Your credit score is becoming more important to businesses than ever before. Not only does it help you secure loans, but now many insurance companies, cellular carriers, and employers view your FICO score as a higher standard. Whatever philosophy you hold on credit, everyone can benefit from a few cheap ways to protect it. You certainly don’t have to go into large amounts of debt to safeguard your credit score.
[In Pictures: 12 Money Mistakes Almost Everyone Makes]
Identity theft is rampant. Protecting yourself from a stolen identity is the first line of defense against bad credit. The last thing you want is to find out your credit score is being negatively affected because someone stole your personal information. Let’s explore some tactics to ward off identity thieves while keeping your credit in good standing.
1. Grab your free credit report
It’s super easy to order a free credit report. In it you’ll find information regarding your credit history. Look for any errors that might be pulling your credit score down and report them to the appropriate agency. There are three credit bureaus from which you can order your report: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
You can find a free copy of your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com. Choose to obtain your report individually from each of the bureaus, or all in one shot—your choice! Obtaining your credit report is also a great way to ensure nobody has stolen your identity. You’ll easily spot fraudulent notes that aren’t supposed to be there. You can’t beat free, so go grab your credit report today!
2. Pay your bills on time.
This one should go without saying. When you have delinquent payments they can result in a negative effect on your score. The best way to remember to pay your bills on time is with some kind of automated reminder system. You can find tons of free task managers online such as ToDoIst.com. Set a monthly reminder a week or so before the bill is due, and pay it as soon as it comes up on your scheduler. You’ll effectively protect your score from simple payment oversights.
3. Lock it down with a credit freeze.
If you’re worried about identity theft and are more of a spend-my-own-money type of person than a credit customer, you might consider locking down your credit with a freeze. By freezing your credit, you won’t be able to get a loan or any type of credit until you unfreeze it. However, that also means that any shady characters trying to take out credit cards in your name won’t be able to tarnish your credit score!
4. Learn about fraud protection.
One of the best ways to ensure your credit is protected is to ask about additional fraud security that your bank or credit card company provides. Sometimes it’s as easy as educating yourself on the various ways that banks protect you from identity theft. Most of the time, this additional fraud protection is free or very affordable.
Take Visa’s security program as an example. They state on their website: “You’re 100 percent covered in the event your card information is used to commit fraud. We’ll help you regain control of your account and safeguard it for the future.” That’s important! Remember, knowledge is key. Learn the facts and make sure you take appropriate action when necessary to protect your credit!
[Visit the U.S. News My Money blog for the best money advice from around the web.]
5. Physically safeguard your information.
Another inexpensive way to protect your credit is to minimize the accessibility of your personal information. Invest in a shredder that you keep wherever you process your bills and mail. Whenever you have a document worth destroying, run it through your shredder instead of merely dropping it into the wastebasket. If you have a little extra money to spare, buy a small household safe where you can store important documents.
Minimize how many credit cards you hold in your wallet or purse, and keep sensitive information off of your person. Keep a list of important phone numbers (for example, from your bank or credit card company) so that you can alert them promptly if your personal information has been stolen. These simple tasks will help you save hours of frustration.
By grabbing your free credit report, paying those creditors on time, and taking extra measures to protect your financial information, you can truly protect your credit without breaking the bank. What are some ways you already safeguard or maintain your credit score?
Bob Lotich runs ChristianPF.com, a personal finance blog from a Christian perspective.