Intrinsically linked with the ability to use points and miles to travel the world is keeping your personal finances in order. The main priority when finding the best credit monitoring service is to make sure your credit score is high and there are no unauthorized items on your credit report. For the advanced points and miles hobbyists there is so much more to track on your credit report however. Many credit monitoring services and sites aren’t free, are clunky, spam you constantly, or have any other number of issues. Credit Karma is by far the best credit monitoring site for both groups.
Credit Karma – Basics
So why is Credit Karma the best free credit monitoring service for basic credit report items? With recent site and layout updates the best features still remain the same. For the basic credit monitoring services here are the main highlights:
- Clean and easy to use interface
- Easy to find credit score from both Transunion and Equifax
- Weekly updates of your report
- Easily to drill into and analyze data
- Simple, clear explanations of your credit score
In addition to a basic look at your score you can quickly dive into the factors contributing to your score. Unlike other services who may quickly rattle off a few potential factors Credit Karma gives a more in depth analysis including the following factors, what ranges are normal, and the level of impact:
- Credit card use (or credit utilization)
- Payment history
- Derogatory marks
- Credit age/history
- Total accounts
- Hard inquiries
These features are really helpful because other credit monitoring sites give vague advice like “too many inquiries!” or “too many accounts!”. But here you can see the actual impact each of these items has.
Clearly the biggest issue is the credit age/history on my credit report. I can see from this easy layout that it’s simple a medium impact item though – which my score confirms. This is much lower than my normal credit history age since in the past year I have re-financed a mortgage, gotten a vehicle, and opened a few credit cards. I am planning on canceling a couple newer credit cards this week though, which should help my credit age/history.
The main takeaways from this screen should be:
- Always keep open credit cards if they don’t have an annual fee to help your credit history
- Rather than closing credit cards you can often switch to a no fee version to keep your history
- Hard inquiries are less of an impact than many may think
- A high number of accounts is also low impact
- Biggest factors are credit utilization, payment history, and of course things like liens or items in collections
Note: every person’s credit report is different. I’m sharing to give an unbiased review of Credit Karma, not for folks to go “YOU HAVE HOW MANY ACCOUNTS?!”
The “Accounts” tab at the top of the Credit Karma page also gives you a quick snapshot of your balances in each type of account category. As you can see from the below you are easily able to see where accounts have gone down too.
Credit Karma for Credit Monitoring – Advanced
For those of us more into advanced side of the points and miles hobby there are additional features that really help. As I described previously my silly 5/24 mistake caused my husband to not be able to get the Chase Sapphire Reserve last year. Luckily, thanks to this following feature I was easily able to discover how quickly he could apply for it this month.
By selecting “Credit Age” on my “Credit Factors” screen you can see each open account and how long it’s been open. So if you are aiming to get below the infamous Chase 5/24 rule you are very easily able to track exactly when that will be.
The other credit factors pages work in the same fashion: showing you what “good” percentages are of utilization, payment history, hard inquiries, etc.
This credit age feature is by far the easiest to calculate whether you are under the Chase 5/24 rule. The other features are really handy as well whether you have good or bad credit to know exactly where your first focus should be on improving your credit.
Credit Karma is extremely handy. There isn’t anything I look for in regards to my credit report that I can’t find there. The only limitation is that it only pulls data from TransUnion and Equifax, and not Experian. That’s certainly not a deal breaker for me personally, although I know for some it can be.
Please do keep in mind Credit Karma will often make credit card and loan recommendations. Those recommendations have not been evaluated by me and I would do your due diligence on any recommendations as that is how Credit Karma makes their money by providing this service for free.