people want to improve their credit scores. Beyond providing more options for
borrowing money, a good credit score makes it cheaper to use a credit card or
get a loan. Credit Sesame, which has been around for a decade, takes a
proactive approach to helping users boost their credit scores. It checks your
credit score monthly, lays out all the details about your debt, and helps you
understand why your credit score is what it is. More importantly, the personal finance service helps you
learn how you can bump it up.
Credit Sesame supports these free services by suggesting
credit card and loan options that might be better fits than what you have. It
doesn’t track your income, expenses, and budget like Editors’ Choices Mint and Quicken Deluxe do. It’s more comparable to Credit Karma and WalletHub in
terms of content, but its user experience is better than both of those services.
Sesame offers four subscription levels. The Free Membership includes everything
mentioned above, along with credit monitoring with alerts from one bureau. For $9.95 per month,
Advanced Credit adds daily credit scores from one bureau, monthly credit
score updates, and a monthly credit report from three credit bureaus. Sign up
for the $15.95-per-month Pro Credit plan to get credit monitoring with
alerts from three bureaus and generous access to live experts. Finally, for
$19.95 per month, Platinum Protection includes 24/7 stolen/lost wallet
protection, black market website monitoring, public records monitoring, and Social
Security Number monitoring.
Credit Sesame “grades” you on various credit score aspects. These marks appear on the site’s Dashboard, along with your credit score.
doesn’t take long to get a glimpse at your credit score. You need
to provide some basic details about yourself, like your name, address, and last
four digits of your Social Security Number. Credit Sesame then creates an
account for you and finds your current information.
Sesame’s Dashboard is effective, attractive, and takes you wherever
you want to go on the site. The first thing you see is your credit
score at the top of the screen. To the right of it is a graph showing your
credit score changes over previous months (when I signed up in April, the graph
didn’t go back any farther than the last month, but it was set up for future
months). You can toggle through three additional screens here. One (Credit Analysis)
grades you on each of the factors that go into formulating your credit score.
- Payment History. Do you have late payments
or other negative marks in your credit history?
- Credit Usage. Lenders like you to be using
no more than 30 percent of your total available credit.
- Credit Age. How long have your accounts
- Account Mix. Do you have a good variety of
- Credit Inquiries. Lenders don’t like to
see you applying for numerous accounts in a 12-month period.
on how well you do in these areas, Credit Sesame assigns you a letter grade, such as A, B, or C, and explains why you got that grade. Click the Payment History tab, for example, and you’ll see a tally of any late payments, collections, foreclosures, or bankruptcies that appear on your credit report, along with a set of colored horizontal lines that show where you fall on the overall scale. This rating has a 35 percent impact on your credit score.
Credit Sesame analyzes your loans and determines whether you could get a better deal.
next screen (Debt Analysis) displays your total debt, total monthly payments,
and debt-to-income ratio. The
Debt Analysis screen also charts your monthly debt balances. It breaks down your debt into five types: Home Loans, Credit
Cards, Auto Loans, Student Loans, and Other Loans, along with their respective
dollar totals. Click any of their tabs to see the details behind
Links in the Credit Analysis and Debt Analysis boxes take you to internal screens that provide deeper details.
last screen, Credit Cards, lists all of your credit cards, along with the balance, credit limit, minimum payment, and the percentage of the credit
limit you’re using for each one. It also suggests you not exceed a specified
balance for each to keep lenders happy. Each credit card in the list is
color coded, so you can easily see where you’re in trouble. There’s also a
graphic at the top of the page that tells you what percentage of your income
goes toward debt payments. Finally, if you see something you want to dispute, there’s a direct link to a page on TransUnion’s site where you can start an
inquiry. The Credit Cards page can be especially helpful if you’re trying to
improve your score.
Credit Sesame provides educated suggestions on what credit cards might work well for you, but you can do some searching on your own.
to the Dashboard
All the information above is accessible via links in the upper half
of the Dashboard. That’s good design. You may see additional
information depending on what Credit Sesame has found in your credit report.
