The Smartest Credit Moves to Make in 2015

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

With the start of a new year, many people resolve to get in better shape—and not just by going to the gym more often. Financial fitness is just as important as physical fitness, and a big part of that is making sure your credit is as strong as your core.

If improving your credit is on your list of resolutions for 2015, here are the smartest moves you can make to ensure your financial health in the coming year and beyond.

  1. Pay down outstanding balances. Take stock of how much you owe on all your credit cards. Do you have a few small balances you’ve been meaning to pay off, or maybe some large balances you need help paying down? Whatever the case, getting your balances as close to zero as possible can only help your credit score.
  2. Consider doing a balance transfer. There are a couple of situations when applying for a balance transfer is a smart move. If you’ve got balances spread across several cards, consolidating them to one card will make life simpler. Or if you’re paying a high interest rate on any of your debts, moving them to a card with a 0% APR introductory rate will help you pay down the debt faster.
  3. Sign up for automatic payments. If you’ve ever missed a due date for a credit card payment, you know the sinking feeling that hits when you realize the date has passed and you’ll be hit with a late payment fee. Avoid this from happening again by signing up to have the minimum amount due automatically withdrawn from your bank account each month on the due date.
  4. Utilize online account tools. Go to your credit card issuer’s website and register for online account access, if you haven’t already. There you’re likely to find a wealth of tools for managing your account, budgeting, and paying off debt. Most card issuers have options for categorizing spending, analyzing statements and even making balance pay down plans. There may be calculators to help you visualize how quickly you’ll pay off your balance by changing the amount of your monthly payments, yearly spending reports, and more.
  5. Order a copy of your credit report. You should look at your credit reports from all three major credit bureaus at least once a year. TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax all provide consumers with one free report each year. They may also provide one after certain events, such as being turned down for a credit card or being a victim of indentity theft. Take a close look at each report to ensure the information is accurate. Some estimates say that as many as 80% of credit reports contain mistakes. Make sure yours doesn’t.
  6. Exercise control over your credit. There are a few healthy habits you can get into if you want to have the highest possible credit score. Always make payments on time, keep your balances lower than 30% of your available credit—below 10% is even better—and don’t apply for too many credit cards in a short amount of time.

With these six steps, you’ll be set to have a financially fit year ahead and a bright future in credit.

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