UPDATED: September 25, 2022

You need to check and monitor your credit score if you’re preparing for a big financial move, such as applying for a home loan or car loan. There are two platforms that allow you to review your credit score and file: Credit Karma and Experian.

But which is more accurate?

We reviewed official Experian and Credit Karma sites to understand how they work. We also looked into the experience of real users and feedback and reviews via independent sites, such as Reddit.

Keep on reading to know the top reason you should monitor your credit. Don’t miss out on key considerations when choosing a credit monitoring service and end up with a solution that's not right for you.

Experian vs. Credit Karma: What is the difference?

Experian is a credit reporting agency that provides several services that we’ll discuss in this section. Unlike Experian, Credit Karma is not a credit bureau. It’s an online platform that provides you with credit agencies’ information, such as credit scores and reports.

We’ll delve into each platform’s pros, cons, services, and scores to help you choose based on your needs.

Experian Features

We listed Experian’s key features to show how the credit bureau can help you with score monitoring.

Credit report and score

You can get your free credit report and FICO score from Experian. You can access it by selecting “Free Credit Report” or “Free Credit Score” under “Reports & Scores.”

Experian also offers “Three-Bureau Credit Report and Scores,” but it charges a one-time cost of $39.99. Since the company collects the payment only once, it involves the one-time pull of your credit files, which you can refer to for 180 days.

Does checking your Experian score hurt your credit? No, it’s not one of the things that affect your score. Likewise, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) states that requesting a credit report won’t hurt your score.

Credit monitoring

Experian also provides credit monitoring services, informing you of any changes to your report every 30 days. You can get alerts regarding the following:

  • New credit inquiries
  • New accounts
  • Account balance changes
  • Credit utilization
  • Positive activity
  • Dormant accounts

Fortunately, there’s no need to pay for a monthly subscription to monitor your file.

Experian Boost

You can also raise your FICO score through the Experian Boost. You can get credit for your bills, such as utilities, streaming services, and rent. Here’s a list of bills that work with the Boost:

  • Netflix
  • Disney+
  • Hulu
  • HBO
  • AT&T
  • Verizon

But Experian makes a disclaimer that results will vary. It means some users have seen improvements in their credit scores, but others haven’t.

You can still try this feature without risk because the company offers it for free.

Experian Go

According to its website, the company can also help build your credit through Experian Go. You need to register for the free membership, then the platform will give insights and tools, so you can practice healthy credit habits.

Credit freeze and lock

You can freeze your credit for free in Experian. You only need to select “Security Freeze” under “Credit Support.” This feature prevents lenders from accessing your credit files.

Unlike a security freeze, placing a credit lock requires you to pay for the premium plan, which costs $24.99 monthly. It’s more convenient since you can lock or unlock your Experian credit file to stop unauthorized credit activity.

Identity theft protection

Experian also offers ID theft protection services. You can choose among the free, premium, and family plans. The company can help you with fraud resolution to minimize damage to your credit score if you become a victim of ID theft.

Scores Experian provides

You can access your FICO score through Experian. The company calculates based on the FICO® Score 8 model. According to American Express, the FICO® Score 8 is currently the most popular among other models.

But you might ask, “Is Experian usually higher or lower?” Most users said that their Experian score is lower than those provided by other companies. But we also found some reviews that claim otherwise.

Here’s the possible reason why Experian scores are lower: the FICO® Score 8 considers paid collections accounts. It means even if you paid a collection account, it wouldn’t necessarily improve your score.

What we liked and didn’t like about Experian

PROS

  • Provides free monitoring of credit reports and score
  • Gives insights and tools to help improve your credit standing
  • Uses the FICO® Score 8 model, which most creditors refer to

CONS

  • Need to pay for other services
  • Experian Boost won’t affect scores at other credit bureaus
  • May provide a lower score than other platforms

So when is Experian more appropriate to use?

We recommend using Experian if you want to access the score that most creditors rely on when assessing a borrower’s risk.

Credit Karma Features

Here are Credit Karma’s key features to let you know how the online platform can help you with score monitoring.

Credit report and score

You can get your credit report on Credit Karma by clicking “Free Credit Report” under the “Free Credit Scores” tab. Likewise, you can see your score under the same tab.

The website will redirect you to the login page, so you must register before accessing this feature. Simply enter your email and password, provide additional details, then confirm your identity.

Credit monitoring

Like Experian, Credit Karma also provides free monitoring services. The platform will alert you of important changes to your credit report. As a result, you can spot errors and inconsistencies, which are signs of ID theft.

