Guest post by John Ulzheimer, Nationally Recognized Credit Expert
New Years resolutions are great, but before you start focusing on them, take a look at this list of personal-credit resolutions to fulfill before New Years.
Claim your free credit reports. For over a decade, everyone in this country has had the right to claim his or her credit reports once every twelve months, for free, from each of the three major credit-reporting companies (CRCs) – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Nevertheless, many free credit reports go unclaimed every year. Don’t let yours for 2014 go unclaimed!
Depending on where you live you may be entitled to additional free credit reports because of your state’s law. You can claim your Federally-guaranteed reports at www.AnnualCreditReport.com and state-guaranteed reports at each national credit reporting company’s website: www.Equifax.com, www.Experian.com, and www.TransUnion.com. Remember, the CRCs have no obligation to proactively send you credit reports. You have to actually ask for them.
Pay off holiday charges before they hit your credit reports. It’s no secret that excessive credit card balances can lead to lower credit scores. What most people believe, however, is that as long as you pay your balances in full by the due date your credit scores will be protected. This is unfortunately untrue. The balances that show up on your credit reports will be the same as those that appear on your December credit card statements. By the time you receive the bills for December spending, the balances will already be on your credit reports. You can beat the system, however, by paying off or paying down your balances before they end up on your monthly statement and your credit reports. Simply log in to your credit card account and make a payment before the Statement Closing Date, which is almost always exactly 21 days before your due date. This way, you get the benefit and safety of using credit cards for holiday shopping with no credit-score hangover.
Make your January house Payment in December. You probably know that the interest you pay on your mortgage loan is tax deductible. But, you may not know that if you make your January payment in December then you will be able to take the home interest tax deduction for that payment on your 2014 return instead of waiting until 2015. You’re going to make the payment by January 16th anyway, so you might as well pay it a few weeks early and get a tax benefit by doing so. Just make sure your payment is credited before January 1st 2015. (It’s always wise to check with your tax advisor before making your final decision on such matters.)
Claim credit card rewards. When was the last time you actually claimed some of the rewards points you’ve earned for years of faithful credit card use? If you cannot remember, you’re not alone. According to a widely cited study performed by Colloquy in 2011, as much as one-third of credit card rewards go unclaimed, to the tune of some $16 billion in unrealized value to cardholders. Many experts advise claiming rewards annually in order to realize the value now, rather than possibly never. Nothing rings in the New Year better than some free gift cards, thanking you for being a good credit card customer.