Some people who have a problem with FAKO scores point to a number of reasons why they feel a FAKO score is inferior to your FICO score. One of the main reasons is that when a lender pulls your credit score, they are going to be looking at your FICO score, and not one of the scores that you would get from Credit Karma. On the surface, this makes sense, but the reality is that there probably isn’t a whole lot of difference. That’s because you don’t have a single FICO score. Different lenders will be pulling scores that are weighted to take into account the risk factors that matter most to them. For example, the score the car dealership gets for you from FICO will be different than the home loan officer. In other words, the score they get will most likely not be the same number that you receive from FICO.
Another complaint that’s often made is that a FAKO score isn’t as reliable as a FICO score, and this may mislead those who are getting them. It’s certainly true that anyone who gets a free credit score from Credit Karma needs to realize that the score is not their true FICO score, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the score is unreliable.
A lot depends on how the consumer is actually going to use the credit score. There’s an implied assumption that those who are seeking out their credit score are only doing it because they soon plan to take out a loan. This certainly could be the reason that they want to know their credit score, but there are also a lot of other legitimate reasons that people are interested in what their credit score is. It’s how the consumer wants to use the credit score that determines which of the two is a better choice.
If you aren’t going to be getting a loan right away, getting a free credit score from Credit Karma has the huge advantage in that you can track how your score changes over time. This can give you a better understanding of what affects your score and how it can change, depending on how you handle your finances. By being able to see your score on a monthly basis, it gives you a wonderful opportunity to improve your score. You can also get free credit monitoring so if something is put into your credit report that doesn’t belong there, you can catch it right away, so that your score remains high, rather than get a huge surprise if you are planning to take out a loan.
Another huge advantage that Credit Karma has over getting your FICO score is that it’s free. If you want to find out your FICO score from MyFICO, it’ll cost you $14.95 (although you should be able to find online discount codes which will allow you to get it for less than this). So if your main purpose for wanting a credit score is to see where it is and try to improve it for the future, Credit Karma (or other sites that give free FAKO credit scores like Credit Sesame or Quizzle) should fit the bill perfectly and make for a better option that your FICO score.
If, on the other hand, you need an accurate score because you will be applying for a loan, I would probably opt for your MyFico score. As mentioned above, it’s probably not going to be exactly the same as the lender will get, but it’s the basis of that number so it shouldn’t be too far off of it. With Credit Karma (or any or the other sites), you simply don’t know how far off it will be, and in some cases a 10+ point swing can mean a different interest rate.
It’s also important to note that there is a risk to using third-party services for your credit score like Credit Karma. They recently were forced to settle with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) do to lax security on their mobile phone app which left their customer’s sensitive financial information vulnerable to hackers. There is always an added risk of having sensitive financial information stolen when you give it to third-party sites like Credit Karma.
There is also a third option. A number of credit cards like Discover have started to give customers their FICO credit score on their monthly statements. If you aren’t credit card adverse and you have the discipline to always pay off your credit card balance each month, this can be a great alternative to the two.
(Photo courtesy of Sean MacEntee)