With so many “free” credit score offers being peddled these days, it’s not always easy to know which ones are legit and safe… and which ones are scams. How does CreditSesame.com measure up?
What is Credit Sesame?
Launched back in 2010, they’re a venture-capital backed website that is touted as a free tool for managing credit. You register by filling out your personal information and Social Security number. Once you do that, they come back and provide some info about your creditworthiness (I’ll discuss that in a moment).
Is Credit Sesame really free? Yep… You won’t have to provide your credit card number or pay anything to use the service. But be warned because the score provided to you is NOT a real FICO score. It is an imitation that is not used by lenders. If you want to see your authentic FICO score for free, you can do so with the following:How Credit Sesame makes money is that they provide you sponsored offers for mortgage refinancing, credit cards, loans, etc. After filling out the forms on their website, I was taken to a page with some basic information:
Note: The reason I blocked out the numbers is because payment amounts are actually used as security questions to verify your identity when checking your credit.
Obviously the first thing I noticed is the credit score of 771. Is that accurate or not?
Because Credit Sesame does not use FICO scores!
Instead, it uses the Experian National Equivalency Score.
So you are getting an imitator to FICO, not the real thing.
The Experian National Equivalency Score runs on a 360 to 840 range, rather than the 300 to 850 range for FICO. However beyond the number differences, it’s important to remember that we are talking about two different scoring models, which means the various components are counted differently in each. Plus, while educational scores (like the Experian National Equivalency score) can be useful to get a ballpark idea of where you are creditwise and track your progress, lenders don’t use these scores. So, if you’re about to apply for a major loan, pull your FICOs.
And what else does it do?
I was actually looking forward to doing this review of Credit Sesame, because I was hoping I would discover a robust tool chest of free tools to use.
However, the information they give you is limited. Now in their defense, the service is free, so there isn’t much reason to complain. But I don’t think this would help me much with managing my credit and here’s why…
Unless you pay $9.95 a month for the “Advanced” service, you’re left with the bare minimum when it comes to credit analysis. Here’s what the site gave me, as far as credit analysis goes:
That’s all good to know, but it doesn’t tell me much. You can see your utilization ratio in a bit more detail by clicking the “Credit Usage” tab:
Credit Sesame offers a monthly Experian credit report — but only if you’ve bought the $9.95/month Advanced package. Credit Karma’s free service, meanwhile lets you zoom in on your credit way more, allowing you to view the number of inquiries on your report and the length of your credit history. It also gives you the ability to simulate the effect of future actions on your credit. Capital One’s Credit Tracker has similar features.
And the final verdict?
Is Credit Sesame really free? Yes, and for that reason my complaints are all relative. Since you are not spending any money, Credit Sesame is safe – it can’t be a scam or rip-off, since you’re not spending a dime.
But is it actually useful? That’s the question to consider.
If you don’t know what your creditworthiness is – then yes – this service is a useful way to check for free how you measure up. Plus, because Credit Karma and Capital One’s Credit Tracker both use TransUnion, Credit Sesame is a good way to see how Experian is ranking you.
However, it’s not as detailed as the other free credit scoring services out there. And if you want to know your true FICO score (not a FAKO), Credit Sesame falls short — as do all free credit scoring services.
I probably won’t do another Credit Sesame review until [if] they make it a more robust platform. If they ever add more features like telling the number of credit inquiries, average age of accounts and other useful info, then I would be interested.
Updated April 15, 2014.