Credit Karma Review: You Really Can Get Your Credit Scores for Free

credit karma review

Knowing your credit score — and understanding where it comes from — is a powerful tool to have in your financial toolbox.

By building your credit, you open up a world of financial opportunities. The higher your score, the better your chances of qualifying for a competitive loan or credit card.

That’s why Credit Karma’s free credit report is so useful to consumers. Not only does Credit Karma reveal your financial profile, but it also connects you with financial products and tax filing services.

For a full breakdown of what this service can do for you — and where it falls short — read on for our full Credit Karma review.

Credit Karma review: How does Credit Karma work?

First and foremost, Credit Karma is a credit tracking service. It gives you free access to your credit scores, as reported by the credit bureaus TransUnion and Equifax. Plus, it breaks down your score into these components:

  • Your credit card use
  • Payment history
  • Credit age
  • Total accounts
  • Hard inquiries
  • Negative marks on your record

In each category, Credit Karma will give you “pro tips” on how to improve. If you have a history of late payments, for instance, the site will encourage you to be mindful of due dates. Even one late payment can drag down your credit score.

By taking an in-depth look at your report, you’ll see exactly what you can do to build your credit. You can log in and check your progress at any time, while also staying alert for any signs of identity theft.

This service is always free for consumers, but you will see promotions for various financial products. Based on your credit score, Credit Karma gives you personalized recommendations for financial products such as loans and credit cards. You can do a quick rate check directly through the site to see if you prequalify.

That being said, you shouldn’t feel pressured to take out a loan or credit card just because you’re eligible for one. Even if the terms are decent, it’s never a good idea to take on debt you don’t need or might not be able to pay back.

If you do decide to take out a loan, however, you might find Credit Karma’s credit score simulator helpful. It shows you what could happen to your score if you open a new credit account.

You could also use the site’s various financial calculators to learn about debt payoff. These include a debt repayment calculator, simple loan calculator, and amortization calculator.

If you need further advice, you can ask financial questions and trade ideas with other members in the Credit Karma Advice Center. (Note that this is a public forum, so don’t share any personal information.)

Credit Karma offers free tax filing, too

On Jan. 23, Credit Karma added a free tax service to its offerings. Anyone can file their federal taxes for free, and people in most states can file state tax returns.

Since the service is relatively new, it can’t help everyone yet. For instance, you can’t file multiple state tax returns.

But most Americans should have no problem using Credit Karma to prepare their taxes for free.

Pros of using Credit Karma

One of the biggest pros of Credit Karma is that it’s completely free for users. At no point will the site ask you to enter your credit card information. You’ll never have to pay to access your credit reports or file your taxes.

If you’re looking for a loan or credit card, Credit Karma’s recommendations can be helpful, too. By following its suggestions, you might have a greater chance of being approved. Not only will that save you from wasting time, but it will protect your credit score from unnecessary hard inquiries.

Finally, you can learn a lot with Credit Karma’s articles and financial calculators. You can read about various financial topics or use tools like its “simple loan calculator” to educate yourself on loan repayment terms.

Once you create an account, you’ll have access to a wealth of information and resources aimed at helping you improve your financial health.

Downsides of using Credit Karma

Although Credit Karma is a valuable resource, it’s not without its downsides. For one thing, it only grabs you credit scores from two of the three major credit bureaus. You’ll see your scores from TransUnion and Equifax, but Experian’s report won’t be included.

Plus, your score comes from the VantageScore 3.0 credit scoring model. Although it is a reputable scoring model, it’s not as common as the FICO model. Most lenders actually rely on your FICO score, not your score from VantageScore, when considering you for a loan or credit card.

Your FICO score might be different from what you see on your Credit Karma report. To get your FICO score, check with your bank or credit card issuer. More and more financial institutions offer FICO scores to consumers for free.

Another downside to Credit Karma is its promotions. Although the service is free for users, Credit Karma makes money when you take out a loan or other product. If you’re not looking for any of these products, all the ads can get tiring.

Plus, the marketplace might not contain the best loans or credit cards for you. If you are looking to borrow money, do research on other sites as well to explore all your options.

Overall, Credit Karma offers valuable, free resources for you to learn about and monitor your credit score. But you won’t necessarily find all the information you need about your financial profile.

Is Credit Karma really free?

Credit Karma actually is free — you won’t pay anything to create an account and monitor your scores.

Instead of charging customers, Credit Karma makes money from its partner companies. If you take out a recommended loan or credit card, the bank or lender pays Credit Karma.

Using the Credit Karma online platform

So, how does Credit Karma work for customers? To start using it, you need to create an online account. It’s a straightforward process that only takes a minute or two.

First, enter your email and a password.

is credit karma really free

Image via Credit Karma

Your next step will be to enter basic information, such as your name and address. You’ll also enter your Social Security number, which Credit Karma uses to pull up your credit report. Credit Karma uses bank-level encryption to secure your personal data.

Once you’ve confirmed your account, you can log in to see your credit reports. You can explore your scores, a timeline of your credit score history, and all your credit factors. Plus, you can research Credit Karma’s collection of financial products.

If you’re interested in a loan, you can go through a quick check to see if you prequalify. This rate check won’t impact your credit score. To take out the loan, you’ll submit a full application with the lender itself.

You’ll also see recommended products below your credit scores. But remember: You’re not obligated to apply for any of them. You can learn more about interest rates and fees on Credit Karma or head to the company website for more information.

Credit Karma customer service

Since it was founded in 2007, Credit Karma has gathered over 75 million members. If you’re one of them, you can connect with customer support by submitting a request through the website.

You can also find answers to frequently asked questions in the Credit Karma Help Center.

To learn more beyond this Credit Karma review, follow the company on Facebook and Twitter.

Interested in a personal loan?

Here are the top personal loan lenders of 2018!
LenderRates (APR)Loan Amount 
1 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for SoFi.

2 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Terms and Conditions Apply: SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Finance Lender Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)
  2. Personal Loans: Fixed rates from 5.49% APR to 14.24% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 5.29% APR to 11.44% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of December 1, 2017 and are subject to change without notice. Not all rates and amounts available in all states. See Personal Loan eligibility details. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at 14.95%. Lowest variable rate of 5.29% APR assumes current 1-month LIBOR rate of 1.34% plus 4.20% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Personal Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of August 1, 2017, the one-month LIBOR rate is 1.23%. Variable interest rates range from 6.02% – 15.97% (6.02% – 15.97% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of your loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms and presence of a co-applicant. Fixed interest rates range from 5.99% – 16.24% (5.99% – 16.24% APR) based on applicable terms and presence of a co-applicant. Lowest rates shown are for eligible applicants, require a 3-year repayment term, and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
  2. Loyalty Discount: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower has a qualifying account in existence with Citizens Bank at the time the borrower has submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, student loans or other personal loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, Citizens Bank checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI and VT. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) disclosed in the Truth-In-Lending Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan, and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  3. Automatic Payment Benefit: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
7.39% - 29.99%$1,000 - $50,000Visit Upstart
5.29% - 14.24%1$5,000 - $100,000Visit SoFi
8.00% - 25.00%$5,000 - $35,000Visit Payoff
5.99% - 16.24%2$5,000 - $50,000Visit Citizens
5.99% - 35.89%$1,000 - $40,000Visit LendingClub
5.25% - 14.24%$2,000 - $50,000Visit Earnest
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Student Loan Hero Advertiser Disclosure

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print, understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.