What is WalletHub? A Look at the Free Credit Monitoring Service
Did you know that the average credit score in the U.S. has been continually rising over the last decade? Surely not by coincidence, the number of free credit monitoring sites has been increasing as well. One of those sites is WalletHub.
What Is WalletHub?
WalletHub is a credit monitoring service, which not only gives users insight into their credit scores but also provides many other educational resources for bettering your finances.
Having used WalletHub in conjunction with competitors Credit Sesame and Credit Karma for some time now, I figured it was time to take a look at how WalletHub measures up and how it can educate you about personal finance.
What WalletHub Offers
Similar to the other two sites I just mentioned, WalletHub’s sign-up process is pretty straightforward. First the site will prompt you to enter your name, followed by an e-mail address, and then more personal details such as your address and the last four digits of your social security number. Additionally the site may request more information like your annual salary and your credit card payment habits, which they’ll use to customize parts of the site for you.
One thing they don’t ask for: a credit card number. Yes, WalletHub is another credit monitoring site that keeps its word and is completely free to use. It should also be noted that, like similar sites, signing up for and using WalletHub will not affect your score. That said, if your credit is frozen, the site will not be able to retrieve the necessary information to set-up your account. Luckily, once you’re past the sign-up process, it seems that freezing your credit shouldn’t present an issue when using the site.
WalletHub Credit Score
Once you’re signed up you’ll be presented with a credit score number as well as a visual of a meter ranging from 300 to 850. This score is provided by TransUnion — one of the three major credit bureaus — but is calculated using a VantageScore model as opposed to one of the FICO models that most creditors rely on. Still this score should give you an overall idea of where you stand (unless, of course, you have major issues with another bureau that isn’t reported to TransUnion).
On your dashboard you’ll find a list of credit accounts you currently have. Clicking on each will give you a look at your payment history, balance, and credit limit. It even includes more detailed information such as the highest balance ever carried on the card. But it’s not just data that they’re supplying you — these card profiles can also be edited with your spending habits so that WalletHub can make suggestions about new credit cards that could save you money with their rewards. This page also offers easy access to WalletHub’s credit simulation tools as you can see what would likely happen to your score if you miss your next payment or elect to close that particular account.
Something else you’ll find on your WalletHub dashboard is what the site calls WalletFitness Tasks. The contents of these alerts can vary, with some informing you of higher or lower than average account balances, balance payoffs, fluctuations in your score, credit report freezes/thaws, and more. These are often pretty helpful, although some minor ads for things like debt consolidation loans might also make their way into this section from time to time. Still, on the whole, I give it a thumbs up.
Another item you might find on your Dashboard is a so-called “Trophy Case.” Here you’ll find awards/badges presented to you for reaching various achievements. For example, some of the trophies in my collection include “Record Credit Score,” “Completed 50 WalletFitness Tasks” “7 Years Straight-A Streak,” and more. To me, this bit of gamification is a fun addition to the platform and I personally enjoy the style of these awards. So while this is far from the biggest feature on WalletHub, I figured it was worth mentioning.
Along the navigation bar at the top you’ll find “Credit Analysis,” which takes a closer look at the factors that make up your credit scores. Like with Credit Sesame, you’re provided with a grade for each category, including Payment History (along with a Collections Accounts grade carved out), Credit Utilization, Account Age, Account Diversity, and Hard Credit Inquiries. While my grades were about where I’d expect, one in particular stood out to me. For “Account Age” WalletHub graded my 6 years, 1 month average as a ‘C’ while Credit Sesame had the same data but gave it an ‘A.’ While I’m not saying that WalletHub is definitely wrong on this one, I respectfully disagree with their assessment.
Also in “Credit Analysis” is a helpful tool that will help you estimate how your credit score would be affected by various activities. Akin to the Credit Karma’s Credit Score Simulator, you can see what would happen were you to open a new credit card, take out a loan, decrease your balances, and much more. All in all, this is a good place to start if you’re curious about how opening or closing a credit account will impact you.
To the right of “Credit Analysis” is “Debt Payoff.” Here you can not only view your current debt but also see how differently sized monthly payments would affect your payoff time and the amount of money you’ll save on interest compared to if you were only making minimum payments. Then, you can track your progress in your Payoff Plan.
For those that carry any credit card debt, this could be an extremely helpful and motivating tool that I recommend checking out. For those who pay off their credit card bills monthly, you can still visit this tab for a celebratory banner acknowledging your debt freedom. And for those in the middle, you can choose which cards you wish to exclude from your Payoff Plan.
Last but not least on the main navigation bar is “Credit Report.” In this section you’ll find past addresses and employers that show on your report, as well as open credit accounts. It also features Collections, Public Records, and Credit Inquiries that could be affecting your scores and/or report in general. Clicking on your current accounts will give the same information as accessed via the main dashboard, although you can also get similar data on closed accounts in this area.
