What Is In a Number?
How to Improve and Maintain Your Credit Score
Just as your blood pressure and cholesterol levels are indicators of your physical health, your credit score is a number that is used as an indicator of your financial health. Your credit report has a major impact on your life since it will determine the rate you pay on many types of loans. Also, potential employers and landlords may use your credit report to assess your financial responsibility. So, what can you do to make sure your credit report leaves a favorable impression?
Start by Reviewing Your Credit Report
A good place to start is by requesting a free copy of your credit report at
www.annualcreditreport.com. You can request a free copy every year from
each of the three major credit reporting agencies - Experian, Equifax, and
Trans Union. Your credit score is based on a complex mathematical model that evaluates many types of information in your credit report. The higher your score, the less risk you pose to the lender, which equates to a lower interest rate for you.
There is Always Room for Improvement
If your credit score needs a boost, remember the basics: pay your bills on time, keep balances low, and take out new credit only when you really need it. Another way to bring your score up is to pay down balances on credit cards. Closing accounts will not bring your score up and may actually lower it because it will appear that you are closer to maxing out your available credit.
How to Avoid Credit Card Fraud
The use of credit cards for everyday purchases is commonplace in today's society. Hardly anyone uses cash anymore. The convenience of using a credit card at the grocery store, a restaurant, or even to make purchases from home on the internet makes a lot of sense to most people. But, it also creates opportunity for thieves! Everyone loses with credit card fraud. Because merchants are forced to increase their prices to compensate, all consumers end up paying.
There are many ways to fall victim to this crime, but there are also a number of things you can do to protect yourself. Here are some tips:
- Only carry the credit cards you absolutely need. Keep the ones you rarely use at home in a safe place
- Never carry your credit card personal identification number (PIN) with you
- When using your card, shield it from the people around you so it cannot be copied or captured on a cell phone camera
- Keep an eye on your card whenever you use it and make sure you get it back as quickly as possible
- Make an effort to use cash at restaurants or other establishments that would require your card to be out of your sight for a period of time
- Before throwing them away, shred receipts or anything that has your account number on it
- Keep track of your credit card purchases and check your statement as soon as it arrives to make sure there are no fraudulent purchases, and report any fraud to your credit card issuer immediately
- Sign the back of all credit cards as soon as you receive them or write "I.D. Required"
- Never lend your credit card to anyone
- Never give your credit card account number to someone over the phone unless you initiate the call and know the company is reputable
- Shred all credit card applications that you receive
- When making online purchases, be sure that the individual or company you are doing business with is legitimate. Try to obtain a phone number and call to confirm it is valid, as well get as a physical address rather than just a post office box; also do a Google search on the company
- Do not give out your credit card number online unless the website is secure and reputable
- Never respond to e-mails that ask you to "verify" or provide your credit card information via e-mail-even if it appears to be from a reputable source such as your financial institution; this is the basis of a credit card fraud scam called "phishing"
- Keep a list of all your credit cards and account information, including the issuers' phone numbers so you are able to contact them immediately in case your card is lost or stolen
- If you move, notify your credit card issuers immediately so none of your statements are received by someone else at your previous address