According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, over 17 million U.S. consumers experienced identity theft in 2014 — and more than 8 million of those cases involved fraudulent use of a credit card.
The holiday shopping season could pose a particular risk for identity theft simply from the sheer volume of transactions you’re likely to make.
To make matters worse, the holidays can often stretch your budget to its breaking point. But it’s possible to use credit cards safely and still stick to your spending budget.
To reduce your risk of identity theft and protect your budget, use these credit card tips to get ready for the holiday season.
1. Take stock of all your cards
Have you signed up for a department store credit card in the past year? Did you leave a credit card at work or in your car? Are the expiration dates current? Do you need to order a card replacement?
Take stock of all your cards before beginning your shopping spree, so you can plan appropriately.
2. Shop with the right credit cards
Do you know which of your credit cards offer cash back or rewards points, and what categories those rewards apply in? Now’s the time to make a list of your credit card limits, reward programs, and interest rates.
You don’t want to grab a card that doesn’t offer the most cash back for your purchases, or end up swiping a large purchase that puts you over a card’s limit.
3. Add authorized users
Before sitting down to tackle your Christmas shopping list, consider adding your spouse or other trusted family members as authorized users on your main credit card account.
Some rewards credit cards will offer additional cash back bonuses when you add authorized users to your account, and more users also mean more chances to earn points on all your purchases this season.
Carefully review your card’s terms and see if adding an authorized user could benefit you.
4. Sign up for credit alerts
If there’s fraudulent activity on your account, you want to know as quickly as possible. Sign up for credit alerts and your credit card company will warn you of any suspicious or unusual activity immediately.
You can receive these alerts in real-time via text message or email, and approve or deny them as needed. You’ll be able to shop with confidence knowing that any suspicious activity will be immediately brought to your attention.
5. Request an increased spending limit
Your credit utilization ratio (the amount of your credit card balances divided by your overall credit limit) has a large impact on your credit score. If you have too much debt and not much access to a good spending limit, your credit score will be negatively impacted.
In preparation of the extra spending that will inevitably happen during the holidays, request an increased credit limit. Call up customer service and ask about your options. Depending on your credit history, you may be able to increase your spending limit in as little as 10 minutes.
6. Look for special rewards deals
We all want to get the most for our money. This is even more important when buying gifts, because we want to get that perfect present while staying within our budgets.
Many of the big credit card companies have shopping deal sections that are part of the perks they offer customers. Take advantage of this benefit this holiday season to save money or earn additional rewards points for yourself.
For example, Discover Deals allows cardholders to earn additional cash back on purchases from specific stores. Similarly, Amex Offers helps cardmembers save even more on restaurants, groceries, and other commonly purchased items.
7. Check price matching programs
In addition to earning rewards for purchases at specific stores, you may be able to save even more with price matching perks.
For example, the Citi Price Rewind program searches the web for 60 days after you make a purchase. If they find the same item at a lower price, they’ll refund the difference. This could mean significant savings on big purchases like a new TV or computer.
What other price matching or price guarantee benefits do your credit cards offer? Review the fine print and know your options before hitting the “buy” button.
8. Verify return policies
Another credit card feature you’ll want to fully understand is the return protection and warranty coverage that comes with your card. Educate yourself on your card’s specific benefits before swiping.
A return protection policy could be beneficial if the store is unable to accept an unwanted item in exchange for a refund or store credit. Similarly, an extended warranty coverage can add an additional year onto the manufacturer’s original warranty if your item breaks or needs repair.
9. Consider promotional financing offers
If you plan to make larger purchases for family and friends, consider taking advantage of promotional financing offers on new cards.
For example, if a credit card offers 0% interest for 12 to 18 months, you could pay for big purchases with that card and repay the cost over several months — interest-free.
Read the offer’s fine print and be sure you can pay off the purchase in the allotted timeframe, otherwise you risk paying big interest fees for that fancy gift. Learn more about comparing credit card offers here.
10. Verify your credit report
A few weeks after you’ve finished your holiday shopping, verifying your credit report is an important step. What does your history of credit look like? Are you behind on any payments? Is there incorrect information that needs to be fixed?
With so many transactions coming through over the holiday seasons, credit card companies are more likely to overlook mistakes and erroneous data. Review your credit report for inconsistencies, errors, and any information that shouldn’t be there.
As you prep for the holiday shopping season, use these credit cards tips to safely swipe your card and stay on budget. Your family will be grateful for their gifts, but you’ll be happy with your budget all season long.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.97% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.30% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.
© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
APR stands for “Annual Percentage Rate.” Rates listed include a 0.25% EFT discount, for automatic payments made from a checking or savings account. Interest rates as of 11/8/2018. Rates subject to change.
Variable rate options consist of a range from 3.27% per year to 6.09% per year for a 5-year term, 4.64% per year to 6.14% per year for a 7-year term, 4.69% per year to 6.19% per year for a 10-year term, 4.94% per year to 6.44% per year for a 15-year term, or 5.19% per year to 6.69% per year for a 20-year term, with no origination fees. APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rate will change on the first day of every month (“Change Date”) if the Current Index changes. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes. The variable interest rates are calculated by adding a margin ranging from 0.98% to 3.80% for the 5-year term loan, 2.35% to 3.85% for the 7-year term loan, 2.40% to 3.90% for the 10-year term loan, 2.65% to 4.15% for the 15-year term loan, and 2.90% to 4.40% for the 20-year term loan, respectively, to the 1-month LIBOR index published on the 25th day of each month immediately preceding each “Change Date,” as defined above, rounded to two decimal places, with no origination fees. If the 25th day of the month is not a business day or is a US federal holiday, the reference date will be the most recent date preceding the 25th day of the month that is a business day. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 3.27% per year to 6.09% per year for a 5-year term would be from $180.89 to $193.75. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.64% per year to 6.14% per year for a 7-year term would be from $139.65 to $146.76. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.69% per year to 6.19% per year for a 10-year term would be from $104.56 to $111.98. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.94% per year to 6.44% per year for a 15-year term would be from $78.77 to $86.78. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.19% per year to 6.69% per year for a 20-year term would be from $67.05 to $75.68.
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown.
All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.28% effective October 10, 2018.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.47% – 6.99%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.47% – 6.30%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.51% – 8.09%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.02% – 6.44%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.69% – 7.21%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.79% – 8.39%6||Undergrad & Graduate|