Knowing your credit history can be a big help as you plan your financial future. Being able to track your credit score can help you see whether you qualify for certain financial products, interest rates, and services — and it can also help you gauge your credit building progress and look for important changes to your credit information.
Happily, checking your own credit score won’t hurt your credit. And using a service like Credit Sesame or Credit Karma can help you stay on top of your credit situation. But which should you use? Here’s an in-depth look at Credit Sesame vs. Credit Karma.
What is Credit Sesame?
Credit Sesame focuses on your TransUnion VantageScore. Your VantageScore is based on a scoring model created by the three major credit bureaus. This is different from your FICO score, which has been the industry standard for decades and was developed by the Fair Isaac Corporation. You’re likely to get different numbers when it comes to your VantageScore versus your FICO score because the algorithms used by each credit scoring model emphasize slightly different things.
However, whether you see your VantageScore or FICO score, the idea is that you can get a general idea of your credit situation. The score you see on Credit Sesame is a base consumer score, and there might be differences in what a lender sees if they check your credit score when you apply for a loan. But you can still get an idea if your credit score is good.
With Credit Sesame, you can view different aspects of your finances and get helpful suggestions. Here are the financial aspects Credit Sesame helps you with:
Credit score analysis
You’ll receive information on different aspects of your credit and what contributes to your credit score. Credit Sesame uses letter grades to illustrate how well you’re doing and provides helpful hints to boost your score. It also explains the impact each factor has on your score as well as where you currently fall with each of them — and what you can do to improve.
Credit Sesame also provides debt analysis. You’ll get a clear picture of what you owe and what percentage of your income is going toward paying it down. You can even see a helpful graph that provides you with information related to your balances so you can track your debt reduction progress.
Using this information can provide you with a good starting point for any debt repayment plan, as well as help you get a realistic view of how debt is impacting your life and help you better determine how to manage your money.
You can check credit alerts on your account as well. This includes information about when you receive a credit score increase, as well as when you’re past due on a payment. Credit Sesame will identify delinquent accounts and let you know how they’re impacting your score.
Credit Sesame also offers advanced options for credit and identity monitoring. With the free version, you’ll only see alerts from one credit bureau (TransUnion), but if you pay a monthly fee, you can get the following extras:
- $9.95: Monthly credit updates from all three consumer credit bureaus
- $15.95: Credit monitoring of all three bureaus with alerts, plus access to live experts who can help you solve credit report inaccuracies
- $19.95: Identity monitoring on top of credit monitoring, checking blackmarket websites and public records, and alerts for when your Social Security number is used to open an account
On top of helping you see your current situation, Credit Sesame also makes recommendations. First, you can get recommendations on activities that can help improve your credit score. Credit Sesame will also estimate how certain actions could potentially impact your score.
For example, if I were to add another credit card to my arsenal, I could potentially see an increase of 16 points to my credit score over the course of eight months. The highest potential could even be 54 points — although Credit Sesame also acknowledges that a new card could reduce my score by 17 points.
In addition to recommending actions, Credit Sesame suggests credit cards and other products that could help you reach your goals. This is where Credit Sesame makes money off of free accounts, as the company earns a commission when you choose a product.
However, that doesn’t mean a product suggestion is a bad idea. I was able to save $300 a month when I refinanced my home seven years ago using a company that Credit Sesame recommended. Credit Sesame also includes approval odds, so you can make an educated suggestion about which products you’re likely to qualify for.
How you sign up for Credit Sesame
Signing up for Credit Sesame is fairly straightforward. All you have to do is enter your email address and then provide the following information:
- Address (and how long you’ve lived there)
- Birth date
- Last four digits of your Social Security number
- Phone number
Once you provide this info, plus verify your identity by answering questions about some of the debt you’ve had in the past (or have now), you’ll be taken to your data and can see where you stand. Note that Credit Sesame uses bank-level encryption to keep your data safe.
What is Credit Karma?
Like Credit Sesame, Credit Karma uses VantageScore. However, Credit Karma also includes information from your Equifax report in addition to your TransUnion report. Seeing multiple scores is useful, but it’s important to note that you won’t typically see one uniform score across the credit reporting bureaus. There might even be wide variations in your score, depending on the credit-reporting agency and the model used.
For example, my TransUnion score shows an improvement of nine points in the last month, while my Equifax score dropped 24 points. Using these scores can help you track your progress and give you a general idea of where you stand, but they’re hardly set in stone. Plus, you might get yet another score when you go to actually apply for a loan.
Credit Karma provides an in-depth credit analysis that takes a look at the factors that make up your VantageScore. You can see what impact they have and dig into various aspects of your score to see what might be holding you back from credit score greatness.
With Credit Karma’s color-coded system, you can see what’s dragging you down and get an idea of how big of a deal any given factor is. You can then dig in to see why something is a particular problem. I forgot two payments a little more than a year ago, which was a big issue because of what a high impact payment history has on your credit.
If you dig deeper into that area, you’ll find that Credit Karma includes an explanation of what’s impacting your score and a pro tip to help you avoid the problem in the future. Once I got my account on autopay, I didn’t have any more problems, but it will take a few more months for this factor to stop dragging me down.
