Over the past 25 years, I’ve been asked hundreds of questions about the difference between pulling your own credit score and having a professional such as myself do it. 

Specifically, people oftentimes wonder why these two scores are usually so different, and why the score they pull themselves isn’t anywhere close to the score that gets used when they’re applying for a mortgage. 

To explain this, I’ll compare how Credit Karma—the most popular credit scoring system—calculates their credit scores with how we do it. Credit Karma is a free service that allows you to monitor your credit score, but there’s a saying that applies here: You get what you pay for. 

“Credit Karma is a free service that allows you to monitor your credit score, but there’s a saying that applies here: You get what you pay for.”

Since Credit Karma is a for-profit company and they give you your credit report for free, they make money by selling advertising space based on the information they gather to target consumers. By running your credit report, they can monitor your spending habits. They have around 40 million subscribers, so this model is doing quite well for them.

What makes it inaccurate, though? They use VantageScore as their scoring model, whereas the majority of lenders use a FICO score, and there are many different versions of a FICO score—at least 28. For a single buyer, we may use a FICO Score 5 in Equifax, a FICO Score 2 in Experian, and a FICO Score 4 in TransUnion. This can get confusing because when you apply for a credit card, your bank might use Bankcard FICO Score 8. 

So if you decide to shop for a house, make sure you have your credit pulled by a lender so you get an accurate score. This is what’s required by Fannie Mae, FHA, and Freddie Mac on the secondary market where mortgages are bought and sold. 

To be fair, companies like Credit Karma are useful in terms of monitoring your credit. When it comes to finding out your credit score to obtain a mortgage, though, you’ll need to take a different route.

If you have any questions about this or any other mortgage topic, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I’d love to help you.