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What to know about your free credit scores on Credit Karma
Updated June 20, 2021
This date may not reflect recent changes in individual terms.
Written by: Eric Freeman
On Credit Karma, you can get your free VantageScore 3.0 credit scores from Equifax and TransUnion.
Before you check your free credit scores, read up on how Credit Karma gets your scores, why your scores may differ, and how you can use these scores to guide your credit journey.
How does Credit Karma get your credit scores?
Credit Karma works with Equifax and TransUnion, two of the three major consumer credit bureaus, to give you access to your free credit scores and free credit reports. (Experian is the third major consumer credit bureau.)
Credit Karma can offer free credit scores and reports because we make money in other ways. For example, we use the information in your credit profile to make product recommendations that can help you save money. If you use these recommendations to apply for a product, Credit Karma may get paid by the bank or lender.
What kind of free credit scores does Credit Karma offer?
On Credit Karma, you’ll see credit scores and reports from Equifax and TransUnion, both using the VantageScore 3.0 scoring model. VantageScore was created in collaboration with all three major credit bureaus, and its 3.0 version is widely used in lending decisions today.
Does Credit Karma offer free FICO® credit scores?
Credit Karma doesn’t offer FICO® credit scores, which are calculated differently from VantageScore credit scores. While the three major credit bureaus collaborated to create the VantageScore model, FICO is a separate organization with its own scoring models.
The VantageScore and FICO models differ in several ways, but that doesn’t mean one is better or more accurate than the other. Lenders may rely on different scoring models when evaluating an application, and other considerations can factor in, too.
We recommend looking at your credit scores as a guide to your credit health rather than as a definitive number that determines whether you’ll be approved or denied for credit.
Checking your free credit scores on Credit Karma isn’t a one-time set-it-and-forget-it task. Your scores may be updated frequently as your credit history changes, so checking them regularly can help you keep track of important changes in your credit profile.
Since you can check your free credit scores without hurting your credit, feel free to check as often as you like. If you see your credit scores steadily growing, it can help motivate you on your credit-building journey. And when you’re ready to submit a credit application, getting a better idea of your overall credit health beforehand can give you a better sense of where you stand.
You may think that your VantageScore 3.0 credit scores from Equifax and TransUnion should be the same, but that’s not always the case.
Remember, VantageScore 3.0 is ultimately just a scoring model. The three-digit number it produces depends largely on the information that lenders report to each credit bureau.
When credit scores that use the same model differ between credit reporting bureaus, it’s typically because they don’t have the same information. Here are a few of the reasons you might see different credit scores.
- Your scores are from different dates. Different bureaus receive information from lenders at different times. If new information is accounted for in one credit score and not the other, the scores may differ.
- Your scores are calculated using different credit reports. It’s up to lenders to decide which credit bureaus they report your information two. Some report to all three major credit bureaus, while others report to only one or two. If your Equifax credit report has information that your TransUnion report doesn’t (or vice versa), your scores may differ.
- Your credit reports contain incorrect information. It’s possible that one or several of your credit reports contain errors. That’s why we recommend regularly checking your credit reports for errors that may affect your scores — and disputing those errors, if need be.
It’s totally normal for your different credit scores to not be the exact same number at any given time. Lenders typically understand why your credit scores can differ — and they may also account for factors other than your credit scores when considering your application for credit.
How to read and understand your free credit scores
Your credit scores can be a useful reflection of your overall credit health. But to get the most out of your scores, you must first understand how they work, what they represent and what actually constitutes a good credit score.
VantageScore 3.0 credit score ranges
Credit score ranges vary by scoring model, and lenders can view ranges in different ways. VantageScore 3.0 credit scores range from 300 to 850. Think of them in terms of four basic categorizations: Excellent, Good, Fair and Poor. Here’s how they break down.
You may qualify for the best financial products available, and you’ll likely have several options when it comes to choosing repayment periods or other terms. But excellent credit scores aren’t the only factor in a lending decision — a lender could still deny your application for another reason.
