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10 Ways to Protect Your Credit

1. 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. Youíll effectively protect your score from simple payment oversights.

2. Keep tabs on your credit history

Every year, you can get your free credit report from each of the major credit bureaus; Equifax, TransUnion and Experian by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com

You want to review the report and look for errors or any signs of fraud. An error can really bring down your credit score, and that will cost you when you apply for a credit card or a mortgage. This is a simple but very effective way to protect yourself when it comes to your credit life. Put it on your calendar, and every four months get a report from one of the bureaus.

3. Get your credit score

A FICO score is what most lenders use to gauge your creditworthiness, so that's the score you want to look at. Credit scores go up and down constantly, so keep in mind that you're getting a measure of what your score is at that particular time You can get your FICO score for $19.95, or you can use other credit-score-monitoring products, but make sure they include a FICO score.

4. Check your credit card statement for errors

You want to look for billing errors and possible fraud and check your balance. If you want to, you can check your account online every day. Should you find a billing error, you're protected by Fair Credit Billing Act. You have to write to your credit card issuer within 60 days of the statement date that contains the error. The issuer must respond within 30 days and conduct an investigation within 90 days

5. Know the details regarding 0% introductory offers

Before you grab one of these intro offers, look at the go-to rate. If you're getting 0% interest on purchases for 12 months, you'd better keep track of your balance. Don't wait until the eleventh month to realize that the intro period ends in one month, not in seven months.

Pay attention to balance-transfer offers. Be sure you can pay the balance off after the 12- or 18-month intro period, or be able to live with the ongoing interest rate.

6. Before you travel, alert your credit card issuers

If you're traveling, call your bank so you don't unwittingly trigger a fraud alert on your account. Banks are pretty diligent when it comes to monitoring consumer behavior. If your spending patterns suddenly change, the bank may suspect your card has been stolen.

7. 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 itís 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.

8. Physically safeguard your information

An 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.

9. Minimize how many credit cards you carry

Also 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.

10. Stay safe online

When shopping online, make sure you see "https" instead of just "http" in the Web address. The "s" indicates a secure site. And make sure you don't give out your card number on sites you're not familiar with or in response to email solicitations.

Additional protection, use a credit card specifically for online purchases. Should this card number be compromised, it will cause minimum disruption to your daily finances. Do not use credit cards that have auto-deposits and auto-payments linked to the account and carry large balances.

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