Credit Karma Review: Free Credit Score and More at Your Fingertips

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Credit Karma is a key part of money expert Clark Howard’s credit freeze toolkit because the site allows you to monitor your credit. But that’s not all that Credit Karma – a free financial resource – allows you to do.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Credit Karma, including its best features and how you can check your credit scores and monitor your credit.

Credit Karma: What To Know Before You Sign Up

Clark has been a fan of Credit Karma for several years now due to the many things the website and app offer to consumers.

“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 101

How To Sign 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:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Date of birth
  • The last four digits of your Social Security Number

This data is required 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 Equifax and TransUnion 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.

Once you’re in, it’s time to check out Credit Karma’s many features.

Check Your Credit Scores

Credit Karma allows you to quickly see your credit scores in real time. Once you log in, front and center on the site’s dashboard, you’ll see your credit scores from TransUnion and Equifax.

Credit Karma credit scores from TransUnion and Equifax.

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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 does not use Experian credit scores).

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.

You can also drill down a bit further into your credit score, by clicking the “See What’s Changed” button underneath your Credit Health details. You can also get to this information by clicking Credit>Score Details in the top menu. 

When you do so, it’ll show you specifically what balances decreased on your credit report as well as if any hard inquiries took place and how your score was affected.

Credit Factors on

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How To Get Your Credit Report

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. After that, you’ll need to scroll down to see the credit report from whichever bureau you selected along with the option to print the report.

Click “View Full Credit Report” and you’ll see:

  • Personal information like your name and address
  • Accounts such as any real estate or auto loans and credit cards
  • Hard inquiries
  • Collections
  • Public records like any bankruptcies and legal judgments against you

How To Monitor Your Credit

With the two features mentioned above – checking your credit scores and credit report – Credit Karma allows you to keep an eye on your activity to guard against unusual activity or identity breaches.

Clark wants you to regularly 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.

Other Features

When it comes to other features, Credit Karma offers a pretty robust slate of financial services. For instance, one really useful tool the site offers is a “Credit Score Simulator” which you can access by clicking the Loans > Tools tab on the top menu.

Once you’re on the page, you’ll need to scroll down and click on “Simulate Your Credit Score.”

Credit Simulator on Credit Karma

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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:

  • Having a credit card application denied
  • Getting a new loan
  • Opening a new credit card
  • Transferring balances to a new card
  • Closing your oldest credit card
  • 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.

Debt Repayment Calculator

Also found in the Financial Calculators and Tools section of Credit Karma is a debt repayment calculator. Click there and fill in the “balanced owed” and “estimated interest rate” boxes to see how long it could take to pay off your credit card debt.

Debt Repayment Calculator on Kredit Karma

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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 Loans > Auto tabs 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).

Credit Karma auto profile

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 Carvana and TrueCar to let you shop for and finance a used car online, or you can get a quote for selling your current vehicle.

You can also see options for car insurance, loan refinancing and steps to buy or sell a new or used vehicle.

Using Credit Karma Savings

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 5.10%, Credit Karma savings compare favorably to other high-yield savings accounts.

Credit Karma savings account

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More features of Credit Karma include:

  • 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 its 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.
  • Tax services: The site also offers some tax tools you might be interested in, including tax preparation through Intuit, a tax refund estimator and tips on how to spend your refund. At, we want you to file your taxes for free.

Final Thoughts

The 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.