Is the free credit report really free?
Many companies that offer “free” credit reports technically come with no cost, but there’s a catch. In order to see the report, you have to give your credit card and sign up fro a free month of credit monitoring with the company. If you cancel the credit monitoring before the month free trial is up, then you don’t get charged for anything, but if you accidentally forget, your credit card ends up being charged. The FCC also reports that canceling can difficult and not always done the first time you request it to be removed. So while the report is technically free, there’s a catch that can cost you money down the line.
Credit Karma set up their no-cost credit report offer the way they did with their no-cost credit score. There is no need to give your credit card to be able to see the report. They are able to do this because of the way they make money. Other sites make their money by selling the credit monitoring services, but Credit Karma makes its money through offering services where they get a commission if you sign up. These credit scores and credit reports don’t come cheap, as the company spends tens of millions of dollars to get them, but they make enough on the advertising to their users to more than make up for these costs.
Is it a real credit report?
There are some who take issue with the free credit scores from sites like Credit Karma, Credit Sesame and Quizzle because they aren’t FICO scores. There’s a debate as to whether this really matters or not, but it’s a concern to some people. They want to know if the credit report is from the credit reporting agencies or if it’s some type of other credit score.
In this instance, the credit report given is from TransUnion, and it’s the credit report you would get if you bought it directly from them. While it is a real report, it’s only one of the three main credit reports available. You do not have access to your Experian or Equifax credit reports from the site, although you can get a free Equifax credit report from Quizzle. You can also get your credit report at no cost once a year (plus in some other specific circumstances) from AnnualCreditReport.com (you can see how the Credit Karma and AnnualCreditReport offers compare here).
How often can I see my credit report?
Many people wonder if the credit report is a one shot deal. That is, once you’ve seen it one time, then you can no longer see it again to see if it has changed in the future. The answer it no, it’s not a one shot deal. In fact, you can access your updated report as frequently as once every week if you desire.
The Credit Karma free credit report is not a scam or a bait and switch program. The only catch is that in order to get it, you will be given a lot of advertising offers (this is how they make their money) which you can choose to accept or decline. You won’t have to give your credit card to access the report, but you do have to give them sensitive financial information, which comes with some risks.
(Photo courtesy of Colin Kinner)