in the site somewhere.

credit_karma_freeIs Credit Karma a Scam?

credit_karma_scamI was wondering whether Credit Karma was a scam and whether or whether your privacy is truly protected. After researching and using them myself, I can tell you Credit Karma is definitely not a scam. I did a little research before signing up. Credit Karma is a TRUSTe Certified company, endorsed by 627 users as safe. They are also a BBB (Better Business Bureau) Accredited company.

I looked into Credit Karma’s BBB accreditation, and they have an ‘A’ rating, on a scale of A+ to F. Only 8 complaints have been filed in the companies 4-year history, and they were all resolved. If people have been screwed by the service or their information was stolen, you’d think there would be a red flag somewhere.

One noteworthy item with Credit Karma is that you have to give them your social security number. This is how all credit is tracked, after all. You have to supply your SS# with all the credit bureaus, all other credit score sites out there, and any time you apply for credit. Credit Karma addresses this concern in their FAQ’s by stating:

“In order to retrieve your first credit score, we must use your social security number. We only use your SSN for this first score retrieval, and we do not store it in our database. After this one-time use, we will not need your SSN again and it will not be stored on any of our systems.”

That is reassuring.

What do you Get from Credit Karma?

creditkarma

Here’s a rundown of all the free stuff you get in your Credit Karma account:

TransUnion credit score: It is continuously updated so you can see how it changes as you make a change that will impact your credit score. And it charts out over time, as seen in my screen shot above. You can also see how that score compares nationally, and you get an overall grade.

TransUnion auto insurance score: Many insurers are now factoring in an auto insurance score, which is based on your credit history. This lets you know how you stack up against others.

TransUnion home insurance score: similar to your auto insurance score, but used for home insurance.

Your VantageScore: This is a cumulative, consistent score across all three credit bureaus.

Credit Report Card: This is definitely a nice feature. You get to see a grade on each of the factors that go into making up your credit report: utilization rate, payment history, age of accounts, total accounts, etc. Good stuff to know if you are looking to improve your credit score.

Credit Score Simulator: This is probably the most useful feature on Credit Karma. You get to simulate how taking certain actions (i.e. closing a credit card, opening a new one, increasing your credit line, etc.) would likely impact your score. I was surprised to see how little of an impact opening or closing a credit card account would have. Definitely good to know.

TransUnion Credit Report: As of August, 2014, Credit Karma now has free credit report access too! Access is to your complete TransUnion credit report and you can check it any time (it updates weekly). This gives you more consistent access to credit reporting throughout the year (versus just once via annualcreditreport.com), allowing you to frequently monitor your credit report and correct any errors or discrepancies.

Final Thoughts on Credit Karma

The only downside that I’ve found with Credit Karma is that there are a lot of offers in the interface when you log in to your account. It’s a minor annoyance, but this is how Credit Karma makes money, so I’ll take that trade-off vs. having to pay for the service.

All-in-all, it is a super useful service that I feel really good about. You’re basically getting for free what many other services are charging $15 or more per month for. And having used TransUnion’s credit score reporting service in the past, the nice graphical interfaces, report card, and Simulator tool make Credit Karma much more useful. I highly recommended their service.

Update: Credit Karma has now even started offering free credit monitoring in addition to their other free services.

In addition to your free credit score from Credit Karma, make sure you head over to annualcreditreport.com to get your 3 free credit reports annually. This is the official government-mandated site. The two combined should be all you ever need to monitor your credit – and they are both free.

You can sign up for a free Credit Karma account here.

Have you used Credit Karma? What’s your take?


About the Author
I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 7,500+ others by getting FREE email updates. You'll also find every post by category & every post in order.


58 Comments »
  • Brie says:

    Thanks very much for doing a review of this service! I just went to the site (as well as the government site for my 3 free credit reports) and got my credit score, and you’re right, it’s completely free. I had no idea free services like this existed. Thanks again for the review!

  • K. Lin says:

    G.E.,

    First thanks for the review. To answer your question about SSNs, once we validate your identity, we create an unique, non-SSN based identify with the TransUnion. It is a slight pain for us but safer for the consumer.

    Hope that helps.
    K Lin

  • Ginger says:

    I do love creditkarma and between that and annualcreditreport, you need nothing else.

  • Jon the Saver says:

    Spot on Ginger. You really don’t need anything else if you have those two. To be honest, I think most people think KreditKarma is a scam because of its name. Thankfully I read reviews, so that eased my worries about that. I highly recommend it to anyone, it’s close enough to MyFico scores!

  • Findep Man says:

    I’ve been using CreditKarma for well over 6 months now. I find that the information is relatively accurate, it has an easy to use interface, and if you are like-minded, in that you are easily able to visually avoid the advertising, it is a great tool. This, coupled with annualcreditreport.com and mint.com, creates the perfect combination for the do-it-yourself personal finance aficionado!

