Last week I had a chat with Credit Sesame founder Adrian Nazari, a banking industry expert with years of experience, about their service, which uses banking technology to help you optimize your financial situation. An easy way to think about it is that it does what other free personal finance finance tools seek to do – give you better alternatives to your existing loans with the goal of saving you money. Whereas other services focus on credit cards and deposit accounts (those pay better!), Credit Sesame, at least at the moment, focuses on the bigger pieces of your financial life – loans like your mortgage.
The key difference is the underlying technology that drives the suggestions. According to Nazari, they build a profile of you, using information you supply, and use the same technology banks use to find the best alternatives for you. Whereas other services just look at individual accounts, finding a better alternative to the credit card you currently use, they seek to look at a number of alternatives that work across numerous situations.
The service is free and currently in beta but they hooked Bargaineering readers up with an early beta key: bargaineeringsesame which you can use here .
Credit Sesame Dashboard
The signup process can take only five minutes if you opt to give them your Social Security Number to pull your data. It’s a soft pull of your Experian, so it won’t have an impact on your credit score. Afterwards, you are presented with a Dashboard with suggestions (I had none). The system goes into your credit report and makes assumptions based on the figures there. For example, for my credit cards they assumed 14% because your credit report doesn’t include that piece of information. For home value, they use eppraisal.com . My credit score is a credit score provided by Experian.
As an aside, my Experian credit score (it’s not clear if it’s a FICO credit score) was 809 versus a Credit Karma TransUnion score of 778. I’ve argued that Credit Karma is a fantastic way to keep on top of changes to your TransUnion report, sort of a DIY identity theft protection system , but it’s always interesting to see how accurate that score may be.
I was, at first, hesitant about sharing my Social Security Number. They do have the option of manually entering your credit information, which is a plus, but I realized that given how diligent I am about checking my credit reports and how powerful encryption technology is, I wasn’t terribly concerned. If you’re comfortable giving login credentials to your credit card account to a service like Mint (or if you use Credit Karma), then this is no more dangerous. Several years later, I took an even deeper look to see whether I thought Credit Sesame was a scam  of some kind (verdict: no).
I found that the accuracy of the reports was remarkably good (kind of scary) considering all of it was derived off a credit report. The home value was based off some erroneous data which eppraisal.com claimed was public record. Square footage, year built and bathrooms were accurate but the record states we have no bedrooms. That, of course, is just a matter of pride as it doesn’t really matter what the appraisal value is unless you can lower your property taxes  with it!
Overall, I found that Credit Sesame wasn’t as useful for me since I don’t have much in the way of loans but I’d love to see how it works for someone in need of some loan optimization. If you check it out and see something interesting, please share in the comments!