You’ve probably seen the TV ads for Credit Karma on late night TV. Get your free credit score and report, no strings attached!
But is Credit Karma really legit? What’s the catch?
Yes, Credit Karma is a legitimate free website that provides you with your credit score and report, no strings attached. It’s really free, and you don’t need to put in your credit card number or remember to cancel your free trial. Credit Karma users also get access to their TransUnion credit report in addition to credit scores from TransUnion and Equifax.
Although you’ve always been able to get free copies of your three credit reports from annualcreditreport.com, that service limits you to viewing each report just once a year. With Credit Karma’s new offering, you can retrieve your free TransUnion credit report and get updates as often as once a week. (It’s still a good idea to get your other two reports—from Experian and Equifax—from annualcreditreport.com once a year to ensure they’re accurate).
How does Credit Karma make money?
How does CreditKarma give you a totally free credit score when other services want to charge $20 a month or more?
The answer is advertising. Specifically, very targeted advertising based on your financial habits. For example, if you have excellent credit, banks are willing to pay big bucks to target you with their best loans and credit cards because it’s ultimately cheaper for them over running generic ads to millions of people who may never qualify for their products.
If there’s a downside to Credit Karma, it’s the fact that, yes, they’re using your personal credit data to advertise to you. It’s no different than Facebook using your likes to serve ads based on your interests. That said, I would agree that the financial data makes it a bit more personal.
Should you use Credit Karma?
Ultimately, Credit Karma is safe. I’ve been using the service for over five years. And while they may use personal information to serve ads, they’re not sharing it with third parties (to my knowledge). And, at the end of the day, Credit Karma provides really useful insights into your credit health.
Like it or not, your credit score plays a big role in your financial health. So it’s important to know your credit score and keep an eye on how it’s changing over time.
While most services charge upwards of $15-20 to view your own credit score, Credit Karma lets you check and track your score without the need for a credit card, free trial, or any other catches.
Credit Karma performs what’s known as a “soft” inquiry on your credit reports, so this will not be reflected on your reports as a credit pull or cause your score to go down in any way.
You’ll have to create an account and provide your personal information… including your social security number to verify your identity and pull your credit, but unlike other so-called “free credit score” sites there’s NO CREDIT CARD or any purchase required.
What else does Credit Karma provide?
I was impressed with how easy—and fast—getting my credit score was with Credit Karma, but the service also provides:
- A graph showing your credit score over time
- How your credit score compares to others by age, income and state
- A credit report card that shows you how certain factors—like your payment history and debt utilization—impact your credit score
- Tools to let you simulate how paying down debt or applying for new credit will change your score
- Access to your free credit report with weekly updates
I’ve now been using Credit Karma for over five years. It’s still my go-to source for how my credit score is doing, and I’ve found the comparison and simulation tools invaluable for seeing how certain decisions (like getting a new credit card or reducing my average credit card usage) will influence my score.