Your New Year’s resolutions don’t have to be limited to signing up for a gym membership and eating better. Expand them to include your credit health as well. Whether you’re trying to improve your credit health to get a great rate on a mortgage, or just want to build good credit for whatever the future holds, check out these financial resolutions for better credit management in 2016.
Take Advantage of Credit Monitoring Services
Resolve to take advantage of credit monitoring services and credit solutions offered by your existing accounts, such as notifications, emails or texts triggered when a charge exceeds a certain amount or when you have bills coming up. Credit card companies and financial institutions may offer alerts as a perk of having the card or account.
Also, take advantage of getting a free yearly copy of your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus, including TransUnion, to check for any inaccuracies or signs identity thieves might have opened a fraudulent account in your name.
Only Open New Accounts When Necessary
When you reach the checkout line with a cart full of purchases, the extra discount offered for signing up for a new credit card can be very tempting. However, each new card offer comes with a potential cost: a hard inquiry on your credit report, which may temporarily ding your credit score.
If you need a sizable loan to buy a car or house, you may want to rate-shop to make sure you’re getting the best deal. What you don’t want to do is serious damage to your score with all the inquiries. If you submit all your applications within a short period of time — around two weeks to a month and a half — credit scores typically count all those inquiries as just one. The idea behind it may be that lenders assume you’re not going to take out a dozen mortgages or car loans.
Make Monthly Payments Based on Your Debt-Free Date
If you have a target for how soon you want to have all of your debt paid off, calculate your monthly payments based on how long you have until your debt-free date arrives. If you haven’t accounted for accrued interest, you’ll have to recalculate each month because you’ll have more interest tacked on.
If you’ve already paid off all your consumer debt, congratulations! But, don’t stop there: building an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses may help you weather future financial storms without missing payments or having to incur additional debt. Three to six months of expenses is a good starting point, but consider a larger fund, especially if your income isn’t steady or your job is often at risk for layoffs.
Ask for Forgiveness From Creditors
If you have a late payment here or there on your credit report, and the reported information is accurate, legally there’s nothing you can do to get it removed. However, there’s no harm in asking a creditor if they would be willing to take one off for you. You may be more likely to succeed if you’ve had a long-standing relationship with the creditor and a solid history of paying on time.
If you have an outstanding debt, consider asking the creditor if they would remove the late payment from your report if you pay off the account. Taking a few late payments off your report now may help your credit health faster than waiting the seven (or more) years for the late payment to fall off your report.