Credit Karma vs. Experian: An Overview

If you’re checking your credit score or credit report, Credit Karma and Experian are two names you’ll likely come across. Experian is one of the big three credit reporting bureaus, along with Equifax and TransUnion. Credit Karma is a free website that provides credit scores and reports to its members, along with financial articles and advice. Everything on Credit Karma is free if you sign up for its membership.

Key Takeaways

  • Credit Karma is a user-friendly website that offers free Vantage 3.0 scores from TransUnion and Equifax.
  • Experian will give you access, for a price, to your FICO score and your Experian credit report.
  • Credit Karma does not provide FICO scores nor Experian reports.
  • Everyone has the right to a free credit report every 12 months from Experian and the other two major credit bureaus, via AnnualCreditReport.com.

Credit Karma

As previously mentioned, Credit Karma is not a credit bureau; it is an online financial platform that makes credit bureaus’ information available to consumers. Members can check and monitor their credit scores and credit reports for free. The site also offers various financial and educational tools to help you improve your credit rating. Founded in 2007 by CEO Kenneth Lin, the company is privately held and has received several rounds of venture capital.

Credit Karma is a full online platform, so everything happens at CreditKarma.com. That’s where you’ll register as a member to gain access to your credit scores and reports, which you can print or save as PDFs. Members can also register bank and credit card accounts to get a full financial picture. And you can access your account online or via a mobile app for iPhone or Android.

Credit Karma offers Vantage 3.0 scores from TransUnion and Equifax. Vantage is a collaboration of the three major credit bureaus, including Experian. Scores are updated once a week, plus members can sign up for credit monitoring alerts, so they’ll be notified whenever their score changes. Credit Karma offers full credit reports from TransUnion and Equifax, updated weekly. You cannot get your FICO scores via Credit Karma.

Experian

Experian is probably best known as one of the three major credit reporting bureaus in the United States (the other two are TransUnion and Equifax). But that service is just one part of this global company, which is headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, and listed on the London Stock Exchange (EXPN).

According to the most recent figures (February 2019), Experian is headed by CEO Brian Cassin, has 16,000 employees, and operates in North America, the U.K., Brazil, and beyond. Experian has four main business lines: credit services, marketing services, decision analytics, and consumer services. It also owns the for-profit FreeCreditReport.com (not to be confused with AnnualCreditReport.com, the Federal Trade Commission-authorized website for free credit reports).

For credit questions, the Experian credit hotline leads to a real person with credit knowledge who can answer questions about your credit, right down to offering you a step-by-step walkthrough of your credit report. Like Credit Karma, the site provides financial advice articles and videos. On Twitter and YouTube, every Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time, a live #CreditChat covers financial topics like raising your credit score and frugal ways to go green. Experian offers the FICO Score 8 Model, one of 49 different FICO scores.

Credit Karma vs. Experian Example

When you visit Credit Karma everything is free. Free credit scores, free credit reports, and free credit monitoring and alerts. You’ll never be asked to register a credit card, as you do for most “free trials.”

Credit Karma recommends credit cards that will save you money and for which you’re likely to be approved. Its website is oriented not just to giving you access to your credit ratings but to improving them. It has various financial calculators, as well as lists of credit factors that go into your credit score—with a personalized grade for each and suggestions for how various actions will affect those factors. In addition, you can file your federal taxes and certain state returns for free via Credit Karma.

Everyone has the right to a free credit report every 12 months from Experian and the other two major credit bureaus, via AnnualCreditReport.com.

When you visit Experian you will find a list of various packages and special deals for purchase, such as the 3-Bureau Credit report and FICO score for $39.99, this includes scores from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, plus what credit factors raise or lower your scores. This is a one-time pull of your reports; although the information won't be updated after your first access, the initial reports remain available for you to refer to for 180 days. 

Another option is the Experian IdentityWorksSM Plus or Experian IdentityWorksSM Premium, which not only provides you with all three reports and FICO scores but also provides identity theft monitoring, alerts, and Dark Web surveillance—all for $19.99 a month, after a 30-day free trial period.