Take a look at your credit card statement now compared to a year ago. It looks different, doesn’t it? The past year has upended our lives in so many ways, including how we spend and how we manage our finances. As we embrace the new beginnings of 2021, there’s no better time to take stock, make changes and get your financial house in order. That’s why OZY and Discover are teaming up to deliver the best tips, tricks and life hacks to get you to a more secure financial future.
You’ve made it through an unpredictable year. How about a little reward — like unlimited cash back? The Discover it® Cash Back card automatically matches all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year without your having to lift a finger. There is no limit to how much Discover will match. No catch, just cash back.
If you’re racking up charges on fitness equipment or other New Year’s resolutions, you’re going to want to make sure they pay off. Experts say the biggest key is to do your homework: Which merchants will get you extra bang for your buck on your card? Are there certain categories of purchases that do — or don’t — get you extra cash back? Find them and cash in.
3. That’s the Point
In the “olden” times before spring 2020, you saved up your credit card points for travel splurges. Most of us are grounded now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t plan a rewards-based staycation. Many cards provide flexible redemption options. You could even redeem your points for cash and use it for a romantic sunset drive with some high-quality takeout.
For frequent flyers who are less frequently jetting off these days, the good news is that the airlines need your business. Badly. So rewards programs are getting substantially more generous. You’re already seeing airlines drop change fees for all customers, suggesting they’re going to have to roll out the red carpet even more for top flyers.
Your credit score is “an insurance policy on your financial life,” author and personal finance expert Erin Lowry, aka the “Broke Millennial,” said on a recent episode of The Carlos Watson Show. It can affect everything from your ability to rent an apartment to the rate you’ll pay on a car loan.
One way to stay on top of your credit score: Don’t spend all the way up to your credit limit every month. It’s called credit utilization, and it’s a key factor for driving up your credit score. You can help your score by asking your card issuer to increase your credit limit or even paying your credit card bill twice a month. Which brings us to ...
3. Pay Your Bills
It sounds simple, but paying your bills consistently is absolutely critical to your score. Late or delinquent payments more than 30 days past due will harm your score, and it’s hard to dig out of that hole.
4. Keep an Eye on Your Numbers
A wide variety of tools — including Discover’s Free Credit Scorecard* — allow you to keep an eye on your credit score so you have a general idea of your credit range, especially if you are thinking of making a large purchase down the road. Discover also will check your Experian®* credit report every day and alert you when new inquiries appear in your name. If there’s something amiss, Discover will let you know the next steps to report the activity as fraudulent.
With online shopping through the roof these days, so too are the risks. You already know not to open attachments from sketchy email addresses. But you should also keep an eye out for coronavirus maps that ask you to download an app or dashboard, and fake stores selling “essential” goods. And watch your feeds: The Federal Trade Commission reports that scams starting on social media have tripled this year.
2. Hostage Takers
Ransomware is a $169 billion global problem. But you’re not powerless against it. Given the power of an ounce of prevention, experts recommend a 3-2-1 rule: Make three copies of your data on two devices, one of which is off-site. Say you did click on that shady link, though, and now you’re infected. Don’t try to wipe everything clean. Instead, reach out to your antivirus company and try to avoid paying the thief, though that may be the only way to get your data back.
Many of these baddies are trying to swipe details about your life. To protect your identity, start by frequently mixing up your passwords and using two-factor authentication on financial sites, personal finance expert Erin Lowry advised on a recent episode of The Carlos Watson Show.
*Credit Scorecard is provided by Discover Bank, and includes a FICO® Credit Score and other credit information. Credit Scorecard information is based on data from Experian and may differ from credit scores and credit information provided by other credit bureaus. This information is provided to you at no cost and with your consent. You must be 18 years old and a U.S. resident or a resident of American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands. Your Credit Scorecard will be refreshed the later of every 30 days or the next time you log in to Credit Scorecard. Discover and other lenders may use different inputs, such as a FICO® Credit Score, other credit scores and more information in credit decisions. This product may change or end in the future. FICO is a registered trademark of Fair Isaac Corporation in the United States and other countries.
Discover credit monitoring and Social Security number alerts are offered by Discover Bank at no cost, only available online and currently include the following services: (a) daily monitoring of your Experian® credit report and an alert when a new inquiry or account is listed on your report; (b) daily monitoring of thousands of Dark Web sites known for revealing personal information and an alert if your Social Security Number is found on such a website. This information is provided for free, as part of Discover's Free Credit Scorecard membership to both existing and new members upon successful product registration. Alert services are based on Experian information and data which may differ from information and data at other credit bureaus. Monitoring your credit report does not impact your credit score. This benefit may change or end in the future. Discover Bank is not a credit repair organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. To see a list of Frequently Asked Questions, visit discover.com/free-credit-score.