January 8th, 2013
Your 2013 Credit Checklist
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Happy New Year from the Credit Karma team! By now, you’ve probably settled into a few resolutions, some of them maybe even financial (like the Debt Movement, perhaps?). To help you kickstart your credit in 2013, we thought we’d give you a handy checklist to follow. Here’s how to make sure your credit is in tip-top shape this year.
Step 1: Schedule your three free credit report checks.
You might know that you have a right to a free copy of your credit report each year, but did you know that you can get three? Each of the three major credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—is required to let you check your credit report for free once a year.
Instead of checking all three at once, we recommend spreading out your three reports over the year. Start with whichever one you like now and then mark on your calendar a time to check a second one four months from now (in May) and the third one eight months from now (in September). Then, when January 2014 rolls around, you can start all over again.
Step 2: Dispute any errors in your credit.
Not all credit reports contain errors, but some do, and it’s your job to alert the credit bureaus to their existence. Each time your check your credit report, comb through it thoroughly to make sure everything is in order. If something’s wrong, dispute it using the steps described in our blog post 5 Steps to Cleaning Up Credit Report Errors.
Step 3: Understand your credit score.
If you’ve landed here by coming from Credit Karma, you’ve probably already checked your credit score. Seeing your score is just the first step; you also need to understand the factors that go into your credit score and how your actions can influence it. Use the Credit Report Card to dig down into the nitty-gritty of your score. When you’re ready to make a financial move, first use the Credit Simulator to see how your credit might be affected.
Step 4: Set one credit-building goal.
It might be overwhelming to talk about all the ways you could improve your credit score. Instead of tackling all of them, think about just one thing you can start doing today to improve your overall credit health. Here are a few ideas that will help your credit score and your finances:
- Increase your monthly debt payments: Upping your loan or credit card payments will help your credit by reducing your overall debt faster. Plus, you’ll also pay less in interest in the long term.
- Get a rewards credit card: Using a credit card responsibly is still the best way to build your credit. Try one with cash back rewards like the Capital One Cash Rewards card or the Chase Freedom Visa card.
- Refinance a loan: If you’ve already achieved good credit, take advantage of that by refinancing a loan to a lower interest rate to save money. After all, that’s the benefit of having good credit. Check out the options tailored to your credit profile on Credit Karma.
Step 5: Add a credit check-up calendar alert.
You don’t need to check your credit score and report every day. While changes can happen at any time, most changes take a full billing cycle to update to your credit report. Instead of spending the time to review your credit each day, set up a calendar reminder every month to give yourself a quick credit check-up. A great way to do this is to use a Google Calendar and set up reminders. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do that.
Bottom Line: This is just a quick guide to get you started. If you have more questions about how you can boost your credit health this year, check out our Credit Advice Center or ask in the comments section.
Bethy Hardeman is the Social Media Manager and Writer at Credit Karma, where she’s been since February 2011. When she’s not writing about credit and finance all over the web, you can find her playing her guitar, catching the latest movie, training for her next race or just exploring the city of San Francisco. Say “Hi” on Twitter: @bhardeman.
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