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Enhancing Your Credit Health in 2017


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New Year’s resolutions are seldom mere overreaching wishes in that people make their lists without having a definite plan on how to achieve their goals.

How do you plan on paying your debt? How will you exactly go about losing excess weight? How do you specifically attain a fulfilling and abundant life?

When it comes to personal money matters, we would like to present a workable plan to address a common problem which many people fail to solve for lack of professional help. We asked several personal finance experts to show us how to maintain or obtain good credit in 2017.

Heather Battison, a vice-president at TransUnion, a major credit bureau, says, “I believe it’s vital for consumers to realize it requires a definite process. “It’s actually about developing the right practice,” she adds. “Begin at the start of each year. Then incorporate it into your daily routine and your weekly schedule.”

Take these suggestions as your chart to achieving the obvious and even the obscure ways to your credit success.

Take responsibility on your debt

Financial well-being begins with responsibility. Always pay your credit statements as well as other bills promptly.

Your credit score is computed based on your payment track record, about 35 % of your score. Paying late can greatly affect your credit standing.

“Aside from paying a charge for late payment, not paying your bill within 30 days will cause credit reporting agencies to be informed and such record will be filed for at least 7 years,” according to Katie Ross, manager of education and development at the American Consumer Credit Counseling in Auburndale, Massachusetts.

Paying promptly, however, is not sufficient. To enhance your financial well-being, you must speed up your debt payments by paying above the required minimum dues.

Paying only the minimum results in paying more interest, particularly if the Federal Reserve raises interest rates several times, as predictions for 2017 seem to suggest.

The best strategy for such an ominous event is to slowly increase your payments within the year.

“Welcome the new year as your challenge to set a strict debt control by raising your monthly payments,” suggests Bruce McClary, vice president of public relations and external affairs at the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. “Accelerating debt payment can bring hundreds of dollars or even more in savings, based on the size of the debt and the fee structure.”

Review your accounts and credit reports

Regularly review your credit accounts for any possible credit card scams and to find out your total expenses and debts, Battison states. Report right away to your credit card company any charges that you did not make.

Use your smartphone to set notices to alert you when your credit card is used. This will tell you whenever an unauthorized charge has been made.

Also check your credit reports regularly for any signs of fraud in your accounts. Is there a credit account you have not opened? If so, someone could have opened one by using your personal information.

What to do? You can stop criminals from using your name and your personal information by freezing your credit.

Avoid these 3 things to safeguard your good credit

1.          Do not take out a cash advance. With interest rates on cash advances from 10 to 15 %, you end up paying higher rates compared to ordinary expenses, Ross says. There are also fees for processing a cash advance. Although a cash advance may not adversely affect your credit, piling up debts just might. Use your savings for any additional cash needs.

2.         Avoid closing a credit card account. Doing so might impact on your credit utilization ratio, which is the amount of credit that has been extended to you against the amount you utilize. Closing a credit card account decreases the credit that you can access, adversely affecting your credit score. “Another way closing a credit card account can damage your credit is by losing the corresponding track record of the card. Remember that credit works much like trust,” says Steve Repak, a Charlotte, North Carolina-based CFP professional as well as author of “6-Week Money Challenge.” “Credit takes a long time to gain but only a moment to lose. It is more preferable for your credit score to cut up a card from being used than closing the account ouright.”

3.         Never close credit cards with a balance. This is worse than merely closing an existing credit card account. “When you do this, your available credit or credit limit on that account becomes zero, which appears that you have used the maximum limit on that card,” Ross says.

3 ways to enhance your credit

1.          Get a co-signatory. According to Ross, young adults, in particular, will benefit from this approach. A parent or guardian can serve as co-signatory on a credit card account. “You and your co-signatories share the same responsibility on the loan,” Ross says. “Hence, the loan is also reflected on your co-signatory’s credit reports, affecting your credit positively or negatively depending on how it is used.”

2.         Open a secured credit card. This is especially beneficial to those who have little or no credit, Ross says. “To choose a secured credit card, go for a dependable bank and do not fail to read the entire fine print,” Ross says. “Some credit card issuers charge significantly high interest rates and exorbitant fees, hoping to victimize people with little or no credit.” Likewise, see to it that the card you choose submits reports to all three credit bureaus to establish your good credit reputation.


3.         A gas credit card can be a great help. A gas credit card can show creditors that you can be trusted to regularly pay your debts promptly, Repak says. “After each billing cycle, you need to pay off the balance completely; and remember that keeping a running balance is not necessary to build your credit,” he says. One good motivation for paying a balance fully is that the yearly percentage rate on gas credit cards often is likely to be high.


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