2024 Credit Karma Review: Is It Accurate? Really Free?
transferring Bilt points on a phone

The Good and Bad of Credit Karma in 2024

Over the years there’s been no shortage of television commercials reminding us to check our credit scores. While many will likely remember the incessant FreeCreditReport.com songs that populated the airwaves earlier in the decade, recent years have brought a shift toward another credit monitoring platform: Credit Karma. The biggest factor driving the site’s popularity is the fact that, unlike some past services, Credit Karma is free — like don’t-even-enter-a-credit-card-number free. As a result, the site was my first stop when I was finally ready to face my credit head-on.

Many years and several changes later, Credit Karma remains the most popular educational credit score site available. Spoiler alert: that’s with good reason — although the service isn’t perfect. Let’s take a closer look at what you need to know about Credit Karma, including the pros and cons.

Credit Karma
Credit Karma Review: The Most Popular Option for a Reason
5
Cost
Free
Scoring model
VantageScore 3.0
Bureau data featured
Equifax and TransUnion
Start Your Credit Journey Here
For those looking to learn more about their credit, Credit Karma is a one-stop shop. Not only can consumers view educational scores from two bureaus for free but can also review the data found on their credit report. Plus, the platform has expanded to feature banking accounts, a tool that alerts you to data breaches, and more. The only downside is that the site’s credit card recommendation alerts can be a bit annoying at times (although this is what keeps the site free). Overall, Credit Karma is a perfect place to start if you want to take command of your credit.
Pros
  • Free to use
  • Offers VantageScore 3.0 scores based on both Equifax and TransUnion data
  • Easy to navigate
Cons
  • Card/loan ads and alerts can be annoying
  • The organization of the site can be confusing, with key features somewhat hidden

Signing Up For and Navigating Credit Karma

Before you can view your credit scores and reports, Credit Karma requires you to sign up for an account. As I mentioned the site is completely free and doesn’t require you to enter a credit card number, making for a relatively painless process. However you will need to share some sensitive information including your social security number, so double-check that your browser shows the site as “https://” — the ‘s’ meaning it’s secure — and it’s probably best to not sign up while using public WiFi.

After entering the basic info you’ll have to confirm your identity by answering some oddly entertaining questions they devise regarding where you’ve lived, what types of credit you’ve held, and sometimes even your old roommate’s birthday (seriously). Should you pass their challenge you may cross the Bridge of Death in safety and enter the site to view your credit info 😉 

Something I should note is that, if you’ve frozen your credit report, the site will not be able to set up your account. To get around this, simply request temporary lifts for your Equifax and TransUnion reports so that Credit Karma can access them. Thankfully, after your initial setup is complete, you can refreeze your credit and continue using Credit Karma without issue.

Your dashboard and beyond

Once logged in you’ll be brought to your dashboard, starting with an overview. The first thing you’re likely to notice is two gauges that indicate two different credit scores: one from TransUnion and the other from Equifax. In addition to a number, Credit Karma will also give you a basic adjective that best describes your credit standing. They seem to consider anything over 700 “Good” while over 750 is “Excellent.” On the other end, “Very Poor” is anything under 580.

A bit lower on the dashboard, you’ll also find alerts about notable increases/decreases to your credit card balance and usage alongside some product recommendations (more on that later).

Going back to the top, clicking on either of the gauges will take you to a page where you can dive into your score. This includes a chart plotting the history of your scores, a Credit Coaching section with various tips, a look at your credit factors, credit report, and more.

Credit factors and credit report

Credit Factors gives you a look at all of the categories that go into determining a credit score, as well as a hint on where you stand in each. Next to that is the Credit Report tab. Something I like about Credit Karma is how readable it makes your credit reports, dividing them into clearly labeled sections. Here you’ll be able to see a list of credit accounts that report to each bureau and drill down for more information, including account status, credit limit, and payment history. Additionally, while I haven’t had to use it, Credit Karma also includes a link you can utilize to dispute and correct any issue you may find.

Recommendations

At this point you may be wondering how Credit Karma can offer such a service for free. Here’s how: credit card sign-up referrals. Yes, you will see ads for various credit cards while surfing the site. However, unlike normal advertisements you may encounter around the web, Credit Karma provides you with information about each card explaining why you may want to sign up for it.

