My Credit Karma Review (From a Real User)
Ever since I first used Credit Karma in my 10 free financial services post (and yes, you can get a free Credit Karma account for life), I’ve had many curious friends and readers ask me questions about them. That prompted me to write this Credit Karma review and update it frequently. It’s worth noting that Credit Karma was recently purchased by Intuit (owners of TurboTax, Mint.com, and other financial services) in 2020. It will be interesting to see if these products get integrated with Credit Karma in the future, or if CK will be kept as a standalone service.
I’ve now been a Credit Karma user for over 11 years, and update this review every few months to reflect my experiences and new features. The most common questions I receive about Credit Karma are:
- Is Credit Karma free?
- What are the free features Credit Karma offers?
- How does Credit Karma make money?
- Is Credit Karma safe?
- Is Credit Karma a scam?
- How accurate is Credit Karma?
I had all of those questions myself. And I researched heavily. What follows is a review of Credit Karma that hopefully answers these questions and more.
Is Credit Karma Free?
Is Credit Karma really free? Yes, Credit Karma is 100 free%. This was the big question that I had going in as well. You’ll notice with most other “free credit score” companies, 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 charged.
Not at Credit Karma. In their FAQs they state:
Q: Is Credit Karma really free?
A: Yes. Credit Karma is always free. Credit Karma won’t ask you for your credit card number during the registration process or at any other time.
I can confirm this is true. I’ve never been charged or been asked to enter my credit card when using Credit Karma.
Why Should I Use Credit Karma? What are the Pros & Features?
Here’s a rundown of all the free benefits you can get from a Credit Karma account:
- TransUnion Credit Score: as seen above, you get a free TransUnion credit score, and it is continuously updated so you can see how it changes periodically as you take actions that will impact your credit score.
- Equifax Credit Score: you also get a free Equifax credit score, in addition to TransUnion credit scores. That makes free scores for 2 out of the 3 major credit bureaus. Both scores use the VantageScore 3.0 model.
- TransUnion Credit Report: Credit Karma has free credit report access too. By clicking on “Overview” and “Score Details” in your dashboard, you can click “View Credit Report” to access your credit reports at any time (they are updated weekly). This gives you more consistent access to credit reporting throughout the year (versus 1 report per bureau per year via annualcreditreport.com), allowing you to more frequently monitor and correct any errors or discrepancies.
- Equifax Credit Report: After TransUnion credit reports were added, free Equifax credit reports were added as well.
- Credit Accounts List: a list of all of your accounts and when they were created (from both Equifax and TransUnion).
- Free Credit Monitoring: One of the best features of Credit Karma is free credit monitoring – so you can monitor any suspicious activity like new accounts created or credit inquiries that you did not initiate. Click in to your “profile & settings” and look under “communications & monitoring” to set it up.
- Credit Card Spend: You can easily track your credit card spending by category (similar to Mint) by linking accounts.
- Credit Factors Report Card: under “Score Details”, Credit Factors allows you to see a grade on each of the factors that go into making up your credit report: credit utilization rate, payment history, age of accounts, derogatory remarks, total accounts, and credit inquiries. Good info for improving your credit score.
- Credit Score Simulator: under “Resources”, the Credit Score Simulator might be 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.) may impact your score.
- Identity Monitoring: Credit Karma will show you if any of your personal information has been breached in hacks of other websites.
- Financial Calculators: Credit Karma offers various financial calculators for personal use: mortgage refinance, debt repayment, loan, amortization, etc.
- Credit Karma Money: Credit Karma Money is a new (no fee) high-yield savings account and checking account offering from Credit Karma. There is no minimum deposit to open.
- Unclaimed Money Search: search for unclaimed money in your name.
What Happened to Credit Karma Tax?
“Credit Karma Tax” is no longer offered by Credit Karma. With Intuit’s purchase of Credit Karma, the U.S. Department of Justice forced Credit Karma to sell Credit Karma Tax to Square, Inc. It is now called “Cash App Taxes”. All tax related content on Credit Karma now directs to Intuit’s TurboTax, which has both free basic filing as well as paid tax versions. If you’re looking for tax software, check out my best and cheapest tax software article.