Meanwhile you can also toggle from “Full Report” to “Credit Timeline” to see a list of relevant alerts and updates to your report. Among the notes in my Timeline are a notification that one of my old credit card accounts has now fallen off of my report and an alert that one of my card balances was higher than normal. For notes such as the latter, you can confirm the information presented or hit “Not Accurate” to receive more information on what steps you should take to correct any errors.
Tools and more
While Credit Karma and Credit Sesames offer a number of articles on personal finance, WalletHub seems to offer a greater breadth of content. For example, the site also looks at topics like life insurance and financial advising that the others don’t really touch on.
Another interesting aspect of the site is their Answers section where you can ask various finance related questions. Like Reddit these questions show up as threads and can be upvoted or downvoted by users, as can answers presented by others. In my brief search through some of these threads, many were getting responses from financial professionals offering their best advice. Although Credit Karma’s “Community” section offers a similar idea, I have to say that WalletHub’s execution wins out.
As mentioned WalletHub also offers a number of finance articles that users may find helpful. These can be found by clicking the “Tools” pulldown and going to “Article & Studies” (you may even see some of these studies cited in various Dyer News articles). Also helpful is the “Calculators” section under “Tools” that can come in handy when thinking about debt repayment, mortgages, or other large purchases. Perhaps one of the most useful calculators I’ve found on the site is their True-Cost of Homeownership calculator that enhances a traditional mortgage calculator by adding in things like maintenance costs and HOA fees to arrive at how much your actual monthly cost would be.
Finally there’s WalletHub’s WalletLiteracy quiz. Like the site itself, this test asks you questions on a variety of subjects that relate to personal finance. I ended up with an A- (I’m kicking myself over a couple of missed answers), which is apparently better than 96% of respondents. This just goes to show you that, even if you do know a lot about finance, you might still have something to learn.
As I end up mentioning with each of my free credit score site reviews, one of the ways these companies can afford to provide their services gratis is to monetize via credit card, loan, and banking service offers. While WalletHub is no different in this regard, I do feel like their product tabs are more helpful and less in-your-face overall. For example the “CardAdvisor” tool found under the “Credit Cards” tab will ask you a series of questions to help lead you toward the cards best suited for you. Elsewhere the “Compare Credit Cards” section also makes it easy to customize recommendations and get a good overview of each card.
Under the “Loans” tab, a round-up of car loans is presented in a similar fashion to “Compare Credit Cards.” However other tabs for home equity loans and mortgages are laid out a tad differently and aren’t quite as slick. That said both seem to still have several helpful features. On that note, the “Banking” tab also takes on the latter style to give you a list of CDs, Savings, Checking, and Prepaid Card options.
Lastly, additional sets of comparison tools are found under “Companies.” Here you’ll find everything from banks and credit unions to attorneys and real estate agents. You can even find financial advisors in your area if you’re looking for more help managing your money. Like I said earlier, these are areas that other credit sites touch on only a little if at all, making WalletHub stand out as a more comprehensive financial site.
Alerts and Advisories
Having used WalletHub for several years now, one area where I feel the site stands above the competitors is with its various alerts, including their aforementioned WalletFitness Tasks. In addition to messages of congratulations that might show in your dashboard when your score rises, the WalletFitness Tasks section also draws your attention to important matters. For example, I recently got an advisory that my credit card balance was significantly higher than it had been for the past six months, which would be a sign that something was wrong. In reality, I had just booked a lot of travel and put it all on one card, but it was nice to know that WalletHub was paying attention.
I should also note that, when I froze my credit reports after the Equifax hack, WalletHub was the only one of the three sites I use that sent me an alert saying the freeze had taken effect. While I do wish they offered more customizable alert options, a la Credit Sesame, I have to say that I’ve been impressed with how helpful WalletHub’s notifications have been.
Final Thoughts on WalletHub
Overall, I have to say that I’m really a big fan of WalletHub. For one I found the look of the site and its navigation to be slicker than Credit Sesame, putting it closer to Credit Karma — if not even higher. Adding to that user experience is the fact that I don’t feel like I’m being bombarded with credit card ads when navigating the site. Instead they’re mostly contained to the “Credit Cards” tab aside from the occasional gallery of offers that appear in a few other places.
In terms of how WalletHub compares to the leader in the clubhouse Credit Karma, the latter does still offer more scores (two compared to one from WalletHub), which is certainly an advantage. However, with WalletHub having integrated a credit score simulator since I first reviewed them, the gap between the two is closing fast. Despite the absence of the extra score and a few other features that Credit Karma offers, I do find myself gravitating toward WalletHub for certain tasks and inquiries.
Another area where WalletHub excels is in the amount of helpful info and content it provides. With articles, studies, calculators, quizzes and more, there’s a lot to be learned from the site. Because of this, WalletHub has been my go-to credit monitoring site and is a great additional resource for Credit Karma users.