By: Maryalene LaPonsie


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!

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