Update: Credit Sesame now uses TransUnion data, more on that change can be found here.
Credit Sesame (CS) was launched in 2010 by Adrian Nazari and has received over 18 million dollars in start up funds from various venture capital firms. Their main selling points are that they offer free: credit scores, credit monitoring and alerts and analysis of your credit & loans. They don’t require a credit card to sign up and accounts are automatically updated monthly (along with an updated credit score).
Is all of this too good to be true? Is Credit Sesame a scam? We signed up for their service to see what the truth really was.
- 1 Credit Sesame Credit Scores
- 2 Other Features
- 3 How Do They Make Money?
- 4 Is Credit Sesame Safe?
- 5 Our Verdict
- 6 Credit Sesame Contact Information
Credit Sesame Credit Scores
Are the scores really free?
With most credit monitoring services there is a free trial period and then you start being billed monthly once it finishes. Credit Sesame doesn’t have a trial period, it starts off free and never stops being free. They don’t require a credit card to sign up, so there is no way for them to charge you even if they wanted to start.
Are The Scores Accurate?
Credit sesame uses what is known as the Experian National Equivalency score. The score is accurate for what it is, but this is not the same score lenders look at when you make an application for a loan.
Lenders look at what is known as a FICO score, this is calculated differently to the score sesame provides and even has a different range (360-840 for sesame and 300-850 for FICO).
I decided to check my Equivalency score and my FICO score on the same day (and choosing an Experian FICO from myFICO.com as that’s the credit bureau credit sesame uses) to see what the difference is between my two scores.
[Read: How To Get A Free FICO Score]
My Credit Sesame score was 833 (just 7 below the maximum, wow!)
My Experian FICO score was 821
That’s a difference of 12 points and a lot closer than I thought it would be. Both put me into the excellent category, meaning I should be approved for all credit cards and offered the best interest rates.
We decided to do some additional research and trawled other blogs and message boards, in total we found 63 people that had both a credit sesame score and a FICO score publicly viewable. The average difference was 33 points. A difference of 33 points is massive and could easily put people into a different scoring category.
How Is The Score Calculated?
Neither Experian or Credit Sesame publicly stated how the Equivalency score is calculated, only that it’s extremely similar to the scoring algorithm FICO uses for their score. They do have a sector that says: “Key Factors Impacting Your Score”, unfortunately mine just says “Congratulations, you have an excellent score”.
This isn’t very helpful to credit newbies with a good score who want to maintain or improve on their already good start.
[Read: How Is A FICO Score Calculated?]
It’s possible to set goals and then receive advice on how to reach those goals. For example, I can choose “Increase my credit score” as a goal and then I’ll be presented with advice on how to achieve this goal.
The advice given is fairly basic, but for credit newbies I can see this being useful. The main problem I have with their goal setting feature is that it’s predominantly used as a way for Credit Sesame to unsuspecting customers. For example, one piece of advice they give is to check your credit reports for inaccuracies and then dispute these inaccuracies. Rather than informing consumers they have the right to a free credit report from each of the bureaus every year, they try to sell their customers an Experian report for $9.95.
To me this shows they are more concerned about making money than actually helping their users get into a better financial position.
They also offer free credit monitoring of your Experian credit report. This will only notify you of major changes, such as a new application for credit being made or a debt being marked as delinquent.
It’s useful to monitor your credit report, especially as it’s a good way of catching identity theft early. It would be good if they also showed a complete credit report, but as they are constantly trying to sell these that’s unlikely.
Identity Theft Protection
Credit Sesame recently announced that they now provide consumers with free identity theft insurance. Coverage is up to $50,000 in expenses. You can only claim expenses that are related to restoring your identity for example:
- Phone bills
- Lost wages (usually only up to a maximum of four weeks)
- Notary and certified mailing costs
- Obtaining credit reports (this can be done for free through http://www.annualcreditreport.com)
You cannot claim loses due to identity theft (e.g fraudulent activity on your bank accounts or credit cards). They also give you free access to a live identity restoration specialists who will help you restore your identity.
How Do They Make Money?
CS makes money by showing tailored loans and credit cards to their members. When a member applies or is approved for one of these products they receive commission. They also make money through partnerships. For example they currently power mint.com’s home loan tool and receive commission whenever a consumer signs up for a loan through that tool.
They also make additional money by selling access to your credit reports for $9.95. Users should remember that they legally have access to their credit reports (one from each bureau) once every twelve months. They can also get an additional two credit reports per year for free by signing up to Quizzle (no credit card required).
Is Credit Sesame Safe?
Credit Sesame was founded by Adrian Nazari who also co-founded Financial Crossing, it’s also been backed by two large venture capital firms, Inventus Capital & Menlo Ventures. Because of this and the following security certificates we believe the information that’s stored on the Credit Sesame servers is secure.
Because they don’t have access to your credit card, there is no way for them to charge you. So there is no risk of them sneaking in charges.
Will using credit sesame hurt my credit score?
No. When you use credit sesame they do a soft pull on your credit report, this is not used by any scoring algorithms to calculate your credit score and isn’t something lenders consider when you apply for a new loan.
The main reason to sign up to Credit Sesame is for the free credit score, unfortunately because this is a FAKO score that’s not used by lenders there is little point in tracking and trying to improve it.
The additional features Sesame offers are designed to drive more revenue and profit for them, rather than actually helping consumers. Other credit monitoring providers are a better option for consumers as they either provide a score that lenders look at (Credit Karma) or a complete credit report (Quizzle).
In our opinion it’s not worth signing up for Credit Sesame, but it doesn’t cost anything and it’s safe – so why not see for yourself?
Credit Sesame Contact Information
Other inquiries and e-mail addresses can be found on the credit sesame contact us page.