8 Credit Checks for Maintaining and Maximizing Financial Health

Protect and maintain a strong credit record and maximize the benefits and rewards of your credit cards with this eight-step credit checklist.

Apr 27, 2014 at 9:50AM

Protect and maintain a strong credit record and maximize the benefits and rewards of your credit cards with this eight-step credit checklist.

1. Check credit score
Check in on your credit score a few times a year and not just before you make a big purchase like a home or car.

"Check your credit scores at least annually -- preferably quarterly -- regardless of whether nor not you are seeking credit or any loans," advises Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, The Money Coach. "Monitoring your credit score over time will help give you a credit education and clues into how your specific financial behavior is affecting your credit health."

2. Check credit reports
Review credit reports at least once per year.

"At the very least you should claim your free credit reports every 12 months via annualcreditreport.com, but most people do not," says John Ulzheimer, credit expert at CreditSesame.com. "There are also a variety of sites where you can monitor your credit reports for free."

3. Check credit card terms
Check the terms on your credit cards once or twice a year and ask for a lower interest rate if you've been a good customer.

"If you've been a great customer, it doesn't hurt to ask," says Beverly Harzog, credit card expert and author of "Confessions of a Credit Junkie: Everything You Need to Know to Avoid the Mistakes I Made." "But if you've had a rough year and you missed a few payments, you're not going to get it."

4. Check rewards balance on a credit card
Keep close tabs on credit card rewards and use them wisely.

"I check in on my rewards every month because I want to see how much is there and I want to think about how I want to use them," Harzog says.

Wondering how and when to use those rewards? Harzog suggests using credit cards rewards to offset the cost of a vacation. Ulzheimer recommends cashing in rewards around the holidays, when holiday promotions will make rewards points go further.

5. Check in with credit card issuer before a vacation
Alert card issuers of travel plans in advance. If you don't, your card could be frozen or denied.

"Some banks let you do this online. Others require you to make a phone call," says Khalfani-Cox.

For an overseas vacation, pack credit cards without foreign transaction fees.

"Foreign transaction fees on credit cards can really add up when you're traveling abroad, so if you're going out of the country, do yourself a favor and only use credit cards with none of these fees," Khalfani-Cox recommends.

6. Check your balance after filing taxes
If you have a credit card debt, apply your tax refund to a balance with a high interest rate.

"Using a tax refund to pay down credit card debt is the smartest move you can make with the refund, hands down," Ulzheimer says."The average interest rate on a credit card debt is around 15 percent, which is likely the most expensive debt you'll ever service."

7. Double-check payments when you get a new card
Review terms and payment information on new credit cards.

"Read all the disclosure statements. Read everything that comes with a new card. Double-check your terms to see if something has changed," Harzog advises. "If you change account data information, double-check that your automated payment is still intact. "

8. Check in with banks and credit card companies when you move
On or around moving day, take a moment to update your customer profile to minimize risk of lost statements and other correspondence.

"You can change address and contact information online with your bank or credit card issuer so timing the address change so it coincides exactly with your move is very easy," Ulzheimer says. "There's no reason your address can't be changed the same day you move."

This article 8 credit checks for maintaining and maximizing financial health originally appeared on WisePiggy.com

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4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

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Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

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David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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