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I use Credit Karma to check my credit score and report. I'm also aware that I can consent for businesses or persons to request a credit report on me from a credit reporting agency (equifax, transunion, etc)

Question:

Is there a material difference between *the credit report I see on credit karma for myself and the credit report produced by a business or person that runs a credit report on myself?

Example:

I consent to Business/Person A to run a credit report on me.

Person A runs a credit report on me. They get Credit Report A.

I go to credit karma to get my credit report, we'll call this Credit Report B.

Is there a material difference between Credit Report A and Credit Report B?

Errata:

I'm aware that credit karma also provides recommendations. I'm not interested in that. I'm interested in the content of the credit report about my credit worthiness, like if there's different personal information or credit history information between the reports or if they are identical.

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To provide a full understanding of your question, it may be helpful to get some context on the different parties involved.

Consumers like you and me utilize credit accounts and take other actions that create a credit history. The credit accounts may be at banks, credit unions, or other lenders. These lenders have contract arrangements with credit bureaus wherein they report the status of their customer's accounts regularly.

The credit bureaus collect information from each lender and tie it to consumers to create a credit report for each consumer. The report is essentially the detailed contents of your history - it shows accounts, balances, and so on.

Lenders, consumers, and other parties can request this credit report data from a credit bureau for different purposes - for informational purposes (a soft pull) or to establish credit-worthiness (a hard pull) in order to open a new account or perform some other financial activity. The information included in the report is the same regardless of why it's pulled, in other words the information Credit Karma pulls on your behalf is the same information as is pulled by your bank when you apply for a new mortgage.

Banks or other institutions typically have their own underwriting criteria to help them approve or deny applications. This criteria typically makes use of many factors included in a credit report - for instance, the debt half of a consumer's debt to income ratio is typically calculated by adding up all the monthly payments for open accounts listed on the consumer's credit report. (Notably, credit reports don't include income information, so the income half of the equation is obtained via other means).

There are three major credit bureaus, and typically lenders will report data to all three - although there are cases where some data only makes it to some bureaus, so it's often the case that if you request reports from each bureau and comb through the details, there will be differences. For instance, last year, I had my credit pulled as part of establishing a new contract with a propane vendor. It shows on my Experian report but not on my Equifax or Transunion reports.

Perhaps the most famous element of a credit report is the credit score. Credit scores were essentially invented to provide an arbitrary scale to measure risk. The intention of a credit score is to indicate the likelihood that a consumer may default on a loan in the near future.

Of course, that's a hard thing to predict, and different analyses result in different answers to that question. This has lead to the (often confusing) situation where credit scores may differ wildly, even when requested from the same bureau on the same day. Essentially, there are two major providers of scoring models - FICO and VantageScore Solutions (which is really just a conglomerate formed by the three major bureaus). Each of these scoring models is available in different versions, and new versions are released regularly. For the most part, the most current models from these two providers consider the same types of factors, but they weigh them differently.

To bring this back to your questions, you painted a scenario:

I consent to Business/Person A to run a credit report on me.

Person A runs a credit report on me. They get Credit Report A.

I go to credit karma to get my credit report, we'll call this Credit Report B.

Is there a material difference between Credit Report A and Credit Report B?

Further, you clarified,

I'm interested in the content of the credit report about my credit worthiness, like if there's different personal information or credit history information between the reports or if they are identical.

There may be many material differences between the reports in terms of both the contents and how they are used to determine credit-worthiness. Firstly, a report is pulled by request from a specific bureau (although some services like CreditKarma pull from multiple bureaus by default). If Report A and Report B were pulled from differnt bureaus, there may be material differences between the two in terms of one containing things the other doesn't contain (my propane example above).

The second typical difference is the credit score. Besides pulling a report from a specific bureau, entities requesting credit reports can specify a specific scoring model.

This is important when services like CreditKarma are mentioned because they typically pull VantageScore-based scores, while many (most?) lenders use FICO to make actual lending decisions. This often leads to the case where a consumer is sitting in front of a loan officer showing them their phone, where the CreditKarma app says their credit score is X, while the loan officer looking at the bank's lending system is seeing a credit score of Y.

