At Over Grow the System, we’re all about prioritizing environmental sustainability. One of the most common ways individuals can help is by donating to companies that work on sustaining the environment (like the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Environmental Working Group). A common complaint (read: excuse) we get is that people want to help, but they don’t have the money to. We recommend cutting out expenses that are unnecessary and donating those funds to charities, like the above mentioned ones. We’ll be exploring one of the easiest ways to find a few extra dollars a month to donate: by using a service like Credit Karma to check your credit score for free and not paying the big players tens per month just to see your credit score.
Credit Karma. It’s a service tens of millions of Americans love (don’t believe us? Check the last link for their stellar reviews).
A few years ago, nobody knew it existed. Today, it is one of the largest credit score checking services, and the main selling point is that it’s free. Yes, free, not free*, or free trial. Free.
In this post, we’ll be exploring how Credit Karma rose to the top of the ranks of companies providing free credit scores (because let’s be real here: who hasn’t see hundreds of ads for free credit score services like FreeCreditReport(.)com and the like?) and differentiated itself from its competition while being profitable at the same time.
First, some background: Credit Karma is a personal finance company that is newer than most of its competitors. It was founded by its current CEO Kenenth Lin in 2007 and has since grown to a company providing its free credit score checking service to more than 60 million Americans while generating hundreds of millions in revenue and being profitable, despite its aggressive marketing campaigns to scale user acquisition.
So, the elephant in the room and the main focus of this article is how Credit Karma manages to provide a free service (that they advertise as 100% free forever) and generate hundreds of millions in revenue every year. No, they don’t provide a free trial, and there are no hidden charges (as their commercials love to point out). Instead, they use your credit score and information about you to help you, while helping themselves. They refer users to things such as the best credit cards that fit their lifestyle and credit score, and since most credit card companies keep users for a long time (see that “Member Since” phrase embossed on your card?), they are able to pay a high cost to acquire a new user. Credit card companies pay Credit Karma to refer new customers to them.