Meanwhile the Card and Loans tabs will give you a look at various options along with your odds of approval. It will also note a few of the features and details for each product. Admittedly, Credit Karma does do a nice job of displaying this information and does keep these ads to a relative minimum. However I suspect that those actually looking for a new credit card would be better served doing their research elsewhere. That said, if you do know what card you want and want to give Credit Karma a “thank you” for their free services, feel free to apply using their affiliate links.

Credit score simulator and other resources

Under the Tools section of Credit Karma (found under the Loans tab for some reason), you’ll find some helpful features including the surprisingly cool credit score simulator. Basically, before you decide to open that new card, close an old one, or get a loan, Credit Karma can tell you how your credit is likely to be affected by that decision. 

In theory, this could be extremely helpful in stopping you from making a huge mistake. For example, the simulator once informed me that if my wife were to close her then 11-year-old credit card, her score could plummet more than 150 points since “age of credit” is a factor in calculating your score (for what it’s worth, now that it’s been six years and we have several other cards, the impact of closing this particular card would be negligible). Assuming you didn’t know that already, wouldn’t you be damn happy to have prevented that massive error?

Elsewhere in Tools, you’ll find all kinds of specialized calculators, informative blog posts, and much more. In other words, don’t neglect this section of the site, even if it’s tucked away in a not-great location.

Identity theft and breach info

One interesting feature found in Credit is their Identity Monitoring. Here you can confirm whether your credit reports are frozen, which is pretty useful if you have indeed frozen your credit (which you might want to consider doing). But the real star here is Data Breach Monitoring where you can see how many breaches your information has been found in and what passwords have been compromised. 

Inside the actual Data Breach Monitoring page, you’ll first see a list of passwords that have been exposed — in other words, don’t use them! However it’s important to note that this isn’t a complete list of passwords that may have been stolen by hackers. That’s because, in some cases, Credit Karma may be able to confirm that a password was accessed during a hack but not be able to tell you what it is. 

For example, while the password I used for the site Canva wasn’t explicitly listed, clicking on the Canva hack listing noted that my password was indeed exposed. Incidentally I’m pretty sure that’s what led to my Spotify being hacked (seriously, don’t recycle passwords!)

In all, Credit Karma notes that my info has been found in 35 breaches. That’s astonishing although not all that surprising. With more breaches sure to impact us all, this is a super handy tool that might just help you prevent further headaches from hackers.

Credit Karma Money: Save and Spend Accounts

Over the years, Credit Karma has expanded its offerings and ventured into other areas of personal finance. One of these is their Credit Karma Money product. This is actually split into two offerings: Spend and Save.

First, starting with Credit Karma Money Save, this free account allows users to earn a healthy interest rate (currently 4.10% APY as of January 25th, 2024). Accountholders can make one-time deposits or arrange for automated transfers, making it easy to build up your balance.

To be honest, there’s really not much more to Credit Karma Money Save than that. The account doesn’t seem to be looking to replace your current bank account as it offers a limited number of functions. Instead it’s just an option for those who want to get into the habit of saving and earn a comparatively high interest rate in the process. However, customers can now pair the Save account with Credit Karma Money Spend.

Like Save, Spend is also free to sign up for. When you do, you’ll receive a debit card that’s accepted wherever Visa is. With your spend account, you’ll have access to a number of checking features, including the ability to get your direct deposit funds up to two days early, access to more than 55,000 fee-free ATMs that are part of the Allpoint network, and more. 

By the way, if you do sign up for either a Credit Karma Money Spend or Save account, your balance(s) will display prominently in your dashboard.

Credit Karma Tax

Finally, I did want to mention Credit Karma Tax. This was a platform that allowed customers to prep and file their federal and state income tax returns for free. I actually tried this out for my 2017 taxes. However, Credit Karma Tax no longer exists — at least not under that moniker.

As part of Intuit’s acquisition of Credit Karma, the company was required to sell its tax prep platform. The buyer happened to be Block Inc., who renamed the offering Cash App Taxes. Luckily, the platform is still free to use, but is accessed via Cash App. So, while it may not be Credit Karma related anymore, you can still find the service they started over there.

How Accurate is Credit Karma?

