Intuit, the financial software firm that owns tax filing software TurboTax, budgeting app Mint, and accounting software Quickbooks, has agreed to buy the credit monitoring app Credit Karma for a whopping $7.1 billion in cash and stock.
The merger gives Intuit a chance to inject new life in its consumer business that it lost in the 2009 acquisition of Mint, just as the post-financial crisis fintech industry was coming to life and personal financial management apps began flooding the market.
“By joining forces with Credit Karma, we can create a personalized financial assistant that will help consumers find the right financial products, put more money in their pockets, and provide insights and advice, enabling them to buy the home they’ve always dreamed about, pay for education, and take the vacation they’ve always wanted,” Sasan Goodarzi, CEO of Intuit, said in a statement shared with Cheddar.
Though credit tracking is the main draw for users, in the last three years it has also added free tax prep (a TurboTax competitor), identity monitoring services, and high-interest savings accounts to its suite of services.
Intuit will gain 100 million new customers and a trove of their data – not just the transactional data Intuit already gets from its existing brands and uses to market other services but the behavioral data that shows what consumers are looking for in their next financial product.
Credit Karma is one fintech company that was widely expected by the industry to go public in 2020, but the IPO market isn’t looking very attractive right now, and it’s not clear that the company’s business and cross-selling model, which has so far been a big success, could be as successful in the next decade. Credit card matching, based on their credit profiles and the likelihood they’ll be approved, is Credit Karma’s big revenue generator. The financial partners that appear on the platform pay Credit Karma whenever customers use those products. It does the same for loans, insurance, and other banking products.
The merged companies plan to continue matching users to pre-approved offers on loans and credit cards, according to a press release, which also hinted the platform will launch a pay-advance feature and said it will push more insights and advice to users.
Of course, Intuit now also owns Credit Karma’s competing tax filing software, which, like that of TurboTax, is free for the most basic service and charges different premiums for more complex filing requirements.
Intuit has been in a 20-year war with American taxpayers over free tax filing services, working with the government, an army of lobbyists, and hiring government officials to stifle any government initiatives to make tax filing easier for people, and specifically Free File, their tax returns for free. Free File says 70 percent of Americans are eligible for no-charge filing.
However, a month ago an audit of tax filing software companies by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found 14 million taxpayers who qualified for free tax filing ended up paying companies like Intuit and H&R Block $1 billion for tax prep software.
Credit Karma will operate as a stand-alone and CEO Kenneth Lin will remain in charge.