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

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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!
LenderAPR RangeLoan Amount 
1 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Personal Loans: Fixed rates from 6.990% APR to 14.865% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 6.255% APR to 12.555% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of September 1, 2018 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. See APR examples and terms. Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at 14.95%. Lowest variable rate of 6.255% APR assumes current index rate derived from the 1-month LIBOR of 2.08% plus 4.425% 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.

    To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull.See Consumer Licenses.
  2. Minimum Credit Score: Not all applicants who meet SoFi’s minimum credit score requirements are approved for a personal loan. In addition to meeting SoFi’s minimum eligibility criteria, applicants must also meet other credit and underwriting requirements to qualify.
  3. SoFi Personal Loans are not available to residents of MS. Maximum interest rate on loans for residents of AK and WY is 9.99% APR, for residents of IL with loans over $40,000 is 8.99% APR, for residents of TX is 9.99% APR on terms greater than 5 years, for residents of CO, CT, HI, VA, SC is 11.99% APR, and for residents of ME is 12.24% APR. Personal loans not available to residents of MI who already have a student loan with SoFi. Personal Loans minimum loan amount is $5,000. Residents of AZ, MA, and NH have a minimum loan amount of $10,001. Residents of KY have a minimum loan amount of $15,001. Residents of PA have a minimum loan amount of $25,001. Variable rates not available to residents of AK, TX, VA, WY, or for residents of IL for loans greater than $40,000.
  4. 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 Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

2 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for Payoff.

Payoff Disclosures

  1. All loans are subject to credit review and approval. Your actual rate depends upon credit score, loan amount, loan term, credit usage and history. Currently loans are not offered in: MA, MS, NE, NV, OH, and WV.

3 Important Disclosures for FreedomPlus.

FreedomPlus Disclosures

  1. All loans available through FreedomPlus.com are made by Cross River Bank, a New Jersey State Chartered Commercial Bank, Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender. All loan and rate terms are subject to eligibility restrictions, application review, credit score, loan amount, loan term, lender approval, and credit usage and history. Eligibility for a loan is not guaranteed. Loans are not available to residents of all states – please call a FreedomPlus representative for further details. The following limitations, in addition to others, shall apply: FreedomPlus does not arrange loans in: (i) Arizona under $10,500; (ii) Massachusetts under $6,500, (iii) Ohio under $5,500, and (iv) Georgia under $3,500. Repayment periods range from 24 to 60 months. The range of APRs on loans made available through FreedomPlus is 4.99% to a maximum of 29.99%. APR. The APR calculation includes all applicable fees, including the loan origination fee. For Example, a four year $20,000 loan with an interest rate of 15.49% and corresponding APR of 18.34% would have an estimated monthly payment of $561.60 and a total cost payable of $7,948.13. To qualify for a 4.99% APR loan, a borrower will need excellent credit on a loan of $15,000 with a term of 24 months, and qualify for at least two of the following discounts: (1) add a co-borrower who has sufficient income; (2) use at least fifty percent of the loan proceeds to directly pay off existing debt; or (3) show proof of having at least forty-thousand dollars in retirement savings – contact FreedomPlus for further details.

4 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Personal Loan Rate DisclosureFixed interest rates from 6.49% – 19.49% (6.49% – 19.49% APR) based on applicable terms. Lowest rates range from 5.99%-18.99% (5.99%-18.99% APR), 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 us 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, our 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 Discount: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their Citizens Bank Personal Loan 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. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account two or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.

5 Important Disclosures for LendingPoint.

LendingPoint Disclosures

  • Loan approval is not guaranteed. Actual loan offers and loan amounts, terms and annual percentage rates (“APR”) may vary based upon LendingPoint’s proprietary scoring and underwriting system’s review of your credit, financial condition, other factors, and supporting documents or information you provide. Origination or other fees from 0% to 6% may apply depending upon your state of residence. Upon LendingPoint’s final underwriting approval to fund a loan, said funds are often sent via ACH the next non-holiday business day. LendingPoint makes loan offers from $2,000 to $25,000, at rates ranging from a low of 15.49% APR to a high of 34.49% APR, with terms from 24 to 48 months. The loan offer(s) shown reflect a 28 day payment cycle which is being offered as a courtesy as many of our customers are paid on a biweekly schedule and thus this may better align the loan payment dates with your actual income receipt schedule.

6 Important Disclosures for LendingClub.

LendingClub Disclosures

All loans made by WebBank, Member FDIC. Your actual rate depends upon credit score, loan amount, loan term, and credit usage & history. The APR ranges from 6.16% to 35.89%. For example, you could receive a loan of $6,000 with an interest rate of 7.99% and a 5.00% origination fee of $300 for an APR of 11.51%. In this example, you will receive $5,700 and will make 36 monthly payments of $187.99. The total amount repayable will be $6,767.64. Your APR will be determined based on your credit at time of application. The origination fee ranges from 1% to 6% and the average origination fee is 5.49% as of Q1 2017. There is no down payment and there is never a prepayment penalty. Closing of your loan is contingent upon your agreement of all the required agreements and disclosures on the www.lendingclub.com website. All loans via LendingClub have a minimum repayment term of 36 months or longer.


7 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

  1. Earnest does not lend in Alabama, Delaware, Kentucky, Nevada, or Rhode Island.

8 Important Disclosures for Avant.

Avant Disclosures

* The actual rate and loan amount that a customer qualifies for may vary based on credit determination and other factors. Funds are generally deposited via ACH for delivery next business day if approved by 4:30pm CT Monday-Friday. Avant branded credit products are issued by WebBank, member FDIC.

** Example: A $5,700 loan with an administration fee of 4.75% and an amount financed of $5,429.25, repayable in 36 monthly installments, would have an APR of 29.95% and monthly payments of $230.33


* Important Disclosures for Upgrade Bank.

Upgrade Bank Disclosures

* Your loan terms are not guaranteed and are subject to our verification and review process. You may be asked to provide additional documents to enable us to verify your income and your identity. This rate includes an Autopay APR reduction of 0.5%. By enrolling in Autopay your payments will be automatically deducted from you bank account. Selecting Autopay is optional. Annual Percentage Rate is inclusive of a loan origination fee, which is deducted from the loan proceeds. Late payments or subsequent charges and fees may increase the cost of your fixed rate loan. All loans made by WebBank, member FDIC. Please refer to Upgrade’s Terms of Use and Borrower Agreement for all terms, conditions and requirements.

** Accept your loan offer and your funds will be sent to your bank via ACH within one (1) business day of clearing necessary verifications. Availability of the funds is dependent on how quickly your bank processes this transaction. From the time of approval, funds should be available within four (4) business days.

7.73% – 29.99%$1,000 - $50,000Visit Upstart
6.26% – 14.87%1$5,000 - $100,000Visit SoFi
6.99% – 35.97%*$1,000 - $50,000Visit Upgrade
8.00% – 25.00%2$5,000 - $35,000Visit Payoff
4.99% – 29.99%3$10,000 - $35,000Visit FreedomPlus
5.99% – 18.99%4$5,000 - $50,000Visit Citizens
15.49% – 34.49%5$2,000 - $25,000Visit LendingPoint
6.16% – 35.89%6$1,000 - $40,000Visit LendingClub
6.99% – 18.24%7$5,000 - $75,000Visit Earnest
9.95% – 35.99%8$2,000 - $35,000Visit Avant
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.

Published in Credit & Debt, Review