Category Archives: Credit Reports

Does Credit Karma really offer free credit reports?

Credit Karma
After my last article, someone pointed out that Credit Karma also provides a full credit report for free as well, no payment info required.  It seems too good to be true, but it’s apparently “the real deal” – you do get credit report info, no payment info required!

However – it’s worth noting from their terms & conditions of use:

I further understand that by submitting this registration form I am authorizing Credit Karma, once it has obtained my credit report(s) and score(s) for me at any time, to retain a copy of such credit report(s) and score(s) in its records along with the other information I am submitting through this registration form (collectively, the “Registration Profile”), to use that Registration Profile to match me with product and services offers from time to time from its marketing partners, which offers it will send to me either by e-mail (based upon my communication preferences) or through the display of advertisements and to further use that Registration Profile to provide statistical analysis, reports and summaries of my Registration Profile in comparison to other users’ Registration Profiles. I understand that Credit Karma will not be sharing my Registration Profile with any of those marketing partners and that it is completely up to me to decide whether I would like to accept any of the offers I receive.

So in short, if you’re ok with having third parties access your credit reports and personal financial info in order to market to you.. Is that worth having free credit reports?

In short, while your personal info isn’t revealed to advertisers, it is aggregated / segmented into “groups” where Credit Karma can then sell advertising to financial companies looking to market to these specific groups (i.e. by tailored, targeted advertising.)

For example, if one has a home mortgage on file, a mortgage refinance company may find targeting this specific person & group would be far more fruitful then simply doing “shotgun” approaches to promoting its offerings. In a similar fashion, someone that’s falling behind on their bills, have multiple latenesses, and/or delinquencies, may be a prime target for “Debt Consolidation” or “Credit Counseling” companies’ ads.

In the world of advertising, user data is definitely worth money – so in the case of Credit Karma, one would be trading in “letting a third-party read & access their financial data profile” in exchange for “actually being able to access said data without cost.”

Read more about Credit Karma’s business model here:

Just keep in mind: “When a service is free.. YOU are the product!”

– Steven W.C. : Free US Credit Reports, by FTC mandate

While you may have heard of many advertisements and websites offering “free” credit reports, remember that the ONLY truly free site is the one mandated by the FTC –

As some background this site was created back in 2003 by the three major U.S. credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – to fulfill their obligations under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA).  This website allows US based consumers to receive up to (1) free credit reports per 12 month period from each of the (3) agencies, for a total of (3) credit reports per year.

Since the (3) agencies limit you to (1) report per 12 month period, I usually recommend getting (1) report every 4 months, and “rotating” through the 3 agencies, in alphabetical order to eliminate choosing the wrong agency, as follows:

Jan. 1st – Equifax
May 1st – Experian
Sep. 1st – Transunion

There should be absolutely NO NEED for ANY credit card for a truly free credit report.  (If the site you’re visiting needs payment info, then it isn’t free!)  I recommend checking once every 4 months at / around the suggested times. It will help:
– make sure that the credit agencies have accurate info, with time to fix the credit report if inaccuracies are found
– make sure no new credit lines have been opened without your permission, helping catch identify theft sooner rather than later!

Steven W.C.