  • Rowena says:

    Hey!
    Just signed up for Credit Karma. Thanks for the advice :)

  • Alyssa says:

    I’ve been using credit karma for several months now and I love it.

  • Forex says:

    I’ve been using credit karma for a bit now and I can say for a FACT they are not a scam. Very useful site and I find it better than Mint, and a lot more user-friendly. I do run other credit reports just to be on the safe side, but overall it’s my main credit tool now (I cut down MINT already).

    • G.E. Miller says:

      I don’t understand the comparison to Mint. Two completely different purposes. Mint is spending and budgeting and Credit Karma is credit. There is some crossover, but I think both serve their own purpose.

      • Denise says:

        Question, IF I use CK, can I truly use it to not only know my credit score but to also help rebuild my credit score? I know there is a fee but does this really work and if so how?

        I’m working really hard to rebuild my credit.

        Thanks.

        • Ray says:

          Denise:
          You do not need to pay a fee.
          You use the information given in the report.
          The report will show you where you are having problems. You should follow the advice given to change what the report shows. IE high credit card (CC) balances should be reduced to as low a number as is possible, in as short a time as possible.
          Reduce the number of cards you use. Also DO NOT close the accounts of the cards you choose to no longer use, since part of their algorithms takes into account the length of time you’ve had the cards, the longer the better even though you don’t use them.
          DO NOT open any new cards or store accounts no matter what incentive they offer, just tell them no thanks.
          Use only one primary card for all credit purchases
          Also get and use a card that offers money back,(I use Discover)
          doesn’t help your score but you’re getting something for nothing if you pay your balance off each month.
          All this may see hard at first, but your will power to resist impulse buying has to be strong.
          Another thing is to actually ask the CC provider for a higher limit, this is because the algorithm they use also uses the limit /actual money used ratio to judge/rate your spending habits. They like to see about a 3 Percent limit to balance ratio.
          Only very judicious spending habits over time will bring up that all important score.
          Please logon to MyFico.com and get a lot of more info from the other members on how so many of them increased their scores. It is free just like this site. They offer discounts on getting scores from the other CCRs. I wouldn’t get any of the credit score tracking stuff, you don’t need anything more than what you can get here.
          For your information my actual Fico scores from all three CCRs (Credit Card Reports) are 800+ so I know it works.
          Use this site get an idea as to how well you are doing since free is good.
          Also see my replies elsewhere here.
          Good luck to you. Wanting to do this is a good start.

          • Denise says:

            Thanks for your info, I got CK mixed up with a different company that charges a fee to help build your credit, I won’t say their name but it starts with a Q
            lol, thanks again for the info.

  • Alex Hung says:

    Its a known fact that it is required to spend to find out the credit score, but Credit Karma seems to have proved it wrong! Thanks for such a update, you have saved so many pockets!

  • Bob says:

    I started using Credit Karma last week. It was great to see my credit scores for free. My credit looked great and within four days it climbed higher when I clicked the update tab. However .. over the weekend I was hit with 5 expired, pass the statute of limitations, negative collection accounts I aquired from my prior divorce thirteen years ago… this action brought my score down below six hundred. I also received a collection letter from Bureau of Collections Recover today for a credit card that was closed twelve years ago. I now wish I haven’t signed up for Credit Karma, because it has opened up a can of worms for me; and that will use up my time and patience to correct. Hope this is just a fluke and has nothing to do with Credit Karma.

    • Denise says:

      Are you saying that you have never checked your credit report in all this years and when you finally did with Credit Karma, that opened up a new can of worms?
      I don’t see how that could have happen unless creditors get your new info when you inquire about your accounts, idk maybe that’s how it worked.

      that sucks though but honestly ,don’t blame CK, this was bound to happen anyways, it’s like we all need to face up to our responsibilities at one point and maybe the same thing would have happen if you were to get a new car or something.

      Wish you all the luck though, I would like to use CK to help build up my credit since they have a nice credit repair feature, i hope this works.

      • Free Mee says:

        Facing up to responsibilities??? Best answer? File f=ing Bankruptcy. Free yourself of ALL debt. Its. awesome getting a punch in on the greedy banks and credit card crooks. Ha Ha Ha Ha

        • Rose says:

          Only financially irresponsible people have to file bankruptcy. GROW UP and act like a responsible adult

          • nicole says:

            Being irresponsible has nothing to do with filing for bankruptcy. Smh. I hope you never find yourself in this situation and have to eat your words.