But even within the same brand of scoring model, there can be differences from version to version. For instance, if Report A was pulled with FICO 8 and Report B was pulled with FICO 9, and there were medical collections accounts reported for that consumer, the score pulled on FICO 9 will be slightly higher.

  • @jww sorry, not sure exactly what you're asking. There is no correlation defined between a particular score and a particular percent chance of default, if that's what you wanted to know. The scores are just meant to be relative (someone with a FICO of 600 is more likely to default than someone at 800) If you're trying to figure out how the score is calculated, you can find that by googling, although the publicly-available information speaks in generic terms about what factors are considered and what relative weights they have, the literal formulas for a given model aren't typically public. – dwizum Aug 21 at 17:42
  • Thanks. I must have misunderstood your statement. – jww Aug 22 at 13:03
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Credit Karma shows information reported by both Equifax and TransUnion, and shows Vantage 3.0 credit score. Some free credit reports do not show a score. Similarly some services for landlords don't show a score but instead give a rent/don't rent recommendation. If the credit report is being run by a business that you have given your SSN to and consented to a credit check, they'll already have your SSN and depending on the service may also see address history and employment information. Any service might pull from a subset of the 3 credit bureaus, which could create disparities between reports.

Beyond those differences, all credit reports I've seen show all the relevant detail for each account.

One thing the services I've used do is obfuscate SSN and just let me know that it was verified, if you are furnishing copies of this report and it shows excessive personal information, you may want to obfuscate those items.

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There are quite a number of differences, both in level of detail and in type of information.

Rather than comparing these two directly, I will compare each one to your legal credit file (what the reporting agency is required to show you when you request your report, either your free annual report, a free report after an adverse action, or a paid report).

There is a LOT of information in the credit file that you cannot see through Credit Karma. For example, your high balance, statement balance, and payment each month on a credit card account. Dates your credit lines changed.

An important difference is that your credit file contains a list of everyone that personally identifiable information from that file was provided to, including when services like Credit Karma access your report to calculate a score for you and build the summary that they actually show you.

That complete list of accesses, both hard and soft pulls, is not included in reports that the CRA provides to anyone but you.

Credit Karma's summary also doesn't show explanatory consumer statements that you may have attached to various bits of information. Those will be shown to companies requesting your file.

I really would advise you to obtain the free (once per year) credit report that US persons are entitled to by law and see for yourself the level of detail contained therein. Those pieces which are not shared with third parties should be marked; everything else can be shared (plus bits of information which are not "credit reporting" according to law, which the big CRAs have started collecting from a variety of sources and reselling -- unfortunately there's no US law allowing you to dispute or even see this information, although in Europe the GDPR would apply quite broadly).

  • +1 for raising awareness of the different types of reports. Most people don't know about them. – jww Aug 21 at 17:11
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Is there a material difference between *the credit report I see on credit karma for myself and the credit report produced by a business or person that runs a credit report on myself?

I can't speak for Credit Karma in particular, but in general, YES.

Agencies and services often provide at least two types of reports. One is a Summary Report and it is given to consumers. The other is a detailed report and it is available to employers, lenders, law enforcement, etc. When you request a report the service will send you a Summary Report if you don't ask for a Detailed Report.

Sometimes the agency or one of its trade groups will setup a front company that only provides summary reports, and they herd consumers to it. I believe that is what Credit Karma does. You can't get the detailed report from Credit Karma because they don't offer it. Meanwhile, Credit Karma will collect your private information like email, phone number and current address, and pump it back into the system. It is a honey pot of sorts.

One service I know that provides Summary and Detailed Reports is Early Warning. Early Warning is a fintech company owned by seven of the country's largest banks. The company can assess risk and authorize transactions in real time from their customer databases. They also supply traditional consumer reports.

(If you are in a data breach and given the choice of Equifax, TransUnion or Experian, then choose Early Warning. It is expensive but it is just about the best service. Be sure to request the Detailed Report).

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