New Year’s resolutions come in all shapes and sizes. We've all made them, some serious and some silly, some strictly adhered to and some not. Perhaps this year’s list of resolutions should include a commitment toward giving your financial health some consideration. After all, most of us have made resolutions in the past about losing a few pounds or getting back into shape, so maybe it’s time to put your credit through a bit of a workout. With that in mind, we've outlined a short list of New Year’s resolutions that can help you stay on top of your credit profile.
In today’s environment of tight lending standards and ever-increasing occurrences of identity theft, consumers need to understand the importance of protecting their credit reports and scores. Your choice to undertake some or all of these resolutions can help put you on the right path toward a healthier credit life.
7 Important New Year’s Resolutions To Consider For Your Credit:
1. Review your credit report
If you haven’t done so recently, you may want to consider getting copies of your three credit reports and check every section for any errors or suspicious activity. You may want to do this every so often over the course of the year to verify that the information in your credit report is accurate and that it’s free of any unauthorized activity.
2. Clean up your credit report
If you find any errors during a review of your credit report, follow the appropriate procedures to have them fixed or removed as soon as you can. While some errors may seem to be minor (spelling or omission errors with names or addresses are common), in certain circumstances, they could still affect your ability to obtain credit or secure favorable credit terms. Consider contacting both the reporting organization (bank or company that provided information to the credit bureau) and the appropriate credit bureau in order to have any problems corrected in accordance with their policies.
3. Check out your credit score
Your credit score is a very important element in the credit reviewing process. You may want to start keeping a closer eye on your score and gain a better understanding of what information is used to calculate your credit score. Once you have a baseline level of your credit score, you’ll be more aware of how it can be affected by your financial and credit management activities.
4. Monitor your credit report and score
Monitoring your credit report and score can help warn you of changes or unauthorized activity that may take place within your credit profile. A triple bureau credit monitoring service can save you some time by scanning your credit files for you and alerting you of any monitored changes that may occur in any of your three credit reports (Experian, Equifax, Transunion). If any unauthorized activity has occurred, you may find out quickly enough to stop it from becoming a major problem down the road.
5. Safeguard your personal information
Make an effort to be careful with any documents (statements, pay stubs, bills) or electronic devices (laptop, smart-phone) that may contain personal information like account numbers, social security numbers or passwords for financial accounts. If this type of information ends up in the wrong hands, it can be used to wreak havoc with your credit.
6. Start reconciling your credit card statements
This should go without saying, but many people don’t even bother to check the transactions that show up on their credit card statements every month. Some simply open up the bill, check the amount (or minimum amount) due and start writing a check. This can be a big mistake, as any simple errors or even serious attempts at outright theft can go undetected while you pay for them out of your own pocket. It doesn't take long to reconcile your credit card statements and at worst, you’re simply confirming the activity that is being reported to you as correct. If you do find an error, you may just save yourself a few bucks. If you find unauthorized charges, you may save yourself a great deal more.
7. Make an effort to learn a bit more about your credit report and score
Information is key, so the more you know about your credit report and score, the better prepared you may be when it comes time to apply for a mortgage, loan or other line of credit.
Even if you vowed to make all of these resolutions and fell a bit short on one or two by the end of the year, you would probably still have learned a great deal about your credit life. Equally as important, you may have found a new process that can add a layer of knowledge and protection to your credit report and score.