When you’re working to get out of debt and improve your credit score, the last thing you usually want is another bill. That’s what makes free credit monitoring tools like Credit Sesame, so great. They allow you to track changes in your credit score and the impact of paying off debt without incurring another bill. But how do these free tools stack up versus their paid competitors and how does Credit Sesame compare to the free tool juggernaut that is Credit Karma?
Important Update: Bureaus Offer Free Weekly Reports Through April 2022
In light of the unprecedented financial crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the credit bureaus have expanded free credit report access. You can now download your credit report from each bureau once per week through annualcreditreport.com.
We recommend taking advantage of these free weekly reports to check your credit often during this crisis, so you can avoid mistakes.
Credit Sesame specs at-a-glance
|Credit score tracked||VantageScore® 3.0|
|Credit report access||TransUnion|
|Offered through|| |
|In-app credit offers||Yes|
|In-app purchases|| |
How Credit Sesame works
If you’ve ever used any credit monitoring tool, then you basically understand how Credit Sesame works.
- After you download the app, you will answer a series of security questions to verify your identity and set up your account.
- The questions will be based on the information contained in your TransUnion credit report, such as past addresses and past employers.
- Then the app will launch and show you your current VantageScore 3.0m based on the information contained in your credit report
- The Overview dashboard will also walk you step-by-step through actions you can take to improve your score
- The Analysis tab breaks down your credit by each of the five factors used to calculate your credit score.
- Credit Sesame makes it easy to understand where you are strong and weak with color-coded letter grades from A-F.
- You can also view your debts and progress on debt repayment on the My Debt tab under Analysis
- The Tips tab offers specific tips on how to improve your score by boosting each of the five scoring factors.
- Then you can view credit cards offers on the Offers
How accurate is Credit Sesame?
Credit Sesame is extremely accurate at tracking your VantageScore 3.0 credit score based on the information contained in your TransUnion credit report. However, this does not mean that it will be consistent with the scores and reports seen by a lender when you apply for a loan or credit card. Most lenders currently use FICO 8 to evaluate your credit risk during the underwriting process. FICO and VantageScore can be notably different.
There’s also the issue of how accurate your TransUnion credit report is. Not all financial institutions report to every credit bureau. So, for instance, if you have a loan through a smaller credit union, that organization may not report to TransUnion. In this case, your report may not contain the same information listed in your other credit reports. You can read more about this in our product review below since our reviewer encountered this exact issue.
How does Credit Sesame make money?
Outside of the paid Instant Score updates that give you new scores daily, Credit Sesame makes most of its revenue through offers. The app will serve ads for credit cards and loans that it says can help you achieve a better score. They’ll even email you with tips that tie into offers.
As our product review team found when using the app, Credit Sesame is pretty aggressive at serving these ads. The offers are everywhere you turn on the app. If you have good credit, they’re constantly nudging you to take on new accounts, through things like email tips that prod you into getting more credit.
Of course, there’s no requirement to take any of these offers, so you can use Credit Sesame entirely for free. But as we note in the review below, be prepared to get bombarded.
Credit Sesame Reviews
Credit Sesame boasts a 4.4 out of 5 stars on the Google Play Store with almost 32,000 reviews. In the iTunes App Store, it has an even stronger rating of 4.8/5 with over 91,000 reviews.
All of the reviewers on both platforms rave about the ease of use. The interface is so easy to understand that it’s almost impossible to misunderstand what it’s telling you about your credit score. People love the tips that Credit Sesame offers and most say it’s helped them improve their credit score.
Most of the negative reviews of Credit Sesame basically complain about flaws that come with any free credit monitoring tool. People say that it’s not accurate because it doesn’t report all their debts. But Credit Sesame is only telling you what’s in your TransUnion credit report. If that report isn’t accurate, there’s nothing Credit Sesame could do to fix that.
People also complain about how much the app bombs you with credit card offers. And a few people complain that the credit card offers that the app serves are too general. One user said that they can’t qualify for any of the offers the app recommends. So, you might want to take those recommendations with a grain of salt.
Debt.com Staff Review of Credit Sesame
Our reviewer at Debt.com is a regular user of Credit Karma; she’s also used several other paid credit monitoring tools. Here are her thoughts…
I’ve been a Credit Karma user since 2015. But it wasn’t until I downloaded Credit Sesame that I noticed something major was off on my TransUnion credit report. I have my mortgage and a debt consolidation loan both through my credit union. Apparently, that credit union doesn’t report to TransUnion, because the bureau has no payment history or information on either of those loans.
Now that same information appears on Credit Karma, which tracks both TransUnion and Equifax credit report changes. And even though my TransUnion and Equifax scores are different, I’d never bothered to dive in to figure out why. But within five minutes of opening the Credit Sesame app, I noticed that my TransUnion credit report doesn’t include my mortgage.
The user interface is so idiot-proof that it was right there in my face that the mortgage wasn’t listed. I called TransUnion and figured out the reporting issue with just a few minutes of talking to the representative. I then figured out that the debt consolidation loan wasn’t included either. And when I dove into Credit Karma, sure enough, it had the same lack of two loans on my TransUnion report. I’d just never noticed until Credit Sesame put it front and center.
My biggest complaint is how much they bomb you with offers. Credit card and loan offers are in every action and tip that the app recommends. I receive multiple emails from Credit Sesame every day – sometimes up to three per day. It’s excessive and definitely more than you receive compared to other free tools like Credit Karma. Luckily, you can unsubscribe from their emails and still use their service.
Would our reviewer stop using Credit Karma in favor of Credit Sesame?
If I were judging strictly based on user interface, then yes. Credit Sesame is ridiculously easy to understand and presents everything you need to know about your credit score at-a-glance. It’s the perfect credit monitoring tool for anyone that’s just starting out at building credit because it teaches you how to improve each of the five factors that make up your score. You learn about the five factors so you can be more strategic with credit and have an easy way to track your overall debt load.
That being said, if you have accounts that don’t show up on your TransUnion credit report that show up on your Experian and Equifax reports, then it makes Credit Sesame less useful. If you have any reporting issues with the loans that don’t appear on the TransUnion report, you might miss them. So, I recommend reviewing your three reports for free and comparing the information they contain to make sure all your debt gets reported to TransUnion. As long as it does, this is the credit score tracking app for you.
Article last modified on April 20, 2021. Published by Debt.com, LLC