How Does Credit Karma Make Money?
How does Credit Karma makes money if they don’t charge you for their service? It’s a legit question. They have almost an identical business model to Mint.com (which is probably part of the reason why Intuit made the purchase of Credit Karma). 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 targeted advertising. Credit Karma has the exact same model: ad-based offers from financial partners.
You can elect whether or not you actually want to receive these offers right on the sign-up page under communication preferences (and you are even opted out by default). I appreciate that level of transparency.
Is Credit Karma Safe? A Look at Credit Karma Safety Measures
Any time you are dealing with your credit, you want to make sure your privacy is safe and secure. Is Credit Karma safe and secure? Yes – Credit Karma is extremely safe.
With any credit service, you must be identified by your Social Security number. With some new account registrations, you may only need to use the last 4 digits (see image). Others required the full 9 digits, if your records are harder to find. Either way, this is only for first time retrieval – and your Social Security number is not stored on their servers.
To keep your privacy safe, Credit Karma also boasts the following privacy, safety, and security measures:
- 2-factor authentication on logins.
- Credit Karma uses 128-bit encryption to secure the transmission of information (note the “https” in the address bar).
- Independently certified by digicert.
- External security monitoring.
- Credit Karma does not sell your personal information to or share it with unaffiliated third parties for their own advertising or marketing purposes.
- Accounts are read only – you can’t execute transactions.
- No credit card information entered and only last 4 digits of Social Security Number, if needed.
- Credit Karma was recently purchased by Intuit (owners of TurboTax, Mint.com, and other financial services), which will only make Credit Karma even safer.
Is Credit Karma a Scam?
Before signing up, I wondered “Is Credit Karma a scam?”. But, after researching and using them for many years, I can tell you Credit Karma is not a scam. They are a legit company with a legit business model that has been around for years now.
Credit Karma is a digicert certified company. And through BBB (Better Business Bureau), they have a strong history of responses and complaint resolutions to customers. That is reassuring.
Power in numbers is reassuring as well. Credit Karma has over 110 million members. And the Intuit purchase of Credit Karma is reassuring, as it is a very reputable company.
I’ve never once been charged, never once had my identity stolen, or had any complaints of any kind in the years I have used Credit Karma.
How Accurate is your Credit Karma Credit Score?
A lot of people want to know if the scores you receive from Credit Karma are accurate. By “accurate”, I’m assuming they want to compare the Credit Karma credit scores to a FICO score (which is commonly used by lenders to judge your credit). I crosschecked. Your experience may vary, the but scores that I have received from TransUnion and Equifax through Credit Karma are usually within a handful of points of my FICO score. That’s less than a 1% spread – which is basically no difference when you are judged for a credit approval. The credit rating companies have gone out of their way to have similar rating models, and FICO uses TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian data to calculate their scores.
Credit Karma Competitors
Credit Karma doesn’t really have any direct competitors that offer everything that they do. But you can get bits and pieces from other sites:
- TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian: offer credit scores, reports, and monitoring. They each have different monthly subscription costs.
- LifeLock: offers a number of the monitoring and alert components, with less of a focus on financials and credit cards. They have 3 monthly tiered services for a subscription cost (see my LifeLock review for more details).
- Credit Sesame: offers basic credit score and monitoring, but not much else. They are a free basic service as well as paid. See my Credit Sesame review for more info.
Credit Karma Review: Summary
Any honest Credit Karma review will talk about the cons. The only Credit Karma con I have 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. You are under no obligation to sign up for any offers.
All-in-all, Credit Karma is a super useful service that I think everyone should have in their financial arsenal. You’re basically getting for free what many other services like Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian are charging $15 or more per month for just on the credit report and score monitoring component. And having used other 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 to anyone and score it as a 5 out of 5 stars. Please share your Credit Karma review below.
Credit Karma Review
Credit Karma Review Summary:
You won’t find a financial service that offers as much value as Credit Karma, at no cost. Your free account gets you access to both TransUnion and Equifax credit scores and reports. On top of that, you also get free credit monitoring, credit tips, a free online savings account, and other perks. I consider Credit Karma to be an essential tool in the personal finance toolkit. And their member count and purchase by Intuit validates this claim.