Credit Sesame Review: Can Your Credit Score Benefit From the Free Service?
Lucky you: Here at The Penny Hoarder, we’ve tested a number of credit-monitoring services — that way, you don’t have to.
One of our favorites? Credit Sesame.
Credit Sesame lets you check your credit score and set up credit-monitoring alerts — plus it recommends ways you can increase that three-digit number. (We talked to one guy who raised his credit score 300 points in six months! But more on that in a minute.)
Before signing up, you might have a few questions: Is Credit Sesame legit? Is it safe? Is it actually free? Hang tight; we’ve got all the answers you need.
Table of Contents
- Is Credit Sesame a Legit Site? Can It Help Boost Your Credit Score?
- Is Credit Sesame Free?
- How Accurate Is Credit Sesame?
- How Close Is the Credit Sesame Score to FICO?
- Is Credit Sesame Safe?
- Does Using Credit Sesame Hurt Your Credit Score?
- Is Credit Sesame Better Than Credit Karma?
- The Pros and Cons of Credit Sesame
First: What Is Credit Sesame?
Credit Sesame is a site that allows you to get your credit score for free. When you sign up, you’ll also gain access to:
- A “credit report card,” which offers insights into what’s affecting your credit score, including your loans, credit cards, credit history, credit card usage and more.
- Personalized recommendations outlining how you can improve your credit score.
- Free identity-theft protection — up to $50,000 in identity theft insurance.
- Up-to-date free credit monitoring and alerts.
This sounds great and all, but you’re probably still wondering if the free service is too good to be true. It’s not! There are no catches.
Our Credit Sesame Review: We Answer Your Burning Questions
It’s important to sign up for a credit management service you trust. Here, we’ll tell you why tons of Penny Hoarders trust Credit Sesame and answer your most pressing questions.
Is Credit Sesame a Legit Site? Can It Help Boost Your Credit Score?
Absolutely — Credit Sesame is a legitimate website.
I’ve used it for close to three years now to keep tabs on my credit score. I (along with my fellow writers) have also talked to a handful of Credit Sesame users who’ve used the platform and increased their scores by hundreds of points.
In 2018, we spoke with Atlanta-based James Cooper, who raised his credit score nearly 300 points in six months thanks to Credit Sesame’s recommendations.
When he signed up for the service, he had $6,000 in unpaid bills and a credit score of 524, which is considered “very poor” for a VantageScore.
But in six months, his score had soared as high as 801. “[Credit Sesame] showed me the ins and outs — how to dot the i’s and cross the t’s,” Cooper said. “I applied for my first credit card ever.”
He now uses Credit Sesame to help teach high school kids about the importance of good credit through his nonprofit, Fedup-4U.
We also spoke with Jerry Morgan, of New Port Richey, Florida, who used Credit Sesame and raised his score 120 points in six months. Before creating a Credit Sesame account, Morgan hadn’t bothered to check his credit score in quite a while.
“Frankly, with the experiences we have gone through, I was embarrassed to even check my score,” he said.
He’d just been trying to stay afloat after his house went into foreclosure during the housing crisis, and he and his wife lost their jobs.
When he finally looked, his score hovered around 500. He immediately started following Credit Sesame’s recommendations. He opened a balance-transfer card, for example, to lower his credit utilization rate. He also bought a new car and took out an auto loan, which increased his score, thanks to his on-time payments.
“My score now stands at 620, which it still has a ways to go, but it’s headed in a much better direction,” he said. “We will be continuing to follow Credit Sesame’s suggestions.”
Improving your credit score with Credit Sesame can help you save money. The higher your credit score, the lower your interest rates, which will save you money over time if you take out a loan.
Is Credit Sesame Free?
Folks often ask: Is Credit Sesame really free? Yes. It’s 100% free. And it’s not sneaky, either. You don’t even have to enter your credit card information when you sign up, which means you don’t risk unintentionally signing up for some sly autopay subscription.
But if it’s free, how does Credit Sesame make money? The platform also offers premium paid services, which include features like black market website monitoring, Social Security monitoring and monthly credit score monitoring from all three credit bureaus (versus just TransUnion).
However, it’s not necessary to sign up for these paid services; you can still get your credit score and credit report card with the basic free version.
Additionally, Credit Sesame partners with other financial products (think: credit card companies and loan offers) to share product recommendations.
For example, your credit score might be low because you have a high credit utilization rate. Credit Sesame might recommend you open a balance transfer card to decrease that rate, and it’ll offer a few recommendations to help you get started.
How Accurate Is Credit Sesame?
Credit Sesame is accurate, but you might see a slightly different credit score on there than lenders see.
Why? Well, there are three major credit-reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Each of these falls under two larger umbrellas of scoring models: FICO and VantageScore.
Credit Sesame shows you your TransUnion score, which falls under the VantageScore model. However, if you’re looking to take out a mortgage or apply for a credit card, most lenders judge your creditworthiness (and interest rate) by your FICO score.