Here are the errors it can catch:

  • Incorrect personal information
  • Fraudulent payments
  • Inquiries from lenders and financial institutions you don’t transact with
  • New financial accounts

Also, take note that Credit Karma only monitors credit files from two of the three major bureaus: Equifax and Transunion.

Financial education tools

The website offers the following resources to help with your financial decisions:

  • Personal finance articles
  • Financial calculators
  • Studies and insights
  • Updated blog

We also noticed the detailed guides in each section, such as “Free Credit Report” and “Free Credit Scores.”

Financial products

You can also shop for different financial products based on your credit standing.

1. Cards

Here are the categories under the card category:

  • Cards for bad credit
  • Cards for bad credit
  • Reward cards
  • Cashback cards
  • 0% annual percentage rate (APR) cards
  • Secured cards
2. Loans

You can also look for the following loans:

  • Personal loans for bad credit
  • Major purchase loans
  • Same day loans
  • Emergency loans
  • Home improvement loans
  • Debt consolidation loans
3. Auto

Credit Karma also suggests car loans based on your credit profile and approval odds. You can filter search results by credit score, loan amount, loan type, and term.

The website also allows you to find inexpensive auto insurance quotes. You can find these features under the tab “Auto.”

4. Home

Since you’re making a big financial move, you can try looking into Credit Karma’s website for the current mortgage rates, mortgage refinance rates, mortgage calculator, and mortgage lender reviews.

Scores Credit Karma provides

You can access your Equifax and Transunion scores on the platform. 

So why doesn’t Credit Karma show your Experian score? It’s because Credit Karma uses VantageScore 3.0, another scoring model. It was developed by the three main credit agencies: Equifax, Experian, and Transunion.

You might notice that VantageScore 3.0 ranges from 300 to 850. Here’s a list of factors that said model considers:

  • Payment history
  • Age and type of credit
  • Credit utilization
  • Balances
  • Recent credit
  • Available credit

Payment history significantly affects the computation of your VantageScore 3.0. It comprises 40% of the total calculation, so it means you can significantly improve your score by paying on time.

Credit Karma score vs. actual score

Most people ask, “Is my actual credit score higher than Credit Karma?” But the question might be misplaced because there’s no “actual” credit score, only the score lenders use when making decisions.

We discovered that it's more appropriate to ask “Why is my Experian credit score different from Credit Karma?”

Although the platform claims that the scoring model accurately reflects your credit information, we found reviews saying that they see lower or higher scores from Credit Karma. You can receive varying scores because companies use different scoring models. So yes, it’s possible that your FICO score is higher than what the VantageScore 3.0 shows.

But how many points is Credit Karma off? An example from LendEDU showed that the score might be off by 20 to 25 points.

What we liked and didn’t like about Credit Karma

PROS

  • Free credit monitoring and reporting services
  • Credit card, insurance, and loan options for different credit standings
  • Provides detailed guides suitable for beginners

CONS

  • Uses VantageScore 3.0
  • Only monitors reports from Equifax and Transunion
  • Website shows unorganized tabs and menus

So when is Credit Karma more appropriate to use?

Most Reddit reviews say that the platform is great for monitoring your credit. You can also take advantage of the credit card, insurance, and loan offers on its website.

For the most important question: Which is more accurate?

Since most lenders refer to the FICO® Score 8 when approving applications, we found out that Experian shows the more accurate credit score. If you want to purchase or rent properties, you might want to monitor your FICO score rather than the VantageScore 3.0.

Hence, Experian is better than Credit Karma when it comes to reporting your credit score.

But if you’re a credit beginner and wish to build your credit, we recommend trying Credit Karma for its comprehensive guides. You can also use the platform’s loan calculators and browse the credit card selections suitable for your score.

Why should you monitor your credit score?

Your credit reports and scores affect your financial decisions. Here are some reasons why you need to monitor them.

  1. You can better understand your credit position and your financial options.
  2. Here’s the top reason you should monitor your credit: you can get alerted whenever there's a drastic change in your score. It can signify identity theft or fraudulent purchases under your name.
  3. You can quickly spot inaccurate information and report them to your banks or credit unions. 

Which should you use?

Experian and Credit Karma offer helpful services, but they cater to different needs. If you want to know what lenders see when they check your credit score, you can turn to Experian. But if you’re a credit beginner, Credit Karma has more comprehensive resources and tools to help build your credit.

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