The holidays are almost here and if you are planning to go shopping chances are that the pandemic will affect how you shop.
COVID-19 has definitely changed where we shop and the amount we spend. While shoppers on a tight budget may reduce their spending, others may be tempted to overspend especially if they have loan deferrals, credit concessions, and mortgage forbearance. This according to Jeff Richardson, a senior vice president of marketing and communications (at VantageScore), will affect the shoppers’ credit score badly.
With everyone staying indoors, online shopping will be the best option. Tom Quinn, the vice president of FICO Scores, warns that many consumers will be at a higher risk of identity theft. Below are expert recommendations on how to guard your credit;
Check your credit scores
There are many personal finance and credit cards website that may help you understand your credit scores. Quinn suggests that you pick a website that clearly explains what your score means. This will help you understand some of the factors that hold you back. As for Richardson, he opines that if planning to invest in a car or home you should maintain your credit health now.
Keep your credit limits in check
How much credit limit you use affects your credit score the most. This is referred to as credit utilization and it is recommended to be maintained at under 30%. Lower is even better. To do this, sign up for account alerts that help you track your credit utilization.
Set a spending limit on your shopping list
The NerdWallet’s holiday shopping survey claims that a third of shoppers who use credit cards to buy gift are still paying their 2019 holidays spending. When spending more onto an existing balance, credit utilization increases. Richardson warns against taking loans for holiday spending. Instead you can find gift ideas that serve the purpose and don’t cost an arm or a leg.
Be suspicious and freeze your credit
Being skeptical helps you stay alert and keep you from becoming a victim of identity theft. As a consumer, you may get phone calls, texts, or email requesting personal data from scammers. These scammers may pretend to be retailers or card issuers. Verify contact information and initiate a call or email if you think the message is legit. Check statements for purchases you didn’t make and report to your card issuer immediately. Freeze your credit when you are suspicious. You can do it by phone or online at Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
After the holidays, pay what’s due
Pay the minimum on time as payment 30 days or more past the due date can negatively affect your credit scores. Set up autopay to cover the minimum payment. It will also ensure you don’t overlook a bill.