Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, & Credit.com

If you aren’t familiar with these companies, they are a few of the places that will give you some version of your credit score for free. Of course, you can always go to AnnualCreditReport.com and pull your credit reports from each company once a year for free, but it doesn’t offer a ballpark credit score of any kind.

Companies often use multiple scoring models to make a decision, and lenders in particular take into account your actual debt to income ratio when making a decision. So you can have great credit on paper, and still get turned down for a mortgage because your debt is too high in relation to your income, something the score models don’t measure. They only measure debt load in relation to your overall credit limits.

It’s not necessary to sign up for all the sites below unless you just want to be crazy, because if you have a good Equifax score, chances are you also have good scores across the board since all of your credit reports contain essentially the same information. So it’s nothing to get crazy about. They are for informational (and entertaining) purposes only and may vary quite a bit from the score that say a mortgage lender you like is using.

Credit Karma updates weekly, pulling Vantage 3.0 scores based on information in your TransUnion and Equifax reports. Your score doesn’t usually fluctuate enough to justify checking it more than once a month, but it’s there all the same and can be fun to look at, if nothing else. Credit Karma also offers your credit reports (updated monthly) for free.

Credit Sesame updates every month with a score based on your Experian report. It’s lacks a lot of the other features Credit Karma has but offers a subscription model that will update your score more often – daily (which we’ve already determined isn’t necessary) and also give you an updated credit report every month and other credit monitoring things that may or may be worth the price of $9.95 and $14.95 a month respectively.

Credit.com also offers your Experian score two different ways: the company score and the Vantage 3.0 Score. As far as I can tell, the Vantage Score is a competitor to the Fico Score that claims to be more accurate and “fair” than the Fico score model, but they have the same range and run off basically the same information. Both of these scores will update every 30 days on the site. They offer no other free features, but offer a paid subscription service of $24.95 with a $1 trial for one week to get all three credit reports and scores side by side.

If you’ve never seen a 3-in-1 report, your scores don’t actually vary all that much from each other. They are scoring you based on information in your reports, which should all be very similar as they share basic information with each other. TransUnion tends to be a little higher from what I’ve seen, but if you have a fair credit rating on the other two, it will also be fair with TransUnion, it’s just scaled a little differently.

It’s useful to check all of your reports from time to time to make sure the information on there is correct and up to date, but keep in mind, not all companies report to all three agencies. For example, Capital One may report your payment history to Equifax and Experian but not TransUnion. So on your report for TransUnion, while the account will still show up along with any other information like what your highest balance was and if the account is current or closed, the payment history could be completely blank.

That said, all the basic information should be identical since they are supposed to share it with each other – things like age of oldest and newest accounts, total number of open and closed accounts on your report, and other such things. What will vary the most will be less important information like number of credit inquiries because that is going to depend on which reports the companies pulled to check your credit, because they don’t always look at all of them.

Other Companies
Both Mint and the 2015 version of Quicken offer your Equifax credit score for free, updated quarterly. There are a number of credit cards companies that have started doing this as well. Both Discover and Citi Bank offer Fico model Equifax Scores that are updated monthly. I think they just offer it with certain cards, but I don’t know for sure. LendingTree.com also offers a Transunion Vantage Score that’s updated monthly for no charge.

There is also Quizzle, another free service like Credit.com but the application timed out while I ran to look up a number, so that site is literally useless to me now. But from what I can tell, it offers your Equifax score and updates on a monthly basis.

The question people usually have about these sites is how they can offer these services for free when so many other companies charge for them. One reason: Advertising.

If you join any of these sites, what you will see on every single corner of the page are advertisements for credit cards and loan products. They even go so far as to recommend what will be a “good” card for you based on your score. This is a great opportunity for the credit card companies because they are assuming that people who aggressively check their score are often the biggest users of debt products. It’s always important to keep in mind that debt products are for broke people are literally some of the most aggressively marketed products in the world.

Hi ^_^