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4 Ways You Can Protect Your Credit Score Over the Holidays

Holidays can bring joy and happy memories, but they also can mean problems ahead for your credit score.  Here are four strategies to protect your credit. 

1. Watch you balances. Your credit card spending probably goes up around the holidays.  Higher balances can mean lower credit scores, because credit utilization- how close your balance is to your limit- plays a major role in the scoring systems. 

2. Say ‘No Thanks’ to store credit cards. Store credit cards tend to have high interest rates, making them an expensive way to shop.  And they often have low credit limits, so even a small balance can mean high credit utilization. 

3. Use reminders to avoid late payments.  A late payment fee is bad enough, but paying more than 30 days late will really bruise your credit because payment history has the biggest influence on your score.  The negative mark can stay on your credit report for up to seven years, although the impact fades over time.

4. Check it twice, for fraud. It is wise to go online at least once a week to check your credit card accounts for charges you didn’t make.  Keep an eye on online purchases in particular.  Embedded EMV chips are making it harder to make counterfeit cards, so criminals are focusing their efforts on online shopping and other ways to purchase without a physical card.  The sooner you discovers a problem, the sooner you can undo the damage. 

Copyright 2017 NerdWallet, Inc.  Bev O’Shea is a staff writer at NerdWallet.