The Christmas and New Year period can be a hectic time where you have a lot of expenses and a long list of things to do. You might even be travelling and this all adds up to being a danger period with your finances. It is important to move in to 2014 in good financial shape and there are some things that you need to do to make sure this time of celebration does not leave you with a financial headache. Read through our 2013 credit checklist and take a few minutes to act on them and you will have a happy and successful New Year.
Pay Down Your Credits Cards
Credit cards are great tools that are convenient and allow us all to manage our finances without having to worry about cash or checks. Of course this does come at a price and one area that people frequently fail in, is to take advantage of the interest free period or pay down the balance as much as possible before interest is charged. This busy time of the year can make it difficult and your bill may be delayed as the mail system slows down, so go online and pay down that balance instead of waiting.
The reason that this is on our 2013 credit checklist is because you can end up giving your hard earned money to your financial institution and your credits score can be significantly affected. While different companies use slightly different formulas about one third of your credit score comes from a combination of factors. These include:
- Outstanding credit card debt
- Credit card usage
- Available credit
- Late or overdue payments
It is always a good idea to keep your credit score as high as possible so that if you need to finance or re-finance something you will get approval with the best terms possible. Even if you are not able to completely pay out your credit card debt any reduction will reflect well in your credit score and by having a history of minimal credit card balances your financial position will be much more secure.
Check Your Credit Report
You should be checking your credit report now so that you can make sure that everything on it is correct. This is definitely high on our 2013 credit checklist because of huge number of transaction that takes place during the holiday period. This busy time can mean that problems are not picked up so it is important to finish off the old year and begin the new with a copy of your credit report.
What you need to look for are entries that contain any incorrect information or do not match with your own records. These can happen because of:
- Mistakes by a financial institution
- Incorrectly attributed information
- Fraudulent claims
- Identity theft
This information is so important that the government has made it compulsory for the credit reporting agencies to allow people to view their own credit reports. It does require you to ask for it so you need to add it to your 2013 credit checklist so you remember to do it.
Combating Overcharging, Fraud and Identity Theft
The busy period during the holiday season is also the busiest time for mistakes, fraud and identity theft because many stores are trying to process as many transactions as possible in the shortest possible time. The best way to ensure that you can quickly identify if you have been affected is to regularly check your account balances, purchases and bills so that you are sure you are only paying for things that you have bought, you are charged the right amount and there are no double charges.
You might think this would be standard practice but many people do not check things until they have a problem and by the time it is noticed it can have become a large financial mess. If you see any unusual charges then it is important to quickly inform your financial institution so that they can investigates and reverse the charges.
One of the ways that you can make sure that no one is using your identity is to use a credit monitoring agency. These services charge a monthly fee and send you any changes on your credit reporting file. This includes any changes to existing accounts or any new accounts opened so that you can quickly be alerted to any unauthorized changes. The items included are:
- Address changes
- Account or loan changes
- New accounts or loans
- Loan applications
This is the fastest and most comprehensive way of minimizing the risk of someone using your identity to apply for any sort of service that includes a credit check. You can then take immediate action as soon as activity begins instead of being left to prove the debts are not yours months or years later.