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In a nutshell: Credit Karma wins as a better free credit monitoring service. However, if you’re willing to spend some money, Credit Sesame has some features worth checking out.
Credit Karma and Credit Sesame are the two most well-known companies that offer credit monitoring services. And all you need to signup is a social security number.
If you have bad credit, credit monitoring services can help you keep track of your personal finances, improve your poor credit, and avoid resorting to a credit repair company.
If you have a good credit score already, it is still important to keep on top of your credit history, especially if you need lender approval (i.e., a mortgage).
To help you choose the best company to help you manage your credit profile, we have compared the services offered by Credit Sesame versus Credit Karma.
What is Credit Karma & What Does It Offer?
Credit Karma is a free credit monitoring service that provides mobile banking accounts.
Credit Karma will monitor your TransUnion and Equifax credit reports daily, looking for changes or suspicious activity. They’ll alert you immediately via push notification and email if they detect anything.
Credit Karma provides free credit scores from TransUnion and Equifax as part of their credit monitoring service. These scores use the VantageScore 3.0 model.
They also offer free identity monitoring that checks to see if your information appears on the dark web.
And, if you are in the market for a new loan or credit card, Credit Karma can offer you product recommendations as well as your estimated approval odds for each product.
In addition to their credit monitoring services, Credit Karma also offers mobile banking services. They have paired with MVB Bank to offer checking and savings accounts. These accounts are fee-free, and they have partnered with the Allpoint ATM network.
All of these accounts also feature Instant Karma. This promotion can reward you for making deposits, using your debit card, and/or contributing to your savings. This is a drawing type of promotion, so there is no guarantee that you will win. For a more extensive review on Credit Karma, check out our Credit Karma Reviews article.
What is Credit Sesame & What Does It Offer?
Credit Sesame is a company offering free credit monitoring and credit building services.
Their core product is their credit monitoring service which watches your TransUnion credit report for any changes. When changes to your report are detected, Credit Sesame will immediately alert you.
Credit Sesame also monitors your credit score. This is done using your TransUnion VantageScore 3.0.
And, if you are ever the victim of fraud, Credit Sesame has you protected with $50,000 in free identity theft insurance.
Credit Sesame can offer these credit monitoring and score tracking services for free in part because they generate income from the credit and financial products they recommend to you.
Credit Sesame also offers a set of upgraded subscriptions.
Depending on the package, this includes access to credit monitoring for all 3 major credit bureaus, daily credit score checks, full credit reports, live support, identity monitoring, and lost wallet service.
These upgraded packages range from $9.95 to $19.95 a month.
To help you build credit, Credit Sesame also offers a separate credit building debit card called Sesame Cash. This account comes with mobile banking services, reward earning potential and optional credit reporting.
Credit Sesame vs. Credit Karma: What’s the difference?
Credit Sesame and Credit Karma offer similar services. Both offer free credit monitoring services focusing on your TransUnion credit report.
Both also offer free credit scores (VantageScores, not FICO scores) and product recommendations. The latter is how both generate enough profit to provide free services.
But beyond these basic services, their additional programs and features diverge.
Credit Sesame sticks to a focus on helping you build and manage your credit with their upgraded subscriptions and Sesame Cash card.
Credit Karma, on the other hand, offers a suite of banking products designed to help you save money and organize your finances.
Below, we’ll further explore how these difference in models creates differences in the services they provide.
The base credit monitoring service for both companies is 100% free. The add-on services/subscriptions are where you might encounter fees.
The mobile banking services offered by Credit Karma are relatively fee-free. There is no minimum balance and no monthly maintenance fee. The only fees you may encounter are for using an out-of-network ATM or for foreign currency transactions.
Credit Sesame offers 3 upgraded credit monitoring subscriptions.
Credit Sesame Pricing
|Advanced Credit Plan
|Pro Credit Plan
|Platinum Protection Plan
|Credit Reports Monitored
|Experian, Equifax, & TransUnion
|Experian, Equifax, & TransUnion
|Experian, Equifax, & TransUnion
|Daily score update (1 bureau)
|Daily score update (3 bureaus) & live support
|Identity monitoring and lost wallet protection
Credit Sesame’s mobile banking accounts are also fee-free, and there is no charge for the credit building feature, but there is a security deposit requirement. The amount is up to you.
Both Credit Sesame and Credit Karma offer similar credit monitoring services. The real difference comes in which services each offers for free versus paid.
All of Credit Karma’s services are free. This includes
- 2 credit bureau scores & reports
- 2 credit reports monitored
- Identity monitoring
- Product recommendations with approval odds
- Checking account
- Savings account
- Instant Karma promotion
When it comes to Credit Sesame, not all of their services are free. Free services include:
- 1 credit bureau score
- 1 credit bureau monitored
- Identity theft insurance ($1 million)
- Product recommendations
- Checking account
- Credit reporting debit card (requires a security deposit)
Additional services that Credit Sesame offers for a fee include:
- 3 credit bureaus scores daily
- 3 credit bureaus monitored
- Identity monitoring
- Lost wallet protection
Neither Credit Sesame nor Credit Karma offers official FICO scores. Instead, both offer VantageScores.
