Longtime readers will know that I have been using Credit Karma to monitor my credit score for a while now. The free consumer credit information service (best way I can think of to describe it) built its name by offering free TransUnion credit scores to its users at a time when everyone else was charging for it. Since then, it has since added free VantageScore (the increasingly commonly used FICO score alternative), your TransUnion auto insurance score, and TransUnion home insurance score.
In 2012, Credit Karma also added free credit monitoring, which alerts you in the event of any hard or soft credit inquiry, a new credit account being started, late payment updates, or any updates to your personal information. This was a big deal, because credit monitoring was and is still not cheap to this day. Equifax charges $16.95 per month, Experian is $14.95 per month, and TransUnion (whom Credit Karma gets its data from) charges $17.95 per month. Free credit monitoring can serve as a warning for potential identity theft attempts.
All of this was great, but one piece has always been absent from Credit Karma’s service that prevented the service from being a one-stop shop for consumer credit information: free credit reports. Not anymore.
In the past, I’ve recommended that people use annualcreditreport.com to access free credit reports from each of the major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). Annualcreditreport.com is the only official site authorized by the government to give you these free credit reports. The best strategy for using it, is to put a calendar reminder every 4 months and rotate through each of the three reports. This way, you can stay on top of any changes more frequently throughout the year and correct any errors.
While this site is very helpful in getting you free reports periodically, you only get one free report from each bureau annually. It does not provide a cost-efficient way to continuously monitor your report for changes, errors, and discrepancies.
Now, via Credit Karma, you can access your full TransUnion credit report for free, at any time, and as often as you would like. It updates weekly.
Update: as of January, 2015, Credit Karma is now offering free continuous credit report (and score) access for Equifax as well!
Looking in my account, it says that this feature is in “beta”. Hopefully, Credit Karma removes the beta tag and makes it a permanent feature.
Here is all of the information provided to you within the credit report:
- A list of all open and closed accounts including name, type, dates, limits, terms, payment history, utilization, and contact information if you need to correct any errors.
- credit inquiries
- accounts in collections
- names reported
- employers reported
- expiring inquiries that will be removed from your record an on what date
And the interface looks like this:
I’d still recommend separately checking your Experian credit report once annually from annualcreditreport.com, because you might be able to unearth an error or inconsistency between the three credit bureaus.
How to Get a Free Credit Report with Credit Karma
Sign up for a free Credit Karma account and it will get you full and immediate access to your free credit report, as well as credit score and credit monitoring (optional). Log in and click on “Full credit report” under the “My Finances” dropdown on the top navigation.
In my previous Credit Karma review, I addressed a lot of concerns that people might have around privacy and security in using the service. Check it out for more info.