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Protecting your credit—from identity thieves as well as your own bad decisions—is important. But so is avoiding scammy companies that draw you in with the offer of a free credit report and end up charging you $15 a month until you remember to cancel.
Credit Sesame lets you do both. It offers a credit score, credit monitoring, and basic identity theft protection—for free—no catch or credit card required. And those services are free for always, not for some two-week trial period.
What Credit Sesame offers
Credit Sesame provides instant, totally free access to your TransUnion credit report and credit score.
With that information, Credit Sesame is able to also provide:
- Free monthly updates to your TransUnion credit score and report
- Daily monitoring and alerts of changes to your TransUnion credit report
- $50,000 of identity theft insurance
In addition, Credit Sesame walks you through the factors that determine your credit score, and explains what about your credit history (missed payments, number of accounts) has a negative or positive affect on that score, and what you can do to make it better. It’ll analyze your debt, telling you your total balance, interest rate, and monthly payment.
Here’s a look at the Credit Sesame dashboard:
What Credit Sesame does NOT provide
Credit Sesame does not provide free access to your credit data from the two other credit bureaus, Experian and Equifax. Credit Sesame does not provide your FICO® Score—the credit score used by most lenders.
There are three major credit bureaus in the United States—Experian, Equifax and TransUnion—that compete with each other to sell credit report data to banks. All three bureaus collect information about your debts and payment history. In a perfect world, all three bureaus would collect and report the same information. But this doesn’t always happen. Some accounts may not be reported to one bureau. Or, one bureau might make a mistake in reporting certain information.
If you simply want a quick credit check-up or want to monitor things from day to day to make sure nobody is going crazy with your identity, looking at one credit bureau is fine. You should, however, check all three credit reports at least once a year to make sure there are no errors or accounts you don’t recognize on any of them. The best way to do that is through annualcreditreport.com, which gives you access to one free report from each bureau, once a year.
While there are three bureaus that collect and report credit data, there are dozens of different credit scores based on this information. The good news is most are based on similar scales (from about 300 to 850, plus or minus about 50 points). The bad news is each use slightly different algorithms. So, for example, you could have a very good 740 credit score on one scale and have an OK, but less-stellar 690 score on another.
The FICO® Score is the most recognized credit score and, according to the folks behind the FICO® Score, the one lenders use most when evaluating a credit application. If you want to see your actual FICO® Score, you’ll need to spring for a paid credit tracking service that provides it like the ones from myFICO.com.
But that shouldn’t discourage you from trying Credit Sesame first. The credit score and analysis the service provides are immensely helpful in understanding your credit standing and making a plan to improve. Just be aware that the actual number you’re seeing in Credit Sesame might be different from the one a lender will see when you go to apply for a car or home loan.
How does Credit Sesame make money?
Credit Sesame makes money both from commissions on financial products it recommends and up-sells to premium products.
Along the way, Credit Sesame will display recommended loans, credit cards, and other financial services. (If you haven’t guessed already, those corporate partners are how it keeps its basic services free. Mint and other online financial apps use a similar model to stay afloat without charging customers.)
Credit Sesame also offers premium services for users who want access to even more credit data.
For most, Credit Sesame’s basic services are great if you want an easy way to get access to your credit score throughout the year.
Credit Sesame’s premium products
If you’re looking for more identity theft protection and more frequent updates to your credit score, then Credit Sesame also has you covered—but it will cost you.
After all, it seems like not a day goes by without news of another massive data breach. We’ve seen it happen to Target, T-Mobile, and Scottrade, just to name a few.
Credit Sesame offers three levels of premium coverage: Advanced, Pro, and Platinum.
Advanced ($7.95/month if billed annually, $9.95 for month to month) gets you a daily credit score update from one bureau, a monthly credit score update from all three bureaus, and a full credit report from three bureaus each month, as well as $50,000 of identity theft insurance.
Pro ($12.95/month for an annual membership, or $15.95 for month to month) gets all that, plus credit monitoring from all three bureaus, and access to 24/7 live experts to deal with any inaccuracies on your credit report.
Platinum, the most extensive premium service offered by Credit Sesame, gives you everything you got from the Pro service, plus 24/7 assistance if your wallet is stolen or lost, plus the monitoring of public records, black market sites, and tracking of any and all addresses associated with your Social Security number. With this package, your identity theft insurance also goes up to $1 million. Platinum costs $15.95 a month for an annual membership, or $19.95 a month if you pay on a monthly basis.
Do you need all this coverage, or such constant updates to your credit score? Probably not, and these days a lot of credit card companies are offering credit scores for free on their websites. But if you’re the anxious kind, and having as much protection as possible will put you at ease, then the money will be worth it—especially if you are eventually the victim of identity theft.
If not? Then take advantage of Credit Sesame’s excellent free services for checking in on your credit score every month, and then remember to grab your full credit report from the government-mandated annualcreditreport.com once a year.