Whether you already have excellent credit or are trying to build it, protecting your credit is important. Money expert Clark Howard says one of the best ways to do that is to sign up for Credit Karma, a free online credit monitoring service.
As a longtime user of Credit Karma, I can attest to the site’s usefulness. The site safeguards you against identity theft, and it also gives you access to your credit score — and the factors that affect it.
In this article, I’m going to show you how to sign up for Credit Karma in four easy steps. You’ll also learn about other features the site offers.
How to Sign Up for Credit Karma: A Step-by-Step Guide
Ready to set up free credit monitoring with Credit Karma? Let’s take a few minutes to walk through the steps.
Table of Contents:
1. Create an Account
To sign up, go to CreditKarma.com, type in your email address and choose a password you can remember.
You’ll then arrive at the page where you enter your personal information. You will need to type in:
- Full name and address
- Date of birth
- Last four digits of your Social Security number
In some cases, Credit Karma may ask for your full Social Security number to confirm your identity.
You may wonder is Credit Karma safe enough for you to enter sensitive information. You shouldn’t worry: The site uses 128-bit encryption. See more of Credit Karma’s security features here.
Confirm Your Identity
Once you’ve entered your personal information, you’ll click “Next” which will lead you to the registration page. Here it will ask you a series of questions to help confirm your identity.
When I signed up, a couple of the questions I got were:
- “Your credit file indicates you may have a mortgage loan…?”
- “Who is the credit provider for this account?”
Once I filled that out, I pressed the green button that says “Get my score.”
2. Check Your Credit Scores
In a matter of seconds, the site takes you to a dashboard that shows your credit scores as reported by TransUnion and Equifax.
You may see different numbers because while both agencies use VantageScore 3.0, a leading scoring model that’s an alternative to FICO, they have slightly different formulas.
You’ll also notice that there are no Experian numbers. That’s because Experian doesn’t make free credit scores available to Credit Karma. Here’s how to access your credit scores from all three agencies.
That being said, Credit Karma allows you to dig deeper into your TransUnion or Equifax credit scores by clicking the credit scores on the screen.
If you see that your credit score has gone down, on the same page Credit Karma walks you through what to do next with the following features:
‘See What’s Changed’ Button
If you click the “See what’s changed” button, the site will tell you why your credit has dropped or increased lately. You can scroll through your list of accounts to see the details.
Credit Coaching suggests things you can do that to boost your credit. (From the screenshot below, it recommends that I make an extra credit card payment today to increase my score.)
You can also toggle to the Credit Report section to see a list of accounts and more.
By looking at the Credit Factors section, you can see all the things that have affected your credit score, from hard inquiries and derogatory marks to payment history and more.
Here’s a screenshot of what that looks like:
3. Confirm Any Hard Inquiries
In that same section, one thing you’ll want to pay special attention to are any new hard inquiries. These happen when lenders “pull your credit” to check your creditworthiness.
If you click the “Hard Inquiries” box and scroll down, it will show the lender and more information.
Here’s what that screen looks like:
And don’t worry: Hard inquiries or “hard pulls” hurt your credit in the short term but typically rebound after a few months.
4. Look for Errors
The next thing you need to do after you sign up is to look for errors, signs of ID theft or anything that looks fraudulent or suspicious.
Keep in mind that credit reports aren’t perfect. Plenty of consumers have contested errors they’ve found on their credit reports and won.
Take some time to look for mistakes because they can really hurt your credit score. Here’s what to do:
Go to Accounts in the top menu:
- Scroll through your credit cards, auto and home loans — pay special attention to the balances.
- If you see a mistake, make a note of it immediately.
Next, you’ll want to contact TransUnion or Equifax directly so they can address your concerns.
Signs of Identity Theft
By listing your accounts activity, Credit Karma’s monitoring service can help you spot identity theft.
Some signs you’ll want to look for include:
- Unauthorized or unfamiliar purchases
- High credit card usage
- Utilities you don’t recognize
- Bills and services you can’t vouch for
You can also look for suspicious activity:
Some signs you’ll want to look for include:
- Whether a credit card account has been closed or opened
- Whether it shows you’ve missed a payment
Keep in mind that these reports don’t get updated in real-time, so some information you might expect to see may not appear on your reports yet.
If you have missed a payment, but it was more than seven years ago, you can get it removed from your file, Credit Karma says in a blog post.
As you can see, Credit Karma offers a pretty robust credit report and monitoring service. After you register for free and take the initial steps detailed above, all you have to do is watch your email.
That’s where you’ll get credit card offers (that’s how Credit Karma supports itself) as well as other notifications with a subject line similar to this:
Clark always recommends Credit Karma when he talks about freezing your credit. And he says you should sign up for the service before you freeze your credit because the service will alert you if anyone tries to open an account in your name.
Want to learn more about issues you see on your credit report? Here’s how to dispute an error on your credit report and win.