Credit Sesame knows the answers to these personal finance questions and many others. At least, it will after you take two minutes to create your free account.
Credit Sesame is a feature-rich consumer finance tool that delivers frequent credit scores and reports — as often as daily for members willing to pay for the service.
It also provides a user-friendly cash management account with a Mastercard debit card, attractive cash-back offers on everyday purchases, mobile device protection up to $500 per year, and price protection up to $250 per purchase four times per year — an increasingly rare benefit in the debit and credit card world. All members also get up to $1 million in complimentary identity theft protection coverage, mitigating the financial fallout of data breaches.
Credit Sesame reserves its best features for members who opt in to one of its two premium plans, Advanced ($9.95 per month) and Platinum ($19.95 per month). These premium features include access to your credit report from all three major credit reporting bureaus, a higher dollar limit for identity theft protection, more sophisticated identity monitoring tools, and access to live experts around the clock.
Getting started with Credit Sesame couldn’t be easier. To create your account, you’ll need to enter some basic information about yourself: name, home address, previous address if you moved recently, the last four digits of your Social Security number, and your phone number.
Once you’re in the door, you’ll have access to a wealth of personal financial information: your credit score, credit monitoring alerts, a summary of your debts and assets, and more.
You’ll also have the option — but aren’t required — to open a free Sesame Cash account, a checking account with a free debit card, generous cash-back opportunities, and some fantastic value-added benefits.
Free Credit Score
One of the first things you’ll see when you visit your account dashboard for the first time is a FICO score — the most common type of credit score — generated from your TransUnion credit report.
As a free user, you’re entitled to one score every month, so the score you see in your account will remain constant even if new credit report information changes it in the meantime.
Credit Analysis (Credit Report Card)
Free users have access to a five-point credit analysis called the “Credit Report Card” that shows how you’re doing on each of the five key factors that affect your FICO score: payment history, credit age, credit usage, credit mix, and credit inquiries.
You’ll get a letter grade — A to F — and general guidance on how to improve or keep up your performance on each point.
Free Credit Monitoring and Alerts
When you sign up for Credit Sesame, you’re automatically enrolled in its credit monitoring notifications, which include in-account and email alerts about changes to your credit scores and reports.
You’ll also receive emails from time to time about changes in your credit scoring factors, such as a new credit inquiry or reported delinquency. If you don’t want to receive these notifications by email, you can turn them off in your account settings and view them from your dashboard.
Bear in mind that as a free Credit Sesame member, you don’t have access to your full credit report through Credit Sesame. You can and should take advantage of your legal right to get one free credit report each year from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian.
Your debt analysis appears as a distinct line in your account overview, but it’s basically the detailed view of the credit mix factor on your Credit Report Card. Still, it contains a wealth of useful information from your credit report, including the lender name and most recent balance on all your open or recently closed credit card accounts, auto loans, home loans, and other credit accounts.
It also includes your cumulative monthly payment on all lender and credit accounts and your debt-to-income ratio. If needed, you can manually adjust your income in your account profile.
Sesame Cash is a free checking account with some attractive features:
- The opportunity to get paid up to two days early if your payer — typically an employer or government benefits provider — pays by direct deposit and meets other qualification criteria
- Earn instant cash back on everyday purchases at about 5,000 participating shops and restaurants in the U.S. — cash-back percentages vary but can range up to 15%, better than what most credit card companies offer
- No minimum balance requirements or hidden fees, including free withdrawals at more than 55,000 fee-free ATMs
Plus, for a limited time, Sesame Cash account holders can earn cash rewards for credit score improvements. An eligible account holder who deposits at least $25 into their Sesame Cash account and sees their credit score increase by at least 10 points during any 30-day rewards cycle earns a $10 bonus for that cycle.
An eligible account holder who makes the same qualifying deposit and sees their score increase by 100 points in any 30-day rewards cycle earns a $100 bonus for that cycle.
