A co-worker recently asked me if I’d heard of CreditKarma.com and if it was legit. I went in very sceptical and came away very impressed.

Under federal law, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report every 12 months but the credit reporting agencies charge extra for the actual credit score (the number between 300 and 850 or so). The report is useful for finding and cleaning up identity theft but not much use when you’re planning to buy a car or a house. Lots of scam sites offer your credit score but you have to sign up for expensive and usually unnecessary monthly fees to see it.

CreditKarma actually lives up to their promise. They will get your actual credit score and show it to you for free. They make their money through advertising. As long as you’re willing to wade through the ads…

Better, they have a “Report Card” to show you how your score and its different components stack up to the rest of the population. (I did okay on most components but was surprised to learn that my score was hurt by not having enough accounts with different lenders. Consolidation makes keepng track of the family finances easier but apparently there are costs to that decision.)

CreditKarma also has a simulator that can give you an idea how certain actions will change your credit score. For example, if you pay off a credit card balance, you can see how much your score would likely increase. (The simulator was a little glitchy the day I tried it but it’s a great idea.)

You will have to give them some identifying information (including your SSN) but their privacy policy looked strong and their CEO has made public commitments about their approach to privacy.

A couple of quick caveats. First, this site will not necessarily give you the exact FICO score that’s used by your bank. Each credit reportig agency uses a slightly different algorithm (and your score can vary a little from day to day dependng on your financial activities). CreditKarma’s score is based on TransUnion data and will still give you a good sense of your credit standing even if it’s not exactly the same number your bank uses. Second, some of the ads look a lot like the informational parts of the webpages. Be especially careful to read the fine print if you follow any of their links. It’s not hard to slip from their site to one of their advertisers’ without noticing it.

Overall, I was very impressed with the ease of using the site and with the usefulness of their information. Everything was well explained and clearly laid out. I plan to continue using the site to supplement my regular reviews of my credit report.


  1. Tony Walton says:

    Nice review. Objective. Informative.

    One possibly important thing for your own personal knowledge is FICO doesn’t calculate the same amount of emphasis on having more credit lines as Credit Karma’s formula for middle to lower scores.

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