02
Jan

As you embark on a new year, you may have a list of resolutions you want to get done in 2014. Some of these include spending more time with family, getting into shape or trying to visit an unknown land. Improvement is one of the most common aspects people strive for and one area you can expand on is your finances. It is always a good idea to keep an eye on your credit, but like any New Year's resolution, we tend to forget about them after awhile. This year though, strive to stay on top of your credit and have a healthy financial year. By following a few of these credit resolutions you will be able to start the year off right.

Resolution 1: Check your credit report
Before you set out to jump in and begin to fix your finances, you should prepare by taking a hard look at your credit beforehand. Credit reports are a great way to inspect the state of your current credit. This report will have your entire credit history on it so you can see what your credit score is and any open accounts you have.

Resolution 2: Paying more on your payments
Paying your credit card bill on time can be one of the best ways to decrease your overall balance and improve your credit score. Your balance will only decrease if you are paying off more than you are spending. A great resolution to commit to is paying off more of your balance each month. By paying more and spending less, your balance will decrease thus making your utilization rate, the percentage of how much balance you have compared to your limit, better.

When deciding to pay a little more to your balance each month you don't want to get carried away out of the gate. Stick to a conservative amount at first and build from there. Adding maybe $5 or $10 more to your payments is a good place to start and you can increase that number over time.

Resolution 3: Increasing your card protection
Identity theft and fraud is always something you should be looking out for. With technology becoming more advanced every single day, cybercriminals are more clever with how they are able to attain credit card information. A fairly new way credit card thieves are stealing information is by using skimming machines. For example, when you swipe your credit card to pay for gas at the pump, thieves may have installed a skimming machine that will copy your credit card number and the information enclosed in the magnetic stripe.

To better prepare yourself for 2014, investigate whether your credit card company offers resources to combat this crime, including using a different type of card. A standard credit card has a magnetic stripe on the back that contains the card's information. These are the standard cards, but you may want to see if your credit card provider offers cards with EMV chips. These cards have tiny microchips inside that contain information and are almost impossible for thieves to steal. This type of card is very popular in Europe, but some credit card companies are slowly rolling them out.

Resolution 4: Asking for lower interest rates
The interest rate for a credit card is a percentage of your  principal, which is then charged to you each month. Interest rates are one of the biggest ways your balance can continue growing over time. If you feel like your interest is getting out of hand, discuss with your card company and see if they will be able to get a lower interest rate. Having a lower rate will help you in the long run and keep your charges down to an attainable amount.

Resolution 5: Adding on an authorized user
If you feel like you are in the charitable mood for 2014, you may want to consider helping your children with building credit or adding a spouse to your account. Before you go down this road, check out a few of the options your card provides. Many credit card holders add someone on by using a joint account. In this situation the person who is added on will be legally responsible for handling the balance with you. This may be a good idea for a spouse who has a viable income to help make payments, but it might not be right for a child who does not have any credit history. When adding your kids to your account, add them as an authorized user. The AU will not be legally responsible for the balance, but they will be allowed to use the credit card, thus helping them build up credit. You will still have to monitor your credit to make sure the balance does not get out of hand, but this is a nice way to help people build up credit if they have none.