Credit Karma vs. Credit Sesame: Is one better than the other?

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Credit Karma vs. Credit Sesame: Is one better than the other?
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Credit monitoring services enjoy widespread popularity these days in the wake of numerous data breaches. In addition, if you’re in debt and working to pull yourself out of it, monitoring your credit score is an important part of your financial journey.

If you’re trying to figure out which credit monitoring service to use, it can be difficult to choose one that fits your exact needs — or your budget. That’s because many credit monitoring services charge a fee — but not all of them. Enter Credit Karma and Credit Sesame.

Credit Karma vs. Credit Sesame comparison: What’s the difference?

Credit Karma and Credit Sesame are the two most popular free credit monitoring services. The sites have similar offerings, but they are not identical.

Credit Karma launched in San Francisco in 2007. With more than 80 million subscribers, Credit Karma is the largest free credit monitoring service in the United States.

Credit Karma screenshot

Credit Sesame’s membership totals around 9 million, according to the latest figures available online. The Mountain View, California-based company launched in 2010.

Credit Sesame screenshot

Both services offer you unlimited free access to your credit scores anytime you like, but there are some differences between the two.

What are the differences between Credit Karma and Credit Sesame?

Neither site requires a credit card to sign up, although Credit Sesame’s business model includes premium services that charge for some features, but more on that later.

With a free model, you might be wondering how the sites make money. Both sites get paid by their advertising partners. Using an algorithm based on your data, they both makes credit card recommendations to their members. If you follow through and sign up for one, the sites make money.

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Here’s a side-by-side comparison of free services offered by Credit Karma and Credit Sesame:

Free services provided by Credit Karma & Credit Sesame: A comparison

Credit Karma Credit Sesame
Credit scores from TransUnion & Equifax Credit score from TransUnion
Credit monitoring Credit monitoring
Identity monitoring Identity theft protection & insurance
Free tax filing Real-time alerts on your phone
Auto insurance score, auto value, auto recall information
Unclaimed money finder

As you can see, Credit Karma offers a more comprehensive suite of products that can empower the consumer to take control of their financial life, including:

  • Auto insurance score, recall info, etc: In late 2018, Credit Karma introduced a tool to help its users find cheaper auto insurance. The tool generates auto insurance suggestions by scouring government data on motorists, their vehicles and insurance rate filings. Recall information and more data is accessible though the site’s Auto Hub.
  • Unclaimed money finder: Credit Karma also provides a resource for people to find unclaimed money owed to them in states they used to live in or where they currently reside.
  • Identity monitoring: Credit Karma began offering ID monitoring in early 2018, rolling out bare-bones features with promises to beef up the service.
  • Tax filing: If pricing is a concern, there’s no better service than Credit Karma’s free tax-filing feature. Feedback from users highlights the fact that Credit Karma doesn’t offer any professional support for this service. As a boon, though, along with free federal tax filing, Credit Karma doesn’t charge for filing your state taxes either. Both Turbo Tax and H&R Block charge for filing your state taxes.

How does Credit Karma get your credit score?

Credit Karma pulls its credit score information from TransUnion and Equifax. The scores are powered by the VantageScore 3.0 scoring model, a proprietary score designed by the three big credit-reporting agencies as an alternative to FICO’s scoring models.

And, yes, there are many scoring models. Most of them adhere to the 300-to-850 scoring range that consumers have come to know.

How does Credit Sesame get your credit score?

Credit Sesame pulls your credit score information from TransUnion, also by way of VantageScore 3.0.

Credit Karma vs. Credit Sesame: Is one free service better than the other?

Unlike Credit Karma, Credit Sesame offers three membership tiers beyond “free”: Advanced ($9.95), Pro ($15.95) and Platinum ($19.95).

Here’s a look at what paying for those additional membership tiers will get you:

Credit Sesame paid tiers

RELATED: These states are the most vulnerable to identity theft and fraud

One major difference from Credit Karma is that Credit Sesame’s free service offers $50,000 of identity theft insurance, while its Pro and Platinum plans come with $1 million of ID theft insurance.

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Clark’s take: Credit Karma & Credit Sesame

Money expert Clark Howard is a big fan of both Credit Karma and Credit Sesame.

“What’s fantastic about Credit Karma is their entire suite of free services,” he 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.”

Another valuable protection Clark lives by is a credit freeze. He suggests that you sign up for free credit monitoring with either Credit Karma or Credit Sesame before you freeze your credit — otherwise you may not be able to use those services without unfreezing your credit.

See Clark’s Credit Freeze Guide for step-by-step instructions.

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