Most people want to improve their credit scores. In addition to providing more opportunities to borrow 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 improve their credit scores. It checks your credit score monthly, records all the details about your debt and helps you understand why your credit score is what it is. More importantly, the personal financial service helps you learn how to jack it up.
Credit Sesame supports these free services by suggesting credit card and loan options that may be a better fit than what you have. It doesn’t track your income, expenses and budget like Editors’ Choices Coin and Quicken Deluxe To do. It is more similar in content to Credit Karma and WalletHub, but the user experience is better than both services.
Credit Sesame offers four subscription levels. The free membership includes everything listed above along with alerts credit monitoring from one agency. For $9.95 per month, Advanced Credit adds daily credit scores from one agency, 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 agencies and generous access to live experts. Finally, for $19.95 per month, Platinum Protection includes 24/7 security against stolen/lost wallets, black market website monitoring, public records monitoring, and social security number monitoring.
Credit Sesame “rates” you on several aspects of the credit score. These marks will appear on the site’s dashboard, along with your credit score.
It doesn’t take long to get a glimpse of your credit score. You will need to provide some basic information about yourself, such as your name, address, and the last four digits of your Social Security number. Credit Sesame will then create an account for you and find your current data.
The Credit Sesame dashboard is effective, attractive and will take you wherever you want 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 chart showing changes in your credit score over the past few months (when I signed up in April, the chart didn’t go back beyond the past month, but it was set for future months). You can scroll through three additional screens here. One (Credit Analysis) assesses you on each of the factors involved in formulating your credit score. These are:
- Payment history. Do you have late payments or other negatives in your credit history?
- credit usage. Lenders want you to use no more than 30 percent of your total available credit.
- Credit Age. How long have your accounts been open?
- Account mix. Do you have a good variety of account types?
- credit questions. Lenders don’t like to see you applying for multiple accounts in a 12-month period.
Depending on how well you do in these areas, Credit Sesame will assign you a letter grade, such as A, B, or C, and explain why you got that grade. For example, click on the Payment History tab and you’ll see a summary of all the late payments, collections, foreclosures, or bankruptcies that appear on your credit report, along with a series of colored horizontal lines showing where you generally fall. Scale. This rating has a 35 percent impact on your credit score.
Credit Sesame analyzes your loans and determines if you can get a better deal.
The next screen (Debt Analysis) shows your total debt, total monthly payments and debt-to-income ratio. The Debt Analysis screen also maps out your monthly debt balances. It divides your debt into five types: home loans, credit cards, car loans, student loans, and other loans, along with their respective dollar totals. Click on any of their tabs to see the details behind the totals.
Links in the Credit Analysis and Debt Analysis boxes take you to internal screens with deeper details.
The final screen, Credit Cards, shows all your credit cards, along with the balance, credit limit, minimum payment, and percentage of the credit limit you use for each credit card. It also suggests that you don’t exceed a certain 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 is also an image 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 is a direct link to a page on TransUnion’s site where you can start an investigation. The Credit Cards page can be especially helpful if you’re trying to improve your score.
Credit Sesame offers informed suggestions about which credit cards might work well for you, but you can do some searching on your own.
Back to the dashboard
All of the above information can be accessed via links in the top half of the Dashboard. That’s good design. You may see additional information depending on what Credit Sesame found in your credit report. For example, the site suggested opening another long-term account and presented me with a list of possible credit cards and loans. It also told me what my chances of getting approved for each were. Recommendations for financial products that may serve you better than what you have are scattered around the site, as with the competitions.
In addition to the links already on the Dashboard, Credit Sesame displays an additional navigation toolbar at the top of the screen. For example, the My Finances menu item contains links to related sections, including the credit and debt analysis screens I’ve already discussed. The Credit Cards link opens a search tool that allows you to search for the best cards for your situation by applying one of several filters, including Approval Opportunities, Features, and Reward Type.
Any warnings from the site’s credit monitoring tools will also appear here. In addition, most of the links in this main menu will take you to screens that ultimately suggest that you are applying for a credit card or loan. They also provide access to tools only available in the paid versions, as well as related editorial content.
You will understand why you have a certain credit score by viewing Credit Sesame’s explanation.
A proactive approach
Any personal finance site that focuses on credit scores will explain why your score is what it is and suggest ways you can improve it. They also describe the details of your debt in sometimes excruciating detail. And they tell you specifically what actions you could take to increase your score.
Credit Sesame is adept at this. For example, if your credit score is quite 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 to that second number. Credit Sesame can do this because it runs extensive simulations in the background in an attempt to identify the actions that would be realistic given your credit history and help your score tick up.
The site’s Sesame Potential tool runs numerous scenarios in the background and suggests specific actions to improve your credit score
The company has also announced a new bank account in partnership with Community Federal Savings Bank member FDIC. It’s not available at the moment, but you can get on a waiting list. Sesame Cash has no fees and does not require a minimum balance. You can transfer money from an existing bank account. The account comes with a debit Mastercard and supports Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, and ACH transfers.
In addition to basic banking capabilities, Sesame Cash also comes with $1 million in credit and identity theft protection and recovery. You can get your credit score daily and earn up to $100 when your credit score rises (limited time only). These are just the launch features of Sesame Cash – the company plans to add some new capabilities in the future.
I didn’t see much on the Credit Sesame website which was not available in the iOS and Android apps. The credit card search didn’t seem all that robust, but it’s not missing much. The apps look and work great, just like all of Credit Sesame’s competitors. A toolbar at the bottom of the screen provides access to the tools of the apps. The Overview is slightly different from what is displayed on the website. The analysis screen is divided into two sections by tabs; these provide data and tools similar to the My Credit and My Debt pages of the website.
A third icon will take you to the introduction to Sesame Cash, along with a link to join the waiting list. Click the Tips icon and you’ll see personalized suggestions to improve your credit score weaknesses. The fifth icon will take you to credit card, car loan and personal loan offers selected just for you. No complaints here. The apps almost replicate the website and contain the information you probably want when you’re away from your computer.
Missing some features
There’s a lot to like on the Credit Sesame website. The user experience is exceptional – better than the competition. I especially like the debt tracking tools, and Sesame Cash has potential. Still, the free version doesn’t show you a credit report like Credit Karma is doing. It only pulls from one credit bureau instead of two, and it lacks competitor’s simulators, calculators, and other tools. It also lacks some features that: WalletHub offers, such as the debt repayment wizard. Credit Sesame’s paid subscription levels may appeal to power users, but you’ll get more for free from competing sites.
Mint 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 scheduling. That said, there’s no reason you couldn’t use one of them in conjunction with a free site like Credit Sesame. Given today’s economy, the more resources you use to track your personal finances, the better.
Credit Sesame Specifications
|Free credit report/score||Yes|
Best personal financial choices