Credit Sesame is a website and mobile app that provides free credit scores and monitoring. You won’t receive your actual FICO score but can use the information to gain better insights into your finances. The site’s basic services truly are free, and can be a good tool to track your credit score and see how certain actions you take can influence your number. There are also upgrade options available for additional services that you pay on a monthly basis. Here is an in-depth review of Credit Sesame, including what you’ll get with a free account and whether or not it’s right for you.
Once you create an account, you’ll see a dashboard of your financial history and current situation. Read on for a breakdown of everything you have access to with Credit Sesame’s free account.
Credit Score: Each month you’ll receive an updated credit score. While not your actual FICO score, you can track your progress every time it’s updated. This helps give you an idea of how much your financial actions are helping to improve your score.
Credit Monitoring: Credit Sesame pulls your financial information from TransUnion, one of the three credit bureaus, each and every month. You’ll find out what kind of information has changed on your credit report, allowing you to pinpoint what factors are affecting your credit score. You can pay to upgrade to get accounts from all three credit bureaus if you want a more holistic picture of your credit.
Personalized Credit Report Card: This feature analyzes your credit report in each of the five scoring categories contributing to your credit score: payment history, credit utilization, credit age, account mix, and credit inquiries. You’ll receive basic insights into what is helping or hurting your score. For instance, the report card might tell you that your credit utilization is high, or how your credit score compares to your peers.
Debt and Loan Analysis: Credit Sesame pulls your credit report information from TransUnion to help analyze your current debt. You’ll also receive personalized recommendations on new personal loans, including car loans and student loans. This tool can help you compare offers and find the best interest rates when it comes time to take out a new loan or refinance a current one.
Saving Money: Credit Sesame also utilizes advanced technology to help you choose the loans and credit cards that will save you the most money in interest payments each month and over time.
Home Value Estimates: You also get a tracking tool if you own your home. You’ll receive updates on your home’s estimated value as well as how much equity you’ve earned based on your current mortgage.
Financial Goal Setting: You can also get help achieving your financial goals through Credit Sesame. Enter in what you’d like to do, such as refinance your mortgage or take out a personal loan, and Credit Sesame will alert you of relevant offers based on your credit profile, with a focus on those that save you the most money in interest.
Identity Protection: Along with your free account, you’ll receive a $50,000 identity theft insurance package along with professional help in restoring your ID.
How do you create an account?
You don’t need to hand over any credit card information to open a free account with Credit Sesame, but you will have to enter your social security number. You’ll also be prompted to answer a number of questions related to your finances in order to verify your identity. This might include something like entering your monthly payment amount on a specific loan, or when you opened a particular bank account. Once your identity is confirmed, you’ll have access to all of the free features available on Credit Sesame.
Which credit score does Credit Sesame use?
Credit Sesame does NOT use a FICO score, so the number you see when you sign up will not be the exact score lenders see when you go to apply for a loan. Instead, Credit Sesame uses the Experian National Equivalency Score. And while that may seem like it should be spot-on because it comes directly from a credit bureau, the algorithm is not the same as the FICO score. Plus, the score range itself is slightly different. Instead of using FICO’s 300-850 range, the Experian model runs from 360-840. So there’s obviously going to be a fair degree of difference between your two scores. But if you’re looking for a way to monitor the overall trajectory of your score, it’s a helpful tool. If you’re trying to prepare to apply for a loan, you might be better off paying a one-time fee to FICO to check your actual score so you can better gauge where you score truly lies.
Does credit monitoring with Credit Sesame hurt your credit score?
No, this free credit monitoring service does not hurt your credit score because any credit report pull initiated by you only counts as a soft inquiry. Hard inquiries can hurt you score between 5 and 10 points for each one, and potentially sound an alarm with lenders that you’re strapped for cash. But since Credit Sesame pulls your credit on your behalf for educational purposes — not a loan request — you can rest easy knowing that your credit score isn’t getting dinged each month.
How are credit offers decided by Credit Sesame?
Credit Sesame uses a sophisticated engine to determine loan and credit card offers that are tailored specifically for you. Since they already have access to your credit history and other financial information, they can automatically crunch numbers including your credit score, existing loans, home value, debt-to-income ratio, and more. They can also take into account your personal goals, like wanting to move or refinance your home. Then they churn out offers from financial institutions that meet your specific credit profile. This can help you analyze deals and also save time searching for lenders and loan terms that work for you.
What are common complaints against Credit Sesame?
Just like any non-FICO credit score, the number you receive from Credit Sesame could vary greatly from the number actually pulled from your lender when it comes time to apply for a loan. Some people also complain that the analytical tools and advice are limited unless you upgrade to a paid subscription. But for a free website offering free credit score updates each month, it’s a great starting point for monitoring your own credit.
What do you get with a paid subscription?
If you’re looking for a bit more financial information and analysis, you can upgrade to three different subscription levels. You can pay month to month, or receive a discount by paying for a full year in advance. The first option is the Advanced Credit Plan for $9.95 month-to-month, or $7.95/month if billed annually (totaling $95.40). On top of the free services, this option gives you daily credit score updates from one credit bureau as well as monthly credit score updates and monitoring from all three credit bureaus.
For $15.95 a month (or $12.95/month billed annually — $155.40), you can enroll in the Pro Credit Plan. Credit Sesame advertises this plan as its best value option. You get all the perks mentioned above, plus credit monitoring with alerts from the three credit bureaus and access to 24/7 experts who will help solve any inaccuracies on your credit report.
Your final paid option is the Platinum Protection Plan, which costs $19.95 month to month, or $15.95/month when you pay a year in advance ($191.40). On top of everything included in the other plans, the Platinum Protection Plan includes identity theft protection and monitoring services.
How does Credit Sesame make money?
Credit Sesame makes money in a few different ways. First, they obviously collect revenue from customers purchasing the paid monthly subscriptions. They also earn commission through the targeted ads and products they offer all members based on specific credit profiles. If you accept a loan or credit card offer through the website, for example, then Credit Sesame receives compensation for that referral. The website also features third-party advertising, which means other companies pay to have their ads placed on Credit Sesame.
Should you use Credit Sesame?
Credit Sesame can be very effective for gaining regular access to your credit information at no cost. If you’re about to apply for credit, you certainly don’t want to depend on your credit score as absolute; many users report their actual FICO score being either higher or lower than their Credit Sesame score. But if you’re actively working on repairing your credit, then regularly checking your credit report and one version of your credit score can be a good idea. If you need additional monitoring services, their paid subscriptions are also fairly cost effective compared to other options available. Just remember, don’t be tempted to take out an unnecessary loan just because you qualify! That being said, the Credit Sesame website is safe and legitimate, so it doesn’t hurt to try out the free service and see if you get any value from the information and advice offered.