Last week, I took you through all the ways and reasons to track down your free credit report, and I teased you a bit by saving that you can also get your credit score for free, but I wouldn’t tell you how… until now.
Remember how credit reports are like annoying report cards that show everything except your grades? Well, if you want to check out your actually credit "GPA," you’ll need to get your credit score. Usually, you have to pay for this service – either through one of the three credit reporting companies (Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion), or you can get any of the three (or all three) through MyFICO.com.
If you go the paid route, you can either get one score right now for a low-ish price (about $15), get all three scores, or you can sign up for credit monitoring, which is where you get one of your scores, and updates sent to your email or phone when it changes. (My mom gets the updates texted to her phone from MyFICO – it’s kinda weird, actually.)
Or, you could get one score, anytime you like, for free.
I was highly suspicious of Credit Karma when I first heard about it. The claim of a free credit score sounded exactly like something that would come with a huge catch. The jingles from not-actually-free-FreeCreditReport.com started playing in my head, and I stayed away from Credit Karma for quite some time.
But, more and more sites started recommending Credit Karma – and some of my friends, too. So I decided to finally sign up and see how good it is.
Credit Karma is ad supported, so the ads on the site pay the bill that you would normally pay to get access to your score. You only get access to your score from one out of the three reporting agencies – TransUnion. And yes, there are a lot of ads. But the layout is pretty clean, and there don’t seem to be any pop-ups or anything, so it’s not a big deal. And the ads all seem to be for reputable companies, like Upromise.
So you give them your personal information (they’ll need it to get your score, and it doesn’t seem to be an excessive amount of personal info), and they give you your score. You seem to be able to hit the "Update my Score" button daily, but your score will only change when something about your situation changes, so you probably only need to check it once a month.
Credit Karma also offers a "credit simulator" tool, so you can play around with what would happen if you paid off all your debt, or missed a payment… it kinda works, but not as well as some other credit simulators I’ve seen (like the one you get with MyFICO).
All in all, I like Credit Karma. You pretty much get just your score, and a little explanation. Although, I noticed the explanation for mine was incorrect – it said I had too many accounts where the balance was close to my limit (lies) and too many last payments (also lies, I’ve never had a late payment). [Credit Karma founder Kenneth Lin came by to say that the better your credit score, the less accurate this is likely to be – my score is pretty shiny, so that’s why it’s inaccurate for me.]
The score seems correct though, based on my credit history. If you want a second free way to "check" your credit score, Bankrate.com offers a credit score simulator that you can use.