  • smedheat says:

    credit Karma rocks. it is a useful tool. for me, it was accurate within 4 points of experian so i can’t complain. you should use annual credit score plus credit karma, as someone pointed out. :)

  • Will says:

    I have used Credit Karma for nearly 5 years now. I cant even recall my thoughts when I first signed on because there were no reviews such as this one. I suppose I took a risk signing on, although everything on their sight was secured and looked legitimate. When I first signed on I was 22, had a reposed car, 1 credit car, a couple student loans and a very poor score, somewhere around a 515. At first I didnt use the site like I do now, but I could check in every two months or so and it would show a slow increase. I paid off the balance on the repo’d vehicle which brought up a discriminatory mark that had nothing to do with Credit Karma, just my credit score. Since then I have been able to keep a close eye on my credit and for the first time ever, I have a 701 credit score which I give Credit Karma my thanks because they were able to show me what I needed to do to improve my score, and I did it!
    I am just married, bought a car with the lowest interest offered,my score is only improving, and I show ALL of my friends and family Credit Karma because of what it did for me.
    I suppose if you have no intention of attempting to fix your credit, or pay off your debts, then maybe this site wont benefit you the same. It took me several years to overcome the ‘rock over my head’ because of the repossession but now I have flawless payment history, I have 21 accounts opened throughout my years, only a couple of hard inquiries on my history at this time, and a solid understanding of my credit and what it is.
    Thanks for everything Credit Karma and good luck to everyone else with your ventures and I hope this helps.

  • Richard says:

    Creditkarma doesn’t provide Fico scores. It provides you its own credit scores. This was not disclosed anywhere on its site, so it’s a SCAM. If it’s FICO you are looking for, look elsewhere.

    • Ray Zinn says:

      Richard please see my comments below. I wouldn’t call the site a scam. Unfortunately The Fako Scores are not the real FICO score but since they are for the most part what we will get when we buy from the credit agencies as you may well know. After all that’s how we on the Fico Forum know all too well don’t we.

  • Ray Zinn says:

    Only a couple of caveats.
    The score they supply is not the actual FICO credit score but a score that Trans Union gets using their own scoring system.
    There are three credit bureaus, Trans Union, Experian, and Equifax. Each uses a proprietary scoring system as well as the FICO system. If the score number is proceeded by the FICO name it is the true score that banks use when checking your credit.
    The banks, and other places that you apply for credit at, may use all or only only one of the credit agencies as they see fit.
    All of the other credit info supplied is as found in your actual credit report in summarization form.
    This score may be used to give you an approximate idea where you stand score wise.
    In defense I will also say that if you were to pay for the score directly to the companies it’s a good bet that they would give you a “Fako FICO” score as well. For now the only place that I trust for the “real” score (must pay for ti tho” is at “MyFico.com”. Honestly I have have no other problems with the site (Credit Karma) and do appreciate the chance to get credit information for free with no strings attached.

  • Jesse K. says:

    I just signed up for CreditKarma and it seems they no longer require your full social. It just asked for my last 4 digits

  • Ray says:

    @ robin:
    As far as I know personal (meaning you) looks do not show or lower your score, only a valid check by someone you are looking to apply for some credit from, IE new bank card, car, house, personal loan etc. But it does seem that when you do check, it actually helps by pushing the time stream back. You should go to MyFico.com and ask more in their forums (just a user like you) This site (credit Karma)is also informative

  • Ray says:

    Kerri:
    Please see my reply above “jan, 8th” about this scoring system.

  • Bruce says:

    I have an account with Equifax and they treat the credit score as something they will give me (as a valuable client) if I pay them a fee. Why shouldn’t we all be able to get our credit score for free. I appreciate the service of CreditKarma.com. These credit reporting companies (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion) have a hell of a lot of power in our lives….just who are these people anyway?

  • Brad C. says:

    I use credit karma and love it! It is so easy to use. Thanks for this great review.

  • brittney says:

    How can i change my account name…

  • Ray says:

    Good question, I searched the profile I have and it allows one to change everything except your name and address.
    Perhaps you can delete the account and then rejoin with a different E-Mail address.
    Your E-Mail account should allow you to add new / different addresses using a different prefix but using the same suffix (@*****.com, net, org, or what ever suffix) you now have.

  • RAY FRANKLIN says:

    I have had ck for only 3mo and find it to be very valuable , it already alearted me twice of report changes. 1 hard inquiry another use improvement. BUT simulator is crap it does not work there have been thousands of complaints about it. Its responses are not valid. This is offset by the good things it does. Too many, way too many to enumerate.

  • Jennifer Rouillard says:

    I wonder how accurate it is… I have a credit card I owe on and outstanding hospital debt from 4 years ago that doesn’t show up at all. All my other stuff shows up. Also I noticed people were questioning if you have to give your ss#. I just signed up with them today and you do. Your full number not just the last four digits. Which I would assumed.

  • Jennifer Rouillard says:

    Not everything was on this report for me. Some credit card debt Ive had for awhile also a 4 year old hospital bill that is outstanding. I wonder how accurate it is if things are missing.

