Credit Sesame vs. Credit Karma: Which App Is Better for Your Credit Score?

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Talk to anyone with massive debt and poor credit, and you’ll learn one thing for sure: The hardest thing about improving your credit score is knowing where to even begin.

I know from experience.

I have nearly $60,000 in debt and a credit score below 600. I was paralyzed by these awful numbers — one unbelievably high, the other embarrassingly low — so, for years, I did nothing.

Then I started writing about personal finance, and I learned some companies exist specifically to help you wrap your head around your credit history.

No scammy promises to drastically raise your credit score. No massive upfront fees for services that never deliver. No late-night commercials that look like they were designed on Microsoft Word in the 90s.

I wish I’d heard of this years ago…

Last year, I signed up for Credit Sesame — a free service that shows me my credit score and credit report, plus suggests steps I can take to improve my score.

It’s gone up 66 points already!

But now I’m wondering if I can do even better with Credit Karma. This service looks similar to Credit Sesame — free credit score, report and recommendations, all with the goal of improving your credit.

Because each is free — so no risk in joining — I signed up for Credit Karma to see how it compares.

Here’s what I learned…

What You Get With Credit Sesame vs. Credit Karma

Let’s start with the similarities.

These services have a lot in common and both work with the same goal: to help you maintain or improve your credit score.

With both apps, you’ll get:

  • Access to your free credit score.
  • To see what’s on your credit report.
  • Recommendations for services and actions to improve your credit score.

Both are free to use. The companies make money from the lenders and other services they recommend.

Both apps make your credit report easy to understand. Their designs are quite different, but both let you see:

  • Your credit score
  • Which factors affect your score
  • How much each factor matters
  • What, exactly, is on your credit report
  • What you can do to improve any pain points that are hurting your score

Both even include a color-coded system, so you can see at a glance how you’re doing in each area: Green is good, yellow is so-so and red is bad.

What’s Different Between Credit Sesame and Credit Karma?

They both have similar interfaces, though Credit Karma’s has a slightly more modern, user-friendly feel.

Which Reports You’ll See

Looking beyond cosmetics, the first difference you’ll see between the apps is Credit Karma gives you access to reports from two credit reporting bureaus: TransUnion and Equifax.

It shows the credit score each bureau reports for you, plus what each includes on your credit report.

Credit Sesame shows the same, but only from TransUnion.

Why does that matter? You don’t have just one credit score — you actually have several, reported by multiple agencies, and they’re not always the same.

Debt Information

One thing Credit Sesame includes on your dashboard that I didn’t see anywhere on Credit Karma is total debt.

Your debt — from student loans, mortgage, auto loans, whatever — is a key part of your credit score, so it’s nice to see up front what you’re dealing with.

Identity Theft Protection

A major benefit Credit Sesame has over Credit Karma is identity theft insurance.

Both services monitor your credit reports and alert you of major changes — but only Credit Sesame actually insures you against damages.

It provides $50,000 in identity theft insurance, plus fraud resolution assistance, for free — just for being a member.

Other Small Differences…

I also noticed a few less important differences between the services:

  • Credit Sesame offers a few more options to help you improve your credit score.  While Credit Karma focuses on financial offers — credit cards and lenders — Credit Sesame also refers you to services that can help with delinquencies or late payments on your report.
  • Credit Karma features a community forum and member reviews of the products it recommends.

Credit Sesame vs. Credit Karma: The Verdict

Which service you choose is probably more a matter of personal taste than anything else.

If you have poor credit and want to improve it, Credit Sesame might have a slight edge with a wider variety of affiliate offers and the clarity of your total debt balance.

If you want to apply for a major loan soon — like a mortgage or auto loan — Credit Karma’s reports from two major bureaus (versus one) could help you see important differences in reporting.

That could be beneficial, because you don’t know which report your lender will pull. Only seeing one report could give you false confidence in applying for a loan.

In my case, my main goal is improving poor credit, and I like seeing my total debt in one place. (Well, “like” might not be the right word…). So, I’m going to stick with Credit Sesame. To find out if this service is also right for you, check out our Credit Sesame review

Want to cover your bases? Use both.

Both services are free to use and sign up only takes a few minutes. With access to both, you can be sure you’re not missing any helpful advice or recommendations that could help you improve your credit score.

Here’s the link to sign up with Credit Sesame.

Here’s the link to sign up with Credit Karma.

60% of Credit Sesame members see an increase in their credit score; 50% see at least a 10-point increase, and 20% see at least a 50-point increase after 180 days. Credit Sesame does not guarantee any of these results, and some may even see a decrease in their credit score. Any score improvement is the result of many factors, including paying bills on time, keeping credit balances low, avoiding unnecessary inquiries, appropriate financial planning and developing better credit habits.

Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a senior writer/newsletter editor at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post,, Writer’s Digest and more, attempting humor wherever it’s allowed (and sometimes where it’s not).