Review: This App Tells You Exactly How to Keep Your Credit Healthy

Jerry Morgan uses an ATM in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder
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Can you imagine working your way through school without ever receiving a letter grade or feedback?

You’d just be trudging along, hands out like little insect feelers, likely questioning your every move. Is this how long-division works? Am I spelling anything correctly?

Honestly, it sounds like a nightmare.

It’d be the same way if you moved through adulthood with no gauge to show how you’re doing financially.

The good news is you don’t have to use little insect feelers. You’ve got a credit score (think of this as your letter grade) and a credit report (think of this as your report card) to help you keep a pulse on your financial performance.

Sure, checking in on your credit score is no fun when that three-digit number is subpar. However, it’s important. It’ll help guide you to a financially healthier life — especially if you use a free credit-monitoring platform like Credit Sesame.

An Overview of Credit Sesame

Before diving in, we’ve created an ultimate guide to using Credit Sesame (and, in turn, hopefully mastering your credit score).

First: What Is Credit Sesame?

Credit Sesame is a personal finance website that offers consumers access to their credit scores.

Folks often ask: Is Credit Sesame free? Yep. It’s 100% free. And it’s not sneaky, either. You don’t have to enter your credit card information, which means no sly autopay charge appearing on your next credit card statement.

When you sign up for Credit Sesame, you’ll gain access to a number of features, including your TransUnion VantageScore (more on that later). You’ll also be able to tap into your credit report card, which will help show you what might be holding your credit score down. Credit Sesame updates your score each month — again, at no cost.

In addition to accessing your credit score and credit report card, Credit Sesame also offers:

  • Free identity-theft protection. You’ll receive $50,000 in identity theft insurance when you sign up. It also offers fraud resolution assistance in case anything happens (knock on wood).
  • Up-to-date monitoring and alerts. If your score dips or, better yet, increases, Credit Sesame will let you know.
  • Insights into what’s keeping your credit score down, including your loans, credit cards, payment history, credit card usage and more.
  • Charts! So many charts. These will help you track your financial progress.
  • Options. The app will show you personalized credit card, home loan and auto loan options.

But is Credit Sesame reliable? Absolutely. We’ve chatted with several Credit Sesame users who’ve had great results. Check out how Jerry Morgan of New Port Richey, Florida, raised his score 120 points in six months.

Is It Really Free? Credit Sesame Membership Options

If you want to opt for the free, most basic version of Credit Sesame, do it. We don’t blame you.

But the site also offers a few premium paid options, outlined below:

  Free Membership Advanced Membership Pro Membership Platinum Membership
Cost Free $9.95/month $15.95/month $19.95/month
Monthly TransUnion VantageScore + credit monitoring with alerts x x x x
Daily TransUnion VantageScore x x x
Monthly credit score and credit report updates from all three bureaus x x x
Monthly credit monitoring with alerts from all three bureaus x x
24/7 live experts to solve report inaccuracies x x
24/7 live experts to help with lost/stolen wallet protection x
Black market website monitoring x
Public records and Social Security number monitoring x

Credit Sesame deems its “Pro” membership best in value.

How Accurate Is Credit Sesame?

Here’s a brief personal finance 101 review: There are three major credit-reporting bureaus in the U.S. These agencies keep track of your financial activity and churn out credit reports. Each one varies, so your credit score with TransUnion isn’t always the same as the one with Equifax or Experian.

The difference between these scores is due, in part, to the way they’re calculated: FICO scores versus VantageScores. FICO is the O.G. (err, original generator) of scoring models. Experian, TransUnion and Equifax created the VantageScore as competition. But none of these options should result in dramatically different scores. Plus, it all works on the same basic level: The higher the score, the lower the credit risk.

So is Credit Sesame a FICO score? Nope! Credit Sesame pulls information based on your TransUnion profile and offers you a VantageScore. Which score (VantageScore versus FICO score) a lender will use depends on their scoring model. Both scores, however, range between a 300 and 850.

As a rule of thumb, don’t lean too much on that three-digit number. Instead, focus on what your credit report card reveals.

So, yes, your Credit Sesame score is accurate, but your score will also vary by scoring model and lender.

Is Credit Sesame Safe?

Your next question: I’m giving a lot of personal information to Credit Sesame… is it safe?

Credit Sesame is safe — as long as you’re using the real Credit Sesame.

To start, the company received an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. The BBB warns consumers of Credit Sesame scams from imposters:

“Company has received reports of fraudulent actors using the Credit Sesame name to offer personal loans in exchange for up-front fees generally in the form of gift cards. These offers are fraudulent and have no association with Credit Sesame whatsoever. Credit Sesame is not a direct consumer lender and consumers are advised to avoid any loan offers involving payment of up-front fees.”

To avoid these “fradulent actors,” be sure you’re using the legitimate Credit Sesame website:

Does Using Credit Sesame Hurt Your Credit Score?

A common misconception is that checking your credit score or tapping into your credit report hurts your credit.

Not true!

Checking your own credit score doesn’t hurt your credit.

A Credit Sesame Review

You’ve got the lowdown on what Credit Sesame is, and whether it’s accurate and safe. Now, it’s time to see whether Credit Sesame can actually help you — and your credit score.

Pros of Credit Sesame

Did we mention Credit Sesame is free?

Additionally, it does a good job breaking down your credit report for you in the form of a credit report card.

This credit report card grades you on your various credit factors — A through F, just like in school. You’ll receive grades for:

  • Payment history, which includes negative marks and/or late payments.
  • Credit usage (that’s the credit utilization rate).
  • Credit age.
  • Account mix.
  • Credit inquiries.

If, for example, you have an F in credit usage, you could click “View Details,” and read an explanation as well as see actionable advice.

The platform then gives you advice on how to get his credit utilization down, therefore increasing your credit score.

Cons of Credit Sesame

Although Credit Sesame offers that clear financial picture and tangible tips you can use to increase your score, it has a few downfalls worth discussing.

First: the emails. When you sign up for Credit Sesame, you’ll notice an influx of emails. They’re not spam; they’re just promotional emails and updates from the service.

You’ll want to go in and tweak your email settings. Do this by logging in, finding your name at the top right of the screen and hovering over it, then click “Alerts.” There, you can opt in and out of which emails you’d like to receive.

Credit Sesame also feeds users a number of credit card and debt consolidation offers. For some people these might be annoying.

How to Sign up for Credit Sesame

If you’re interested in checking your credit score, signing up for Credit Sesame is easy.

The site claims it takes about 90 seconds, and that seems about accurate. You’ll need some basic personal information — but, again, no credit card information.

Within minutes, you’ll gain access to your credit score and your credit report card as well as customized recommendations to help you start repairing your credit (if needed).

Once signed up, you can also download a Credit Sesame app via iTunes or Google Play.

We may receive compensation from Credit Sesame for promoting the company, but we weren’t paid for this specific review. All reporting is our own.

Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She uses Credit Sesame to keep tabs on her credit score and to take proactive steps to increase it.