You’re less likely to have an application denied based solely on your credit scores, compared to having scores in the fair or poor range, and you’re more likely to be offered a low interest rate and favorable terms.
You may have several options when it comes to getting approved for a financial product, but you might not qualify for the best terms.
You may find it difficult to get approved for many loans or unsecured credit cards. And if you’re approved, you might not qualify for the best terms or lowest interest rate.
VantageScore 3.0 credit score factors
Different credit scores can have a lot in common under the hood, but each individual scoring model uses its own combination of factors to determine your score.
Here are the major factors that determine your VantageScore 3.0 credit scores.
Payment history (extremely influential)
The biggest factor in your scores is your history of paying bills on time. Late or missed payments in your credit history could affect your scores significantly.
Age and type of credit (highly influential)
A longer credit history, particularly with the same accounts, shows lenders that you’ve been able to stick with your accounts over time. Lenders may also consider it a plus if you have a mix of credit accounts (like a credit card and a personal loan) with positive use.
Credit utilization (highly influential)
Your credit utilization rate measures the amount of credit you use relative to the amount available to you. Most experts recommend shooting for a rate below 30%, meaning you use less than 30% of your available credit.
Balances (moderately influential)
Similar to credit utilization, this factor takes into account your total balances across your accounts — but in terms of the dollar amount and not the percentage. If you already owe a fair amount elsewhere, lenders may be less inclined to extend more credit to you.
Recent credit (less influential)
Recent credit activity can be a predictor of future behavior, so lenders want to know what you’ve done lately. If you’ve opened a number of new accounts in recent months, that could factor into your scores.
Available credit (least influential)
A large amount of available credit can indicate you’re not going to use all your available credit if approved.
If you’re looking to improve your credit scores, consider which of these factors may be influencing your current situation most.
What other free tools does Credit Karma offer?
Credit Karma offers a number of tools that could help you keep track of your credit.
Free credit reports
On Credit Karma, you can check your free credit reports from Equifax and TransUnion. And as with your credit scores, you can check your free credit reports as often as you like.
Free credit monitoring
Credit Karma’s free credit-monitoring service can alert you to important changes on your Equifax and TransUnion credit reports. Along with checking your credit scores regularly, this feature sends you an alert so you can sniff out any suspicious activity.
Free credit score FAQs
Checking your free credit scores on Credit Karma doesn’t hurt your credit. These credit score checks are known as soft inquiries, which don’t affect your credit at all.
Hard inquiries (also known as “hard pulls”) generally happen when a lender checks your credit while reviewing your application for a financial product. This kind of check can negatively affect your credit.
Read more about the difference between hard and soft credit inquiries.
Like all the services on Credit Karma, checking your credit scores won’t cost you money. You may have to pay for credit scores elsewhere, but on Credit Karma it’s always free to check your credit scores.
The free credit scores you see on Credit Karma come directly from Equifax or TransUnion. It’s possible that more-recent activity will affect your credit scores, but they’re accurate in terms of the available data.
If you see errors on your credit reports that may be affecting your credit scores, you have options to dispute those errors.
In addition to creating a username and password, Credit Karma may ask you for your Social Security number. This information allows us to confirm your identity with the consumer credit bureaus to ensure that we show you accurate data.
You must be at least 18 years old to sign up for a Credit Karma account.
The best site for free credit reports depends on what you need.
If you want to take a look at your credit reports from Equifax and TransUnion, you can do so on Credit Karma.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act entitles you to one free copy of your credit report from each of the three major consumer credit bureaus every 12 months. You can order them online at annualcreditreport.com.
Checking your free credit scores on Credit Karma won’t affect your credit, and any attempts to monitor your credit with Credit Karma will not appear on your credit reports.
You can also read Credit Karma’s security practices to learn more about Credit Karma’s commitment to securing your data and personal information as if it were our own.
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