What’s the Best Free Credit Score Site?
Just over a year ago, when I finally got around to checking my credit score for the first time, my initial destination for this information was Credit Karma. Why? Probably because they advertise on television so I knew exactly where to head. Since then, I’ve become aware of a couple of other free credit score sites and even reviewed them individually. But, since it’s been awhile and since Credit Karma remain the most popular option, I figured it was about time I challenged Credit Karma’s supremacy and see if the biggest is actually the best.
To do this, I’ll be looking at three different educational credit score sites — Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, and WalletHub — and comparing them in five different areas. These categories include the number of scores they offer, the navigation and user experience of their desktop sites, the functionality of their mobile apps, the notification and alerts you can set up, and finally, a look at what I think is the star feature of each service:
Credit Scores Offered
First, all three services utilize the VantageScore model (more specifically, VantageScore 3.0) to provide their scores. It should be noted that this model differs from the more popular FICO scores that you’ve probably heard of. That’s why the credit scores found on these three sites are sometimes referred to as “educational scores” and will at least give you a rough estimate of where you stand.
Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, and WalletHub all offer scores based on data from Transunion — one of the big three credit bureaus. However, Credit Karma also offers a second score from Equifax (yes, that Equifax). So, for the simple reason that two is better than one, Credit Karma wins round one.
Winner: Credit Karma
While the three services in question have fairly similar website designs, there are certainly a few differences to be found. For example, Credit Karma makes it easy to dive into the specifics of your scores just by clicking them. From there, you can see how you rate when it comes to the different credit score factors and pinpoint where you can improve. Credit Sesame also puts those credit factors front and center, giving you a letter grade in each area. But my big problem with Credit Sesame is a lack of credit report data such as closed accounts and former addresses.
In terms of navigation, I actually find WalletHub’s site the easiest to use. All of the useful tabs (read: not just credit card affiliate links) are lined up at the top, allowing you to switch between your score, analysis, and report. Meanwhile, there are still some other helpful features tucked away on a higher nav bar, but all the junk is stowed away too. Thus, I enjoy using WalletHub’s site more than the other two.
Given the popularity of smartphones in today’s culture, it’s only natural that each of the three sites also offer mobile apps. In each case, this is more or less a simplified version of their site, but with a few tweaks. This is actually for the better with Credit Karma’s app as it moves most of what you don’t need to the “Offers” tab while packing the useful tools into the first two tabs.
Next, while Credit Sesame’s app has some great functions, the app’s design doesn’t feel up to snuff when compared with its competitors. Additionally, when using the app, the credit card/loan ads (which all three apps utilize) feel very noticeable and distracting. Finally, WalletHub’s app includes several of my favorite aspects of the desktop site, including a historical credit utilization graph I truly appreciate.
For that reason, I’m actually split between Credit Karma and WalletHub for best app, so they both get a point.
Winner: Credit Karma, WalletHub (tie)
As nice as these apps and sites are, no one wants to be visiting them constantly to get the latest info. That’s where having customized alerts can really come in handy. To that end, Credit Karma offers plenty of options, including bank alerts for low balances or fees. However, while Credit Sesame has far fewer alert choices, one they do have really stands out: the ability to set alerts if you score dips below or creeps above a certain number.
WalletHub has the least specific notification options of the three, with generic alerts you can send weekly or monthly. You can also choose to have these go to your phone or e-mail, but that’s about it. So, despite Credit Karma’s bevy of alerts, I still think Credit Sesame earns the point for their credit score threshold alert.
Winner: Credit Sesame
Like I said, Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, and WalletHub all have a lot of similarities, but each one also has a few unique features worth mentioning. For Credit Karma, that star feature is the credit score simulator. This helpful tool allows you to see how your scores might be affected by opening a new credit card, taking out a loan, paying off some debt, and much more.
Credit Sesame’s star feature isn’t exactly a feature but a service: just for signing up and opting into their program, the site will cover up to $50,000 in expenses and legal fees related to identity theft. Of course, you’ll want to read all the terms and conditions of this offer, but all of that can be found on their ID Theft Insurance page.
Rounding out the star features is WalletHub’s WalletLiteracy test. Ths quiz will test to see how knowledgeable you are about a number of finance topics. It will also let you see how your score compares to the average user. Plus, if you want to brush up on your credit knowledge or ask other users and experts a question, the site has plenty of articles, resources, and even their own answers section to help you learn.
While all three features truly are stars, I still have to award the point to Credit Karma for their awesomely helpful credit score simulator.
Winner: Credit Karma
Which Credit Monitoring Service is Best?
And the Winner is… Credit Karma
Overall, I have to say there’s a reason why Credit Karma remains the most popular free credit site. The site and app have great features and continue to update with new ones. That said, there are reasons why you might consider using all three sites, whether for Credit Sesames score alerts and ID Theft Insurance or WalletHub’s great design and wealth of knowledge. So don’t worry about which site you use to check your credit — just make sure you do it!