  • Donald says:

    So, what is the scoop? Do you give them your full SS number or just the last four numbers?

    If just the last four numbers how do they know me from Joe Schmo who has the same numbers?

  • shavonta says:

    it only ask for your full ssn if u enter something in worng or answer some of the questions wrong. It want to make sure it no fraud going on if you enter in something incorrect.

  • Rick M. says:

    I’ve used Credit Karma for several years and have also turned on my kids, now adults, to the site. I have nothing but good things to say about the value you receive for the effort it takes to get started. You see the direct implication of your actions to your credit score whether it’s accepting a new credit line at a local mall department store or an offer for 0% interest for the first year on a new credit card.
    Everything you do and are impacts you credit score. For example, I noticed my auto insurance score dropped about 10 points one month even though I had no tickets, accidents or claims of any kind. However, it dawned on me it happened to be the month of my birthday. Although I can’t confirm age discrimination by the insurance companies through Credit Karma, my insurance agent did confirm that regardless of your record, your age is considered. Try fighting that battle alone. :-\ Time to call AARP :-)

  • Fatine echenique says:

    I signed up with creditkarma 3 or 4 months ago now… Of course at first I didn’t believe for a second the “it’s all free part “… Nothing is free nowadays lol! Well from my experience I was never asked for a credit card number n I never paid a penny. Now I believe the way they make their money is by advertising different credit cards with lower rates .. I have not signed up for any of those offers yet…but some of them look appealing !
    At the end of the day I am able to check all kind of info on my debts n that’s what matters to me at this point!

  • Brian says:

    I didn’t see anything about whether they give all three credit scores like the other site, do they?

    • Ray says:

      No, also don’t know what the other site of which you talk. This site gives you a Trans-union score.

      You may want to go to MyFico.com. You can get al three scores and reports for a cost, they may be offering a discount for now.

      You may also check with your Credit Card providers as some of then now offer that info for free. My Discover card does that now and includes a short report also, not a complete one.

      I have more info above under Ray, the first name only, no last.

  • al says:

    I have a freeze with all of the credit agencies. Will CK still be able to access my score with the freeze in place?

    • Ray says:

      I believe that a freeze (a good thing to do) only prevents anyone from opening up any new account with your info.

      A freeze is easy to for anyone wishing to get strong protection from ID Thieves.
      One problem is that it even keeps you from getting a new credit account (not to be confused with using your existing cards) unless you give a private code to them and unlock the files at each agency first.

  • Sharon says:

    I am still considering Credit Karma. I don’t mind fees so much as getting locked into months of payments and then having to try to remember to cancel cause you can’t afford it. And if Fico is the only score sets that matter, why do any of these other agencies exist?

    • Ray says:

      Sharon:
      Not sure about the fees you mention, but I don’t think they apple here. It was a free site that gets its money through the ads and Credit Cards offerings here.
      PLEASE LOOK FOR MY PREVIOUS RESPONSES ABOVE. MY RESPONSES WILL BE UNDER ONLY THE NAME OF “RAY”.
      The Fico scores are the actual scoring system the banks and other credit agencies access when you apply for any credit.
      On the My Fico site (managed by the Fico organization which created the system) they offer a number of ways to get the credit reports and scores from the three major credit reporting agencies, for a fee of course.
      The score / report are a one time pay only, not the auto charge renewal like you mention.
      This site,as far as I know gives you a free score and perhaps a short report.

  • G.E. Miller says:

    I think you’re thinking about mint.com. Credit Karma does not require you to enter usernames/password for other sites in order to function.

    • Ray says:

      But how do the people confuse the two sites since they are leaving their comments here?
      This has happened a couple of times.
      I have tried to answer all of their questions, but can’t give any on those particular questions, especially this last one which really confounds me.

      • G.E. Miller says:

        Honestly, I know for a fact that there are a few trolls on this post by IP logs. Whether they are competitor company trolls or just confused wanderers, I don’t know. Probably a combination of the two. The ones I know for sure are trolls, I am marking as such.

        • Ray says:

          Agreed, that had crossed my mind.
          Nuff said, don’t feed the Trolls, will take my own advise.
          But will continue to apprise others that the stated(when they occur)does not apply to this site and should be ignored.

  • Jeremy says:

    I have Credit Karma as well as other services. I know each service has it’s own models to which it provides score off of, and it seems there scores lower significantly lower then the rest. I noticed that the main thing they’re trying to solicit me is a service to “fix” my credit, so it’s my opinion this is why there score is lower. Would not consider there service a scam, but I recommend exploring other options as well. I have a credit card that now gives me updates and is seemingly accurate without trying to sell me any services which makes me feel much better.

  • Susan says:

    Credit Karma is probably the best credit service available, and it is completely free! Not a scam, completely legit. I couldn’t be happier with their service.


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