On top of seeing what’s happening with your score, you can also get recommendations for products and services that fit your needs — and that might help you improve your credit score in the future. You can see your approval odds for credit cards and loans, then make a financial decision based on that information.
Products and services
Credit Karma also provides you with a number of easy-to-use ways to find financial products and services. You can even look at your current vehicle report and get help finding insurance or, if you have a loan, refinancing it. Credit Karma even provides your insurance score and a marketplace for finding new cars.
Some of the other products and services Credit Karma can help you with include:
- Tax preparation and filing
- Unclaimed money and property finder
- Various loans, including personal loans and home loans
If there’s something you want to do with your money, Credit Karma can probably help you do it.
Credit Karma also offers detailed information about different aspects of your identity. Credit Karma will even let you know which data breaches have affected you and which of your passwords has been exposed. It will also provide you with information about freezing your credit.
You can use the information provided in the details to figure out which passwords should be changed and where you can go for more information about data breaches. With data breaches becoming increasingly common, this information can help you stay on top of the situation. Credit Karma also offers helpful tips for protecting your information in the future.
There are a number of helpful calculators on the Credit Karma website as well. You’ll find a mortgage calculator, amortization schedule, debt repayment calculator, and more.
One of the most interesting calculators, though, is the credit score simulator. The simulator lets you choose from a variety of options to play around with different scenarios. For example, if I were to get a balance transfer credit card, my credit score would drop about four points, according to the simulator.
One of the coolest features is that Credit Karma will provide you with the reason your score could drop, offer some pros and cons, and give you a typical time for your score to recover from the impact.
How you sign up for Credit Karma
With Credit Karma, you can sign up quickly and easily. You’ll start out by providing your email address and creating a password. After that, you’ll provide the following information:
- Birth date
- Last four digits of your Social Security number
Accept the terms and conditions, then move on to verify your identity by answering questions about past or current credit accounts — or both. Once you’ve done that, you can see your dashboard.
Credit Sesame vs. Credit Karma
While there are some key differences between Credit Sesame and Credit Karma, it’s important to note that both just offer potential score results and general consumer information. Additionally, since your information is based on VantageScore information, when you apply with a lender that relies on the FICO score, you might get a different result. Also, be aware that neither company offers information based on Experian.
Both Credit Sesame and Credit Karma are safe to use, offer you ways to protect yourself from identity theft, and provide mobile apps that are easy to use on your iPhone or Android phone. So, how do you pick between the two?
Here are some of the key things to consider when looking at Credit Sesame vs. Credit Karma:
- Credit Karma shows TransUnion and Equifax; Credit Sesame just shows TransUnion.
- Credit Sesame offers better identity protection options.
- Credit Karma offers a more detailed credit score simulator.
- Credit Karma provides access to more financial services (like tax prep and the unclaimed money finder).
- Credit Sesame makes it easier to get an overall view of your situation on its dashboard.
- Credit Sesame’s recommendations are often more on-point than Credit Karma’s, in my own experience.
Keep in mind that identity protection options aren’t the same as identity theft insurance. Identity theft insurance typically covers costs associated with identity theft, including services used when reclaiming your identity and restoring your credit such as assigning you a case manager and reimbursing you for attorney’s fees. So in addition to the identity theft services provided by Credit Sesame and Credit Karma, you might want to consider getting an identity theft insurance add-on to your property insurance. Many major insurance providers offer this type of insurance.
It should also be noted that you can get free access to your full credit report from each of the credit bureaus by request it through AnnualCreditReport.com. However, all you will get is the free credit report and not any of the other services that Credit Karma and Credit Sesame provide. This report will also not include your credit scores.
Which is better: Credit Sesame or Credit Karma?
The better credit monitoring service between Credit Sesame and Credit Karma is the one that works best for you. Both companies provide similar services, but you might find one is more suited to your needs or preferences.
For example, Credit Karma shows both TransUnion and Equifax data while Credit Sesame only shows TransUnion data. However, you might like the identity protection options with Credit Sesame more than Credit Karma.
Does Credit Sesame or Credit Karma hurt my credit?
Using Credit Sesame or Credit Karma to check your credit score won’t hurt your credit. Checking your credit score with these services is considered a soft credit check, which doesn’t affect your credit at all. However, applying for a loan or credit card advertised on Credit Sesame or Credit Karma could result in a hard inquiry, which could affect your credit.
Does either Credit Sesame or Credit Karma offer free credit monitoring?
Both Credit Sesame and Credit Karma offer free credit monitoring services. Credit Karma monitors your credit reports from Equifax and TransUnion and can help keep you updated on changes with these reports. Credit Sesame monitors and offers real-time alerts for your TransUnion credit report.
Bottom line: Which should you choose?
Whether you're looking to apply for an auto loan or just shopping your options with various credit card companies, it's good to understand as much as you can about your credit score and how your credit report works.
For that reason, there’s really no reason to choose between Credit Sesame vs. Credit Karma. Both of these are free services at the basic level (although you can pay to add identity monitoring with Credit Sesame). I personally use both and find each of them helpful in evaluating my personal finances, getting a snapshot of my credit, and understanding credit score ranges.
Carefully consider your financial goals and what you hope to accomplish with your credit score. Look over the potential offerings of each service and sign up for what will give you the best experience — even if it means signing up for both for better coverage overall.