New year, new you, right? While many people commit to improving some aspect of life this time of year, the focus is rarely on finances. Sure, you might create a few financial goals, but after months of spending over the holidays, many people don’t even want to look at their bank accounts!
The new year is actually the perfect time to take a magnifying glass to your credit report (no, it won’t affect your credit score!). You’ll get your fiscal year off to a good start and can also double check for inaccurate information and/or suspicious activity. Here are some suggestions to help you get started.
Choose a credit monitoring website (your bank or credit card company might have this service built in), take a deep breath, and log in. This is definitely the scariest part because, if you’ve never checked your credit before, you may be in for some surprises.
Have a pen and paper ready to make notes. Write down all of accounts, balances, and credit inquiries as well as any negative reporting. Keep this list in a safe place so you can review it as needed.
Verify Holiday Purchases
While you are reviewing your credit information, pay attention to all credit card accounts and their balances. It’s not uncommon for theft to occur during the holiday season. Not only can criminals make fraudulent charges using your account information, but they can also apply for and use new credit cards. Even if everything seems fine, it’s worth double-checking.
Dispute False Credit Information
Don’t be surprised if you discover some inaccuracies in your credit report. Such errors are common, but as a consumer, you have the right to dispute items on your report. Inaccuracies are common, and can have a major impact on your score and ability to borrow from lenders.
Improve Your Score
Whether your report is in good shape or needs work, it’s a good idea to create goals for the future. Develop strategies for paying off balances and improving your score, if it’s lower than you’d like. If you’re not sure how to do this, there are a variety of articles and services available online, or you can ask a bank representative for help.
Consider Credit Monitoring
Since we do so much of our shopping and bill payments online, it’s easier than ever for our personal information to be compromised, as recent reports of widespread security breaches make clear.
Many people now subscribe to credit monitoring services, which will alert you if any suspicious activity is detected. Some services offer protective coverage in the event that credit fraud does occur. Search and compare different options and then pick the one that’s right for you.
As we all return to reality after a season of splurging, focus on getting back on financial track. It’s not as fun or as glamorous as being able to fit into a whole new wardrobe, but getting yourself financially fit is worth the effort.