As we roll into the new year, it’s only natural to start thinking about how you’d like to do things differently over the next 12 months. Even if you don’t make formal resolutions, chances are there is something in the back of your mind that you hope and dream for in 2013.
Unfortunately, by the end of the year, our good intentions often remain just that…good intentions. After all, losing those last 10 pounds is hard. Getting up at 6am to exercise is hard. Finding a way to organize all that paperwork is hard.
You know what isn’t hard? Getting your credit cards in order. In fact, here are five resolutions you can easily have done before the end of the month.
1. Shop for a better rate
When is the last time you compared credit card rates? While the days of having offers for zero APR credit cards filling your mailbox have slowed down, that doesn’t mean you have to settle for a card that keeps inching up your interest. It doesn’t take long to compare credit cards online and find out if you are eligible for one of today’s low interest credit cards.
Love your current card? Don’t be shy about calling and asking if they can lower your rate. You may be surprised how many times credit card companies say yes.
2. Reevaluate your rewards
Do you have an airline credit card but never fly? Does your rewards credit card offer double points for online shopping but you rarely buy from websites?
The best rewards credit card isn’t the one that offers the biggest bonus or the most points. It is the one that fits your shopping style and offers rewards you’ll actually use. There are so many cash back credit cards and rewards credit cards available that a quick search is bound to turn up the card that is right for you.
3. Prioritize your payments
If you carry a balance on multiple cards, it is time to consider consolidating and paying down your debt. Depending on how much you owe, it may be overwhelming to consider paying everything off. However, an easy first step is to create a payment plan that puts you on a path to becoming debt free.
Review your cards’ terms and list them in order of balances from smallest to largest. Focus your payment efforts on the card with the smallest balance while making minimum payments on your other cards. Once the first card is paid off, add the payment you were making on that card to the minimum payment of the card with the next smallest balance.
To save money while paying down your debt, consolidate to one or two cards or look for a balance transfer offer that offers better terms than your current cards.
4. Cut out pesky recurring charges
Little monthly charges on your credit card bill can add up to big bucks over the course of the year. Businesses are counting on you not wanting to hassle with tracking them down and cancelling that $9.99 recurring fee. Prove them wrong this year and review your card statement for charges for services you no longer want or need.
5. Monitor your credit report
Finally, according to a recent study from the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, only about 20% of consumers requested their free annual credit report in 2011. It’s hard to keep fraud and inaccurate information from bringing down your credit score if you never look at your reports. The government has guaranteed your right to a free report from the three major bureaus – TransUnion, Exifax and Experian – each year. Take them up on the offer!