As a U.S. consumer, protecting your credit is of utmost importance. One of the best ways to do that is to sign up for Credit Karma, a free online credit monitoring service.
Not only can the site safeguard you against identity theft, but it shows you your credit report and factors that affect it. As a longtime user of Credit Karma, I can attest to the site’s usefulness.
How to Sign Up for Credit Karma: A Step-by-Step Guide
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 you can take advantage of on the site.
Clark advises that you sign up for Credit Karma’s free credit monitoring BEFORE freezing your credit to make sure you’re alerted if anyone tries to fraudulently open an account in your name.
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 on the site, go to CreditKarma.com and put in your email address and choose a password (at least eight characters) you can remember.
You’ll then arrive at the page where you enter your personal information. The things it will ask for include:
- Full name and address
- Date of birth
- Last four digits of your Social Security number
Don’t worry: Credit Karma uses 128-bit encryption. The reason why it asks for so much information is so that it can receive your credit scores as a third party, in accordance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
If you want to know more about Credit Karma’s security, we did a deep dive here.
Confirm Your Identity
Once you’ve put in your personal information, you’ll click “Next” and go on to the registration page. Here it will ask you a series of questions to 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.” Here comes the fun part…
2. See Your Credit Scores
In a matter of seconds, it takes you to the 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 is an alternative to FICO, they have slightly different formulas.
You’ll also notice that there’s no Experian numbers. That’s because Experian doesn’t make free credit reports available to Credit Karma.
That being said, you can click on either credit score number to dig deeper into the reports from each agency.
If you see that your credit score has tanked, 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, this will show you why your credit has dropped or increased lately. You can scroll through your list of accounts to see the details.
Credit Coaching suggests tips and actions that you can take to boost your credit (From the screenshot below, it recommends that I can up my credit score by making an extra credit card payment today).
By looking at the Credit Factors, you can see all the things that have affected your credit score, from hard inquiries, derogatory marks to payment history and more.
Here’s a screenshot of what that looks like:
3. Confirm Any Hard Inquiries
On 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,” or check your credit worthiness before giving you a loan.
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 initially, but typically rebound after a few months.
4. Look for Errors
The next thing you need to do after you sign up is look for errors. As exacting as they look, 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 loan and pay special attention to the balances
- If you see a mistake, you can scroll to the bottom of the page to dispute it. Here’s what that looks like:
If everything looks OK, you may discover other things that could be amiss. Let’s talk about two major ones:
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
Also, you can look for suspicious activity, but know that some information you expect to see may not have been updated on your TransUnion or Equifax reports yet.
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
If you have missed a payment, Credit Karma also lets you reach out to the creditor directly. Here’s how that screen looks:
As you can see, Credit Karma offers a pretty robust monitoring service. After you register for free and take those initial steps mentioned above, really 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) but also notifications with a subject line similar to this:
If you ever get an alert about suspicious activity on your credit reports, just follow the steps above so you’ll know what to look for.
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.