Sesame Cash Mobile Device Protection
Sesame Cash comes with a mobile device protection plan that provides coverage up to $500 per year for damage or loss incurred due to theft or certain types of covered damage.
Sesame Cash Price Protection
When you find a lower price on an identical item within 90 days of buying it with your Sesame Cash debit card, Sesame Cash’s price protection plan reimburses you for the difference — up to $250 per approved claim and four claims per year.
Advanced Premium Features
For $9.95 per month, Credit Sesame’s Advanced Premium plan comes with two additional features worth noting:
- Daily updates to your TransUnion credit score
- Monthly updates to your credit scores from the other two major credit bureaus (Experian and Equifax) plus monthly credit reports from all three bureaus
Platinum Premium Features
For $19.95 per month, the Platinum Premium plan comes with even more value-added features, plus the Advanced plan’s TransUnion daily credit score and monthly three-bureau credit score and reports:
- Advanced identity monitoring that includes periodic scans of known black-market websites on the dark web, public records websites, and instances where your Social Security number may have been used without your consent
- Live experts standing by 24/7 to assist with disputed debit card and credit card transactions, issues related to the loss or theft of your wallet or its contents, and flagging or disputing inaccuracies in your credit report
- Higher limits on identity theft protection coverage
Credit Sesame has clear advantages that might convince you to sign up. Top benefits include the fact that its core features are totally free, its attractive cash account, its cash-back offers and cash protection perks, and sophisticated identity theft protection services for Platinum Premium members.
- Credit Sesame’s Core Features Are Totally Free. Credit Sesame’s core features, such as monthly credit scores from TransUnion, debt analysis, and $1 million in identity theft protection, are totally free. So is Sesame Cash, its in-house bank account.
- Sesame Cash Compares Favorably to Competitors. Sesame Cash is unusually potent for a bank account with no annual fee. Its signature benefits include early payday (up to two days with qualifying payers), fee-free access to more than 50,000 ATMs in the U.S., debit card price protection up to $250 per claim, and mobile device protection up to $500 per year.
- Cash-Back Offers Deliver Up to 15% Back. Sesame Cash also has an attractive cash-back program that delivers up to 15% back on transactions with select merchants — although most cash-back opportunities are more modest. About 5,000 U.S. shops and restaurants participate in the program.
- Sophisticated Identity Theft Protection With Platinum Premium. Paid Credit Sesame plans come with sophisticated identity theft protection that includes scans of black-market websites, public records websites, and instances where your Social Security number may have been used without permission. Credit Sesame makes experts available around the clock to assist with urgent credit-related issues as well.
Credit Sesame’s downsides include the fact that it’s not a full-service banking or money management solution and its lack of comprehensive budgeting help as compared to top budgeting apps.
- Credit Sesame Isn’t a Full-Service Financial Institution. Sesame Cash is an excellent checking account and debit card package, but it’s not a full-service online bank. It doesn’t have a high-yield savings account or an in-house credit card, for example.
- Credit Sesame Doesn’t Offer Comprehensive Budgeting Support. Despite its utility for people monitoring their credit card debt, Credit Sesame doesn’t have much in the way of budgeting support. For that, you’ll want to try Mint or one of its alternatives.
- Some Features Require a Paid Subscription. Some of Credit Sesame’s most interesting and potentially useful features require a paid subscription. At $19.95 per month, Platinum Premium is not cheap, but users seeking comprehensive identity theft monitoring and higher limits on identity theft protection coverage may feel they have no choice but to pay for it.
Credit scores are always in flux. Believe it or not, so are the credit scoring models used by the big three credit reporting bureaus. While the factors that affect your credit score don’t vary much from year to year, how they’re weighted and interpreted is certainly subject to change. The FICO model is on its 10th iteration and counting.
That’s fine by Credit Sesame. In fact, that’s why Credit Sesame and similar credit analysis tools exist in the first place: to help consumers understand how changes both within and outside their control affect their financial lives.