Credit Karma, the online service that advertises a free credit report and free credit score to consumers, along with “the chance to build a better financial future,” has come under fire from Twitter users for providing inaccurate credit scores. Many users report the score they see on Credit Karma to be much higher than the number that comes up when a car dealership or mortgage company runs their credit.
And while the collection of memes and gifs that transpired is funny, not understanding how credit scores work is no laughing matter.
Not everyone who checks their score through Credit Karma gets a higher number through the service, though. Some reported having a higher FICO credit score than the score listed on Credit Karma.
What funny is my credit score is actually higher than the one credit karma tells me
— Alex ???? | New to booktwt (@alextheereader) January 26, 2021
As many people discovered, Credit Karma does not use the same scoring system as major lenders. It’s not so much that Credit Karma’s score is wrong, it’s just that they use a different measurement system.
Vantage vs. FICO
For years, lenders relied on credit scores issued by the Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO), along with credit reports from Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax, to gauge a customer’s creditworthiness. FICO scores range from 300 to 850 points, with anything under 579 being “very poor” and 800 to 850 points being “exceptional,” which means you can qualify for the lowest rates and best credit offers with that score.
The VantageScore reported by Credit Karma also uses a range of 300 to 850, but anything under 499 is considered poor and the highest score range begins at 781.
While both FICO and Credit Karma use information from the three major credit bureaus to calculate your score, they may weight the various factors that go into your score differently. Plus, the information they use to calculate the score differs slightly. This can lead to discrepancies in what consumers see when they use Credit Karma to obtain their free credit score vs. what lenders see when they pull your FICO credit score.
In general, lenders judge your credit based on ranges, so a score in the 600s to low-700s could be considered fair to good. A different of as much as 20 to 40 points may not matter if you’re seeking financing or applying for a credit card, unless that discrepancy bumps your score into a different range.
For instance, if you have a credit score of 610, which would be considered “fair” for a VantageScore, but then your FICO score shows up 40 points lower, at 570, that would be considered “very poor,” making your credit a less desirable risk for lenders. You may only qualify for loans at a higher interest rate, or you may not qualify for financing at all – as many Twitter users discovered.
Credit Karma is trending. I can tell you as a former financial lit program facilitator that Vantage Scores (higher number range and used by CK) and FICO scores are completely different. Most creditors use FICO. I totally understand the confusion. That's why it's in the fine print
— Jacqueline Brougher (@Nicole8151) January 26, 2021
Twitter user “ren” explained it succinctly, stating: “credit karma uses a scoring system called VantageScore, which is entirely useless. What you should be looking for is your FICO scores. Usually your credit card provider or bank provides a free score every month from one major bureau!”
The VantageScore Credit Karma delivers for free isn’t entirely useless, of course. It’s good for tracking trends to see if your credit, in general, is moving up or down based on your actions, such as paying down debt or maintaining a high balance (called a credit utilization ratio) on your cards. But if you’re going for a loan or applying for credit of any type, it’s important to check your actual FICO score.
Keep in mind that some places check specific scores, such as an auto financing credit score or even an insurance score. Every consumer has multiple credit scores and it can be hard to track – or even find – them all! But your FICO score remains the most reputable resource to gauge your creditworthiness before applying for a loan or credit card.
Places to Get Your FICO Score and Credit Report
Fortunately, you can receive your FICO score from many credit card providers and banks, including GOFreeCredit.com (disclosure: this website is owned by the same company that owns GOBankingRates.com).
Just make sure you read the fine print to find out which credit score the service is offering, or you could wind up in the same boat as checking your score through Credit Karma. Credit bureau Experian also allows people to get a free copy of their Experian credit report and FICO credit score. It takes just a few minutes, although you will need to answer a few security questions, usually related to finances and work history.
You can obtain free copies of your credit reports from all three credit bureaus once per year at the website AnnualCreditReport.com. You can order your FICO score through the service, as well. Also, any time you are turned down for credit, you are eligible for a free copy of your credit report through AnnualCreditReport.com.
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