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Credit Info Center's Credit Monitoring FAQs

Last Updated: March 22, 2017

If your credit monitoring is limited to the free credit reports you see once a year through AnnualCreditReport.com, it’s time broaden the scope. Your credit reports change all the time and you shouldn’t have to wait 12 months to find out about those changes.

Thankfully, you have plenty of credit monitoring options. What’s not so welcome is the confusion surrounding them. How does credit monitoring work? What will it do for you? Should you use a free service and, if so, which one? Or, if you’re going to pay, what will it cost? Below are answers to these and other commonly asked questions about credit monitoring.

About Credit Monitoring

Credit Karma

Credit Sesame

Credit Bureaus

What does credit monitoring do for you?

Credit monitoring keeps you informed about your credit reports and scores. This helps for a couple of reasons. You can:

  1. Monitor your progress as you repair bad credit (or maintain good credit), and you can make adjustments accordingly
  2. Catch mistakes or fraudulent activity right away so as to address problems immediately and minimize the damage.

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How do credit monitoring services work?

For free or for a fee, credit monitoring services typically operate on a monthly subscription model. You get regular access to your credit report information and credit score, as well as alerts about important changes. Which credit reports and scores you see – as well as their update frequency – depends on the service you sign up for. Back to Top

Which credit monitoring service is best?

For regular credit monitoring throughout the year, we recommend free services (e.g., Credit Karma, Credit.com, Discover Credit Scorecard). But if you’re about to apply for a car or home loan, it’s probably a good idea to see FICO score versions used specifically for that type of financing, which you’ll have to pay for through myFICO.com. Back to Top

Which credit monitoring service is most accurate?

Accuracy of credit monitoring depends on accuracy of the credit report they pull – from TransUnion, Experian, or Equifax. (If you see credit report inaccuracies, submit credit disputes.) Also, credit monitoring services don’t all use the same scoring model. If your Credit Karma score doesn’t match Discover, it doesn’t mean Credit Karma’s wrong. They use VantageScore; Discover uses FICO. Back to Top

Which credit monitoring service should I use?

We recommend using free credit monitoring services year-round:

When you need to see FICO Scores used for auto and home loans, we recommend either one-time access via FICO Score 3-Bureau Report or the subscription option via FICO UltimateBack to Top

How much does credit monitoring cost?

If you use a free credit monitoring service, it won’t cost you anything. If you use a paid service, it depends on which one you choose:

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What is free credit monitoring?

Free credit monitoring gives you access to credit report information and scores without having to pay for it. Which report info you see (from TransUnion, Experian, or Equifax) depends on which bureau a credit monitoring service uses. Free scores are typically VantageScores, not FICO (except Discover Credit Scorecard). See our review of free credit monitoring sitesBack to Top

How does Credit Karma work?

Credit Karma works like this:

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How can Credit Karma be free?

Credit Karma is free because they make money through "advertising partners." If you take a targeted financing offer, Credit Karma gets paid. As stated on their website, "These offers may include refinancing options if you look like you might be overpaying for a loan, or credit cards that could help you optimize your savings and earnings." Back to Top

What does Credit Karma show?

Credit Karma shows:

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When does Credit Karma update?

Credit Karma updates every 7 days. This includes updates to both your credit report information and credit scores. If there have been no changes to your credit reports or scores during that time, the information will not change. You’ll find the date of your last update – and date of your next update – on your Credit Karma dashboard. Back to Top

Which bureau does Credit Karma use?

Credit Karma uses two credit bureaus – TransUnion and Equifax. When you sign up for Credit Karma’s free credit monitoring service, you will receive credit report information and scores from both of these bureaus. Keep in mind you’ll be seeing VantageScores, not FICO Scores. So, while these scores are educational, they may not be the ones used by lenders. Back to Top

Which score does Credit Karma use?

Credit Karma uses VantageScore 3.0. They pull from TransUnion and Equifax, so you will see two VantageScores (and credit report information). The VantageScore algorithm is the same for both bureaus, but could produce different scores if one credit report has information that the other credit report does not. They’ll also show you the credit factors influencing your scores. Back to Top

Why is Credit Karma score different than FICO?

Credit Karma’s score is different than FICO because they use different scoring algorithms. FICO is the original scoring model created by Fair, Isaac, and Company. VantageScore is an alternative model created by the three credit bureaus. Credit Karma uses VantageScore. While not used by lenders as much as FICO, VantageScore is still a good indicator of your credit. Back to Top

Are Credit Karma scores accurate?

As with any credit monitoring service, scores provided are only as accurate the credit reports they are based on. Credit Karma gets its scores from TransUnion and Equifax. If there are mistakes on your reports from those bureaus, your scores will reflect as much. And remember not to judge accuracy based on FICO; Credit Karma scores are VantageScores. Back to Top

Who owns Credit Karma?

Kenneth Lin is founder and CEO of Credit Karma. Lin graduated from Boston University in 1998 with a B.A. in Economics and Mathematics. As stated on LinkedIn, "Ken started Credit Karma [in 2007] after growing weary of paying to see his own credit score. He knew there had to be a better, more transparent option for consumers." Back to Top

Where is Credit Karma?

Credit Karma is based in San Francisco. Since its founding in 2007, Credit Karma has grown to more than 60 million members and more than 500 employees. It’s mission? "Everyone deserves to feel confident about their finances. Our job is to give you the tools, the education and the opportunities you need to make real, meaningful progress." Back to Top

How does Credit Sesame work?

Credit Sesame works like this:

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What score does Credit Sesame use?

Credit Sesame uses the VantageScore 3.0 from TransUnion. This is a common score used by many free credit monitoring services. Unfortunately, Credit Sesame doesn’t share with you much information from your credit reports. For more in-depth credit report info, we recommend other free credit monitoring services – particularly Credit Karma, as you get access to both TransUnion and Equifax. Back to Top

When does Credit Sesame update?

If you’re using their free service, your Credit Sesame profile updates monthly, “typically on your first log in of a new month.” However, Credit Sesame offers upgrades to paid premium services that allow for more frequent updates. It’s not worth it, though, as you can get more frequent updates for free from other sites, like Credit Karma. Back to Top

Who owns Credit Sesame?

Adrian Nazari is founder and CEO of Credit Sesame. Nazari graduated from Stanford University Graduate School of Business in 1997 with a Master’s in Business Management. Before founding Credit Sesame in 2010, Nazari founded two other financial services companies – Financial Circuit in 2000 and Financial Crossing in 2005. Credit Sesame is based in the San Francisco Bay area. Back to Top

How accurate is TransUnion credit monitoring?

It cannot be stressed enough that the accuracy of any credit monitoring service depends on the accuracy of the credit report they are using. If there are mistakes on your TransUnion credit report, they will be reflected in your score. So, look for errors – on all three of your credit reports – and dispute them with the appropriate bureau(s)Back to Top

How much does TransUnion credit monitoring cost?

TransUnion offers 1-bureau credit monitoring for $9.95 a month. This gives you access to your TransUnion credit report and VantageScore. The other two bureaus also offer paid credit monitoring. Keep in mind, though, you can monitor all three bureaus with free credit monitoring services. If you’re going to pay for anything (i.e., industry-specific FICO Scores), go through myFICO.com. Back to Top

How much is Experian credit monitoring?

Experian offers three credit monitoring options:

The other two bureaus have similar paid credit monitoring options. Again, we recommend you instead use free credit monitoring services and only pay for industry-specific FICO Scores through myFICO.com.

Didn’t find the answer to your question here? Check out our comprehensive post, 22 Ways to Monitor Your Credit.

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