Experian vs. Credit Karma: What’s the difference — and is one more accurate?

Young woman and man standing together on the street, reading on a phone about Experian vs. Credit KarmaImage: Young woman and man standing together on the street, reading on a phone about Experian vs. Credit Karma

In a Nutshell

Experian vs. Credit Karma: Which is more accurate for your credit scores? You may be surprised to know that the simple answer is that both are accurate. Read on to find out what’s different between the two companies, how they get your credit scores, and why you have more than one credit score to begin with.
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If you’re confused about which credit score to pay attention to, we don’t blame you. But rather than comparing Experian vs. Credit Karma for credit score accuracy, you may want to understand first why you have multiple credit scores — and how your scores affect your financial progress.

Experian vs. Credit Karma: What’s the difference?

Credit Karma and Experian play different roles when it comes to your credit.

Experian is one of the three major credit bureaus, along with Equifax and TransUnion. These companies compile information about your credit into reports that are used to generate your credit scores.

Credit Karma isn’t a credit bureau, which means we don’t determine your credit scores.

Instead, we work with Equifax and TransUnion to provide you with your free credit reports and free credit scores, which are based on the VantageScore 3.0 credit score model. We also offer recommendations for credit cards, personal loans, auto loans and mortgages.

What is Experian Boost™?

If you’ve been regularly checking your Experian credit score, you may have come across Experian Boost.

Experian Boost isn’t a model used to calculate a credit score. Rather, it’s an offering that goes beyond the traditional credit score factors to incorporate your payment history from common bills for things like cell phone service, popular streaming services and other utility bills.

Keep in mind that not everyone sees a credit score increase with Experian Boost, and a lender may use a different credit score that isn’t affected by Experian Boost when deciding whether to approve you for a loan.

How can you get your Experian credit scores?

If you’d still like to access your Experian credit score, you can find it for free in several places.

Experian’s free CreditWorks℠ Basic service updates your credit score every 30 days. Experian also operates freecreditscore.com, another place where you get your free Experian FICO score once a month. 

Some banks and credit card issuers also offer complimentary Experian-based FICO® credit scores.

And if you’re willing to pay, Experian and FICO both offer premium services through which you can access your credit scores on a more regular basis. These services offer other benefits, too, such as access to your credit reports and credit- and identity-theft monitoring and support. But we believe strongly that you should never have to pay to access your credit scores or credit reports.

Which credit report is most accurate?

The three major credit bureaus get their information from different sources. This means that your three credit reports from these bureaus may all be slightly different. Consider monitoring each of these reports on an annual basis to help make sure the information is correct.

If you’re using Credit Karma to check your credit scores and monitor your credit reports, keep in mind that we update your TransUnion credit scores on a daily basis, so you can follow your progress closely.

But as we mentioned, the most important credit report is the one your lender reviews when you apply for a new credit card, loan or mortgage. Because you may not know which report your lender might use, it’s more important to focus on the general principles of building credit than on memorizing what’s in a particular report.

Why is my Experian credit score different from Credit Karma?

To recap, Credit Karma provides your Equifax and TransUnion credit scores, which are different from your Experian credit score.

While the credit bureaus look at the same sort of things — your payment history, credit use, length of credit history, credit mix and new credit — lenders sometimes only report your account information to one or two of the bureaus instead of all three.

So if Experian has access to different information about your credit than Equifax or TransUnion, your scores from each of the bureaus might also be different.

And even though the three major credit bureaus may have the same information, each bureau has proprietary algorithms that might score you differently.

But that doesn’t mean one credit score is more or less accurate than the others.

Instead of comparing your Experian credit scores to the scores you find on Credit Karma, we recommend you look at how each credit score changes over time. Is it going up or down?

Is Experian better than Credit Karma?

Credit Karma is different from Experian.

While Experian compiles your credit report and determines your credit score, Credit Karma simply shows you credit scores and report information from Equifax and TransUnion.

Think of it this way — Credit Karma is like a newspaper that writes about the credit scores other companies give you. But we have no influence over your scores.

Is my actual credit score higher than Credit Karma?

You can find your Equifax and TransUnion VantageScore 3.0 credit scores on Credit Karma.

You have many different credit scores, so some of your credit scores might be higher than the TransUnion and Equifax scores you see on Credit Karma, while others might be lower.

But as long as you’re looking at the same version of the same score, the TransUnion and Equifax credit scores you see on Credit Karma should be the same as the Equifax and TransUnion credit scores you find on other websites.

What’s next?

Whether you’re checking your Experian credit reports on a third-party website or going to Credit Karma to check your Equifax and TransUnion credit reports, it’s important to regularly monitor your credit file for signs of identity theft — and also to get a general picture of your credit health. Credit Karma offers credit-monitoring alerts that help you keep track of activity on your Equifax and TransUnion credit reports.

If you’d like to learn more about different types of credit scores, you can check out our articles that explain the VantageScore 3.0 and the newer VantageScore 4.0 credit score models. And if you’d like to learn about how to build credit over time, check out our Credit Karma Guide to Building Credit.

About the author: Tim Devaney is a personal finance writer and credit card expert at Credit Karma. He’s a longtime journalist who prides himself on being a good storyteller who can explain complex information in an easily digestible wa… Read more.