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How Accurate Are Credit Estimators?

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Red LED ScoreboardQuick answer? Close enough.

A while back I wrote about two free credit score estimates tools: myFICO’s Credit Estimator and CreditKarma. In the course of reviewing myFICO’s ScoreWatch, I learned my actual credit score. So the natural question was, how did my real score compare to my actual score?

The answer is that they were close, but not within the same “tier” of credit quality. The difference isn’t surprising though because they used data from different bureaus and each used their own equation for calculating the score. I think the scores were “close enough” to validate the use of credit score estimators. Here’s how they stacked up.

Here’s what the scores were:

  • myFICO’s ScoreWatch – 794 (actual score)
  • myFICO’s Credit Estimator – 725 – 775 (estimate with no data)
  • CreditKarma – 721 (estimate with data)

myFICO’s ScoreWatch uses real Equifax data and scoring equation, the Credit Estimator uses no data, and CreditKarma uses TransUnion data but their own equation.

Verdict? Estimators are good enough for the casual user, but if you’re planning on getting a loan and need to know your score, nothing beats the real number. myFICO ScoreWatch has a free 30 day trial that you can cancel online, so technically you can use it to get your score.

If you’re planning on getting a big loan, my first step would be to get a copy of your report from each bureau for free through the government’s AnnualCreditReport.com site. Fix whatever problems you may find, wait a month, then do the trial to get your score. There’s no point getting a score, at either CreditKarma or myFICO, if you might have errors on your account.

(Photo: auntiep)

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9 Responses to “How Accurate Are Credit Estimators?”

  1. I reviewed credit karma a few months ago and said the same thing. The score they give you is close but probably not exact. It won’t be a big deal for most people, unless you are on the cusp of better credit tier and looking to take out a loan. At least credit karma is free.

  2. Start-Up says:

    Wow, that’s super good to know. I’ve been planning on using Credit Karma to track my credit score. It’s good to know how accurate these estimates really are. It never hurts to have a ballpark figure.

  3. Chiko says:

    You are right, I don’t think the actual score really matters unless you are trying to make a major decision. Besides that you can use websites like creditkarma, this is what I use. I just check it out and my score is 728 (for a 22 year old that’s good stuff). This is a good thing since I plan to retire early.

  4. thomas says:

    I never really understood paying for a FICO score just to check. The free sites are pretty close as stated and give you great direction. Only certain score areas is being exact necessary. If you show up in the 600s for free, you got better places to put that $30 than getting a report – most likely your credit card bills. If you are in the 700s what does it matter – you are a solid investment and will get the good rates.

  5. Leo says:

    I am using CreditKarma for a few months now. And I have to agree with Jim Wang (author), CreditKarma seems to give a much lower credit score since my actual FICO is 60 pts higher than what I got from CK. I was initially alarmed when I 1st used CK, but I guess its ok, since they only use one bureau and have their own computation, besides, its free. So for CK 1st timers, dont get alarmed when you get a very low score, check your actual score with the 3 bureaus 1st.

    • Jim says:

      CreditKarma told me that they use TransUnion’s equation/computation, but either way as long as you’re comparing CK today vs. CK yesterday, it’s still apples to apples.

  6. Jandi says:

    I disagree. These aren’t even in the ballpark. I used creditkarma (whose score for me has never changed more than 6 points over a year) and the estimate they gave me was 675. I checked on FreeCreditReport and they had a score that was about 730. myFico estimator was in the correct range, and when I checked my actual FICO score it was 718. These score are all over the place and i don’t think a 60 point difference is “close”

  7. PAUL ONEAL says:

    Isn’t it good that the score on credit karma is lower than your actual credit score? I would rather see a calculated score that is lower than my actual score than higher.

  8. thunderthighs says:

    Hmm Credit Karma was 28 points off for me…


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