Credit Karma pulls your TransUnion and Equifax VantageScore 3.0 and updates it daily (some customers currently only get Equifax updates once a week). Along with your score, you’ll get full free credit reports that are updated weekly.
For their free service, Credit Sesame pulls your TransUnion VantageScore 3.0 and updates it once a month. In addition to your credit score, you receive a credit report card. This is a summary of your credit, not your full in-depth report.
If you want to pay for one of Credit Sesame’s upgraded credit monitoring subscriptions, you can access your full credit reports and VantageScore 3.0 for all three credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. You can also refresh these scores daily.
Mobile Banking Features
Both Credit Sesame and Credit Karma offer mobile banking services. But the features of each are different.
Credit Karma offers checking and savings accounts, while Credit Sesame only offers checking accounts.
Both companies use the Allpoint network for ATM service. So if you stick to these ATMs, you’ll never be charged any fees.
Credit Karma offers their Instant Karma program, a sweepstakes type of system where you can randomly have your purchases paid for or cash added to your savings account.
Credit Sesame, on the other hand, offers customers cashback opportunities. And they have a promotion where you can get rewarded with cash for improving your credit score.
And to help you improve your credit score, Credit Sesame offers a credit reporting feature. Which lets you allocate a portion of your account balance as a deposit and then set your desired utilization rate.
Credit Sesame then picks which transactions to process as credit and reports this activity like a credit card to the credit bureaus each month. And there are no interest rates or fees associated with this service.
Which One is Better for You?
This depends on what you are looking for in a credit monitoring service.
Suppose you want a free service that gives you the maximum amount of credit monitoring services. In that case, Credit Karma which monitors both TransUnion and Equifax, and offers free identity monitoring and full credit reports, will be the better bet.
If you are willing to pay for a subscription, then Credit Sesame’s 3 bureau access and daily credit refreshes might be the better choice. Plus, you’ll get access to identity theft protection.
If you want a service that helps you build credit, then Credit Sesame with their debit card that reports like a credit card is the obvious choice.
That said, there are other credit-building debit cards on the market and various other ways to improve your credit score. Check out our best credit building apps article for more information.
Alternatively, suppose you aren’t interested in Credit Sesame’s credit building account and just want regular banking accounts
In that case, Credit Karma might be the better choice. With their offering of checking and savings accounts, and fee-free ATMs, they can meet all of your mobile banking needs.
Does Credit Sesame or Credit Karma Hurt My Credit?
When you sign up for Credit Sesame or Credit Karma, they will do a soft pull on your credit. This soft pull will in no way negatively affect your credit; only hard pulls hurt your credit.
Continuing to monitor your credit scores through either company will not hurt your credit score either.
Opening bank accounts with either company will also not impact your credit score.
If you opt to use Credit Sesame’s credit building account, then this account information will be reported to the credit bureaus. Since payments cannot be late and the credit utilization is preset, this account is more likely to help your credit, not hurt it.
Is Credit Sesame Accurate?
The information Credit Sesame displays is pulled directly from your TransUnion credit report. So yes, the information is accurate. Although there can be a slight delay in when information is reported and when it appears on Credit Sesame.
As far as credit score goes, Credit Sesame used the VantageScore 3.0 model. This is a widely used scoring model but not a FICO scoring model.
There are many differences between the FICO vs. Vantage scoring models, which often result in very different scores.
So yes, the credit score Credit Sesame displays is accurate; it just may not be the same as your FICO score.
Does Either Credit Sesame or Credit Karma Offer Free Credit Monitoring?
Yes, both Credit Sesame and Credit Karma offer 100% free credit monitoring services.
They can do this partly because they send you personalized offers based on your credit. They get paid by financial institutions and credit card issuers to recommend their products (i.e., personal loans, auto loans, credit cards, etc.).
Credit Sesame does offer additional credit monitoring services, i.e., full credit reports for all 3 credit bureaus, for an additional monthly fee. But this upgrade is optional, and their base credit monitoring service is free.
Is Credit Karma the Most Accurate?
Credit Karma is not necessarily more or less accurate than other credit monitoring services.
Credit Karma pulls information from 2 of the 3 credit bureaus, giving you a full picture of your overall credit.
For instance, if you have a credit account that only reports to Equifax, this information will be picked up and shown on Credit Karma, whereas it would not be shown on Credit Sesame since they only check TransUnion.
And since Credit Karma shows you credit scores for Equifax and TransUnion, this gives you a better idea of what your credit score average might be.
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Amanda Garland is a personal finance blogger living in Dallas, TX. 10 years ago she was living paycheck to paycheck and knew nothing about how credit works. She learned some hard lessons in her fight for financial stability. Now she has a friendly competition going with her husband to see who can reach a credit score of 850 first. She is also a poet, having obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing.