We all know what it’s like to get carried away with holiday shopping, and if getting that January credit card statement is getting you nervous, you’re not alone. The good news is that provided you didn’t buy something truly major, like a sports car or a whole new house, your credit won’t have to suffer under the weight of your statement for long. Here are three easy ways to help you perk up your credit when the holidays have it looking a bit down.
This might seem obvious, but there’s a trick here. If for financial or personal reasons you want to pay everything off right away then go ahead. But if you’re looking for a credit boost, don’t pay everything down all at once. Instead, start making payments, but do it above your monthly minimum required payment. If you’re able, break the balance up into a few manageable blocks and pay those out monthly. The reason for this is a simple not-too-secret secret when it comes to credit cards and how they impact your score.
A lower balance improves your debt to income ratio, and a lower debt to income ratio raises your credit score. For that reason, the sooner you can pay down your debt, the better. Breaking it down into a couple blocks gives you a tiny boost in another area of your credit score, though – payment history. A large portion of your credit score is based on whether you’ve paid bills on time and in full. It won’t be an automatic raise in score on its own, but building a few reliable payments into your budget helps better your score in the long run, too.
Look For Suspicious Information
Check your credit score with a free, reliable resource like CreditKarma.com – and be sure to really research a site before you give it any personal or financial information. Take a look at your credit score and see if things look right. If something doesn’t add up and you’ve got questions, pull your actual credit reports from all three credit bureaus.
Go over them with a close eye and look for anything suspicious – anything questionable. Some fraud is more subtle than trying to drain your accounts or rack up charges on all your cards, so make sure to look carefully. If you see anything suspicious, dispute it right away. Don’t wait for the matter to get worse. Get in contact with both the credit bureau and any other companies involved to get the matter straightened out right away.
The holidays are a time ripe with fraud, and the best way to ensure you’re not subject to it is to look closely for any indicators before real harm can be done.
Once you’ve got this year’s debt all squared away, it’s time to turn attention to warding off a repeat performance next year. Start saving well in advance for next year’s holiday shopping spree, and you’ll be one step ahead and far less likely to reach for your credit card at the register next year, helping to keep that shiny new credit score as immaculate as possible.