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Do this one thing for your finances this year

IMG_5021Ahh January. The presents have been opened, the tree is gone, the champagne has been consumed. The return to schedules and routine feels refreshing. January is full of resolutions. Sure, those resolutions might not make it to February… But while your still hopped up on the newness of 2016, do one thing for me to improve your finances: Check your credit report.

You need to check your credit at least once a year for two reasons:

1) Identify theft

Identify theft is on the rise. Often the only way you will know if someone has opened a credit account using your information is to check your credit report.

2) Know your credit score

The higher your credit score the easier it is to get approved for car and mortgage loans. And the higher your credit score is, the lower your interest rate will be which can save you thousands of dollars over the course of the loan.

Ok, have I convinced you? Here is how to check your credit report.

There are three credit bureaus who report on your credit. TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. Each allow you to check your credit report for free one time per year. (You can check one company every four months, or all three companies once a year.) Your reports from these companies won’t be identical, so you need to check each one.

Go to http://www.annualcreditreport.com and click to request your credit report. Follow the prompts that will take you to each of the bureaus websites and produce your reports. To get your actual credit score, it will cost you around $10 per bureau. If you plan on applying for a loan in the next year, its worth knowing your actual credit score from at least one of the bureaus.

When you get your reports, review each one to make sure the accounts and balances listed are accurate and belong to you. If something is wrong, you will have to dispute the inaccuracy with the bureau.

Finally, the easiest and single best way to improve your credit score is to pay everything on time, always. Even if you have to pay the minimum amount on credit card debt, pay it regularly and on time.

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