Credit Karma is a resource that money expert Clark Howard often recommends to get free credit monitoring and to see your credit score. But as you’re about to see, there’s so much more you can do with the website and app.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the best features of Credit Karma. We’ll also hear from Clark on why he loves the service.
How To Use Credit Karma for Free Credit Scores and More
“What’s fantastic about Credit Karma is their entire suite of free services,” Clark says. “You’re able to monitor your score, monitor your credit and know — before you even apply — the likelihood of you being approved for a loan.”
Table of Contents: Credit Karma Review
- Signing Up for Credit Karma
- Using Credit Karma To Check Your Credit Score
- How To Get Your Credit Report
- Using the Auto Tools
- Using Credit Karma Savings
- Other Useful Products and Services
Signing Up for Credit Karma
The first thing you’ll want to do if you’re not already a Credit Karma member is to sign up for the service. This is a three-step process that involves:
- Creating an account
- Providing some information about yourself
- Confirming your identity
The information you’re required to share to join is:
- Date of birth
- The last four digits of your Social Security Number
This data is required in order for Credit Karma to access your credit reports, which is necessary to provide you with your free credit score.
Note: If you’ve taken Clark’s advice and frozen your credit with the three major credit bureaus, you will need to unfreeze it temporarily with TransUnion and Equifax in order to use Credit Karma the first time. You can freeze your credit again after you sign up and the service will work going forward.
The final step of the sign-up process is to confirm your identity. Credit Karma may ask you a series of questions about former addresses and various credit or banking accounts.
Using Credit Karma To Check Your Credit Score
As you can see, the site displays two different scores, one based on your TransUnion credit report and one based on your Equifax credit report. Credit Karma calculates your score using VantageScore 3.0, which it explains like this: “VantageScore 3.0 is a credit scoring model. It takes the information in your credit report and turns it into a score. There are many scoring models out there, including ones from FICO and other companies. Each one calculates your score a bit differently, but they all use information from your report.“
You may find that your two scores are different. That’s because the credit reports from the two bureaus can contain slightly different information at any given time depending on when creditors are reporting to them.
One really useful tool the site offers is a “Credit Score Simulator” which you can access by scrolling over the “Resources” tab on the top menu.
With the Credit Score Simulator, you can see how your credit score would likely change if you were to take any number of actions, including:
- Getting a new loan
- Opening a new credit card
- Transferring balances to a new card
- Closing your oldest credit card
- Having a credit application denied
- Getting a credit limit increase
- Increasing or decreasing your balances
- Letting accounts go past due
- Going into foreclosure
- Having your wages garnished
- Having an account sent to collections
Playing around with the simulator can give you a good sense of how much these activities affect your credit score as well as which actions you could take to improve it — and by how much.
How To Get Your Credit Report
Knowing your credit score is a big part of having a grasp on your overall financial situation, but in order to understand your score, Clark says you really need to check your full credit report at least once per year. Credit Karma is one of a handful of places that lets you do that for free.
Credit Karma gives you access to your reports from both TransUnion and Equifax and highlights important information to make the reports easier to understand. Your reports can be updated daily, and you can check them as often as you want.
To access your credit reports, just click on either one of the credit scores you see on your dashboard. You’ll see the report from whichever bureau you selected along with the option to print the report.
Using the Auto Tools
While not as robust at the credit score and report offerings, Credit Karma does offer some tools related to your vehicle.
You can access these by clicking the “Auto” tab on the top menu.
If you’ve already connected your car information to Credit Karma, you’ll see your auto profile on this page. If not, you can click on “connect my car” or “add my cars,” and Credit Karma will be able to pull up information on your vehicle(s).
Once your car information comes up on your auto profile page, you can:
- See the balance on any auto loan you may have
- Check to see if refinancing your auto loan could save you money
- See the current estimated value of your vehicle
- See any current recalls for your car
- Check auto insurance rates for someone with your profile
Credit Karma also partners with Vroom to let you shop for and finance a used car online, or you can get a quote for selling your current vehicle.
Using Credit Karma Savings
The latest addition to Credit Karma’s suite of products and services is Credit Karma Money, a banking option with fee-free checking and high-yield savings. Credit Karma partners with MVB Bank to offer these FDIC-insured accounts.
With an APY of 1.38%, Credit Karma savings compare favorably with some of the other high yield savings accounts out there at the moment.
Other Credit Karma Products and Services
- Credit card offers: Browse current credit card offerings based on a number of different categories, including best overall, balance transfers, rewards and cash back. Credit Karma will let you know your likely approval odds for each card based on your credit profile. We should note that this is one way the free site makes money — they get a cut if you are approved for a card you apply for through them.
- Loans: Get personalized estimated interest rates and approval odds on personal, home and auto loans. This is another way the site makes money: through it affiliation with the companies offering these loans.
- Identity monitoring: Check to see if you have credit freezes in place at Equifax and TransUnion, and see if the email address you used to sign up for Credit Karma has been involved in any data breaches.
- Unclaimed money: This might be our favorite minor feature. If a business owes you money but can’t find you, it may turn the money over to the state. Credit Karma will search your state’s role of unclaimed cash and let you know if you need to file a claim for some of it. See more ways to find and claim missing money in your name here.
The old adage “you get what you pay for” doesn’t really apply to Credit Karma. If you thought it was simply a place to check your credit score, you might be missing out on a host of other features the site offers. But even if the credit score check is the only thing you ever use, Credit Karma can be a helpful resource in your financial toolkit.