So what you see on Credit Sesame is accurate; however, it might not be the exact same number lenders see when they pull your report.
How Close Is the Credit Sesame Score to FICO?
Credit Sesame shows you your TransUnion score, which falls under the VantageScore 3.0 model. Lenders, however, most often use FICO scores when determining your borrowing power.
So if you’re looking to take out a loan or apply for a credit card, you’re probably wondering how close is the Credit Sesame score is to FICO. Although the scores might not exactly match up, they aren’t too drastically different.
Both models score you from 300 to 850. Plus, they use similar factors to determine your credit score, so, chances are, if you take steps to increase your VantageScore, you’ll also increase your FICO score.
Bottom line: It all works on the same basic level. The higher the score, the lower the credit risk (and interest rates). If you take steps to increase your VantageScore, then you should see an increase in your FICO score.
Is Credit Sesame Safe?
When you sign up for Credit Sesame, you’re filling in some personal information, so you might wonder: Is it safe?
The fact is, Credit Sesame is safe. The company is Better Business Bureau accredited and has an A+ rating. However, the BBB warns consumers of Credit Sesame imposter scams:
“…. this business’s name and website is being used by fraudulent actors using the Credit Sesame name to offer personal loans in exchange for upfront 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 upfront fees.”
To avoid these “fraudulent actors,” be sure you’re using the legitimate Credit Sesame website by checking the URL: You should be on creditsesame.com.
Once you’re on the site, yes, you’ll have to enter your Social Security number, but this is typical for any credit-monitoring site. It uses this information to tap into your credit report.
Don’t fret, though. All your information is encrypted, meaning it’s coded to prevent unauthorized access, and it’s the same type of encryption levels banks and government agencies use. Additionally, Credit Sesame refuses to sell your personal information to third-party advertisers.
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. This just isn’t true.
Here’s a quick personal finance 101 lesson: There are hard and soft credit inquiries. Hard credit inquiries can ding your score a few points. This might happen when your apply for a mortgage or open a new credit card
A soft inquiry, on the other hand, won’t hurt your credit score — and that’s exactly what results when you check your credit score.
Is Credit Sesame Better Than Credit Karma?
The Penny Hoarder editor Dana Sitar reviewed Credit Sesame versus Credit Karma to find out which was better.
Both offer similar services: a free credit score, free credit monitoring alerts, free credit insights and free personalized recommendations.
- What Credit Karma offers that Credit Sesame doesn’t: A second credit score (from Equifax), weekly credit score updates (Credit Sesame updates you once a month) and a full credit report (Credit Sesame gives you the “credit report card,” which helps make the information more digestible).
- What Credit Sesame offers that Credit Karma doesn’t: More recommendations on ways to improve your credit score, a clear overview of your debt (student loans, credit cards and more) and $50,000 in identity theft insurance.
The Pros and Cons of Credit Sesame
Here’s what we liked — and didn’t like — when we used Credit Sesame.
Pros of Credit Sesame
Wait, did we mention Credit Sesame is free? Yup — and it takes about 90 seconds to sign up. Once you’re in, you’ll immediately gain access to your free credit score, free credit report card and free credit-monitoring service.
And it doesn’t throw you to the wolves to determine what the heck is what. Credit Sesame’s report card gives you a letter grade for each factor that affects your credit score — 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 you’re hoping to increase your score, this makes it easy to determine where your need to focus your efforts. If, for example, you have an F in credit usage, you could click “View Details” and read an explanation of what that means and a piece of actionable advice.
Additionally, Credit Sesame will monitor your credit, so you’ll get an email (or opt in for text alerts) when it goes up or down. You can also use this to keep tabs on any fishy activity that might lead to identity theft.
Overall, the site is easy to navigate and almost (dare we say it?) fun to explore. Plus, you can take it on the go with its mobile app.
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.
To be honest, you’re probably going to get annoyed with these, so as soon as you sign up, you’ll want to go in and tweak your email settings. Do this by logging into the site, 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 emails you’d like to receive.
Credit Sesame also feeds users product recommendations, like debt consolidation and credit card offers (that’s how it makes money, after all). This can be helpful in improving your credit score, but for some people, these offers might be annoying.
Finally, if you’re looking to get in touch with Credit Sesame’s customer service, unfortunately, you won’t find a phone number to call. Instead, you’ll have to submit a request through its help center (top right corner).
Final Thoughts and How to Sign up for Credit Sesame
Overall, there are a ton of websites out there that advertise free credit scores and credit-monitoring services, so it can be difficult choosing which is best for you.
Here’s what we say: Whether you’re looking for an effortless way to keep tabs on your credit score or you’re looking to improve it a couple hundred points, use Credit Sesame to help achieve your financial goals.
It takes no time (or credit card) to sign up, and once you do, you’ll have all the information you need to improve your credit at your fingertips.
Heck, it’s free and safe, too, so you really have nothing to lose — only some credit score points to potentially gain!
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.