For example, the site suggested that I open another long-term account, and presented me with
a list of possible credit cards and loans. It also told me what my odds at
getting approved were for each. Recommendations for financial products that
might serve you better than what you have are spread throughout the site, just
as they are on the competitions’.
the links that are already on the Dashboard, Credit Sesame displays an additional navigational toolbar
at the top of the screen. For example, the My Finances menu item includes links to related sections, including the credit and debt analysis screens I already discussed. The Credit Cards link opens a search tool that allows you to search for the best cards for your situation by applying any of multiple filters, including Approval Odds, Features, and Reward Type.
Any alerts from the
site’s credit monitoring tools appear here, too. Beyond that, most of the links in this top menu take you to screens that ultimately suggest
you apply for a credit card or loan. They also provide access to tools that are
only available in the paid versions, as well as related editorial content.
You’ll understand why you have a certain credit score by viewing Credit Sesame’s explanations.
personal finance site that focuses on credit scores explains why your score is
what it is and suggests ways you might improve it. They also spell out the
details of your debt in sometimes excruciating detail. And they tell you
specifically what actions you might take to increase your score.
Sesame is skilled at this. For example, if your credit score is fairly low, it
applies what it calls Sesame Potential. Next to your credit score is another circle with a higher number on it. If you follow the action
plan the site describes, you should be able to climb up to that second number. Credit
Sesame can do this because it runs voluminous simulations in the
background in an attempt to identify the actions that would be realistic given
your credit history and that would help your score tick upward.
The site’s Sesame Potential tool runs numerous scenarios in the background and suggests specific actions to improve your credit score
company has also announced a new banking account in partnership with Community
Federal Savings Bank, Member FDIC. It’s not yet available at this writing, but
you can get on a waiting list. Sesame Cash has no fees and requires no minimum
balance. You can transfer funds from an existing bank account. The account
comes with a debit Mastercard and supports Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay,
and ACH transfers.
basic banking capabilities, Sesame Cash also comes with $1 Million Credit and
ID Theft Protection and Restoration. You can get your credit score daily and
earn up to $100 when your credit score goes up (limited time only). These are only the launch
features of Sesame Cash— the company plans to add
some new capabilities in the future.
didn’t see much on the Credit Sesame website that wasn’t available on its iOS
and Android apps. The credit card search feature didn’t seem quite as robust,
but there’s not much missing. The apps look and work great—as well as any of
Credit Sesame’s competitors. A toolbar along the bottom on the screen provides
access to the apps’ tools. The Overview is slightly different than what appears
on the website. The Analysis screen is divided into two sections by tabs; these
offer data and tools similar to the website’s My Credit and My Debt pages.
third icon takes you to the introduction of Sesame Cash, along with a link to
join the waiting list. Click on the Tips icon, and you’ll see personalized
suggestions for improving your credit score’s weak areas. The fifth icon
takes you to credit card, auto loan, and personal loan offers that have been
selected specifically for you. No complaints here. The apps nearly replicate
the website and contain the information you’d most likely want when you’re away
from your computer.
a lot to like on the Credit Sesame website. Its user experience is exceptional—better than the competition. I especially like its debt-tracking tools, and
Sesame Cash has potential. Still, the free version doesn’t let you see a credit
report like Credit Karma does. It only pulls from one credit bureau as opposed
to two, and it lacks its competitor’s simulators, calculators, and other tools.
It’s also missing some features that WalletHub offers, like the Debt Payoff
wizard. Credit Sesame’s paid subscription levels may appeal to power users, but
you get more for free from competing sites.
and Quicken Deluxe win this year’s Editors’ Choice awards. You can get
your credit score and some related information from them, but their focus is on
income and expense management, including budgeting and planning. That said, there’s no
reason why you couldn’t use one of them in conjunction with a free
site like Credit Sesame. Given the current economy, the more resources you use
to track your personal finances, the better.
While you are thinking about your finances, you should consider using tax software to file your returns. Your state deadline may have passed, but the federal filing cutoff date is now July 15.
Credit Sesame Specs
|Free Credit Report/Score||Yes|