That’s the $64,000 question, isn’t it? It can also be a little hard to give a definitive answer as your personal experience can vary based on a number of factors. Let’s take this piece by piece:

VantageScore 3.0

Credit scores are far more complex than most people realize. In fact, while most people associate credit scores with FICO, there are several other methods used by creditors. In the case of Credit Karma, VantageScore 3.0 is employed. What does this mean? Well it means that your scores may not match those provided by other services.

There are some similarities. Like FICO, VantageScore still grades on a scale ranging from 300 to 850. Additionally the factors that go into a score and the basic weighting behind each section are also the same. So really what it comes down to is a tweak in the algorithm that laymen like me aren’t exactly privy to that can lead to some discrepancies between other scores you may obtain.

Even some FICO scores can vary from others

Get this — not even FICO offers one standardized score. The number shown to a car loan lender might be different than what a credit card company sees as, once again, the algorithms behind how these scores are calculated can be altered slightly depending on the circumstance. What does this mean for Credit Karma? Despite what some commercials may tell you, you’ll almost never know exactly which one of your dozens of scores a creditor will see. While they should be fairly similar there’s also a bit of a range you should be prepared for. With that said…

You can still learn from Credit Karma’s tools

Even though your score may not be quite as high as Credit Karma would have you believe (or maybe it is? Again, this is all anecdotal) there’s still a lot of value in this free service. First knowing the range of where your credit sits is hugely important. After all, it’s what put me back in the saddle and ready to get serious about raising my credit. 

Additionally the site allows you to view your scores often and see how your actions can affect your scores. While it’s probably not a great idea to babysit your credit, it’s very comforting knowing you can find this info easily.

Acquisition by Intuit and Integrations 

In 2020, Intuit announced that it was acquiring Credit Karma. Since then, the company’s impact has been felt in a few ways. For one, as mentioned, Credit Karma was forced to sell off its free tax platform. However, as of 2024, Intuit has now integrated its TurboTax service into Credit Karma. 

By visiting the Taxes & Income tab and then clicking File Taxes, customers will be able to prepare and file their federal and state returns. In some good news, those with simple tax situations (such as a single W-2 and a standard deduction) can file for free. Unfortunately, those who are self-employed or have other more complicated tax situations may need to upgrade to a paid service — or, perhaps, check out Cash App Tax, which remains completely free.

Another Intuit service making its way to Credit Karma is Mint. After announcing plans to shut down the popular finance app, Intuit revealed that it would be adding some of Mint’s features to Credit Karma. This integration is ongoing as Mint nears a complete closure, so it’s unclear exactly what the finished product will look like. Hopefully a lot of what people loved about Mint will make it over to Credit Karma, but we’ll need to wait and see.

Final Thoughts on Credit Karma

So Credit Karma might not be able to tell you exactly what your credit score is but the truth is you have so many scores that it hardly matters. What makes this free service great isn’t necessarily the credit scores it offers you but the tools it gives you to protect, monitor, and improve your overall credit. Plus, in my estimation, the Credit Factor section is a real eye-opener for many users while the Credit Simulator could be a real lifesaver. 

However, that brings up one slight complaint I have about Credit Karma in 2024: the organization. Why they’d shove a useful feature such as Credit Simulator under the Loans tab where it’s less likely to be found confuses me. Plus, with Mint features apparently making their way to CK, I do worry that navigating the site/app may be a bit more confusing for a while.

Since I originally reviewed Credit Karma, I’ve had the chance to try other free credit sites as well. While I appreciate what WalletHub and others have to offer, there’s no denying that Credit Karma’s wealth of features and inclusion of not one but two educational scores help put them at the top of the heap. Therefore, if you’re ready to learn about your credit and begin working to improve it, Credit Karma is a fantastic place to start.

Author

Kyle Burbank

Head Writer ~ Fioney
Kyle is the head writer for Fioney. He is a personal finance nerd, constantly looking for new apps and services to test and incorporate into his own financial game plan. In addition to his role at Fioney, he's written for other publications including Born2Invest, Lifehack, and Laughing Place, as well as his own site Money@30. He also creates personal finance and travel-related videos for Fioney's YouTube channel, which has garnered more than 2 million views. Currently, Kyle resides in Springfield, Missouri with his wife of 10 years. Together, they enjoy traveling (including visiting Disney Parks around the world), dining, and playing with their dog Rigby.

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