The eclipse has passed, summer vacation is an Instagram memory and the kiddos are back in school. Let’s brighten your September with the Nerds’ monthly credit card tips.
Check your credit report
Yes, we give this tip three times a year. That’s because you’re allowed by law to get a free credit report once per year from each of the major credit reporting bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — via AnnualCreditReport.com. We recommend getting one every four months, beginning in January. If you’re following that schedule, you’ll pull your final 2017 report in September.
Make sure all the credit accounts listed in the report are yours and that the information is accurate. Also check your personal information, such as your name, address and Social Security number. If you find any errors, dispute them online with the credit bureau. When a credit bureau makes a correction to a credit report, it must share that information with the other bureaus; you don’t have to request the fix from each bureau.
Set up credit card alerts
Most credit card issuers offer notifications to help you manage your card, and we’ve noted three alerts you might want to consider: when your payment is due, when you’re close to your credit limit and when a purchase has been made on your account.
Other alerts might also be useful. You can be notified when a charge of more than a certain amount has been made with your card — this is especially useful if you have an authorized user. And some card apps tell you where you can earn bonus points or score a deal. You can set alerts on your computer or through your card’s app.
Alerts also can work the other way, so that you’re the one sending notifications. For instance, when you’re traveling, let your credit card issuer know the dates and destinations, so when that charge from Timbuktu shows up, your issuer will know it’s from you.
» MORE: Best credit card offers
Attend a special event
Many credit card holders are more likely to go into debt spending on experiences rather than material goods, according to a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research. The Nerds never encourage people to rack up credit card debt, but your card might be your ticket to presales and exclusive experiences without you needing to break the bank
For instance, this September, Mastercard is letting kids run on the field before a game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles through its Priceless program. You’ll also get four tickets to the game and a preferred parking pass. Your child will meet a player and receive an autographed baseball and a Dodgers T-shirt.
And for sports fans on the East Coast who want to attend one of New York’s classic events, The Platinum Card® from American Express gives cardholders access to the U.S. Open Tennis Championship, which runs through the beginning of September. The ticket package includes suite seating and amenities, catered food and drinks, and commemorative merchandise.
Take some free advice
Sept. 21 is my dad’s 94th birthday. I mention this because he gave me the best advice about credit cards when I was applying for my first one: “Look at the interest rate the bank pays on your money in checking and savings accounts. It’s not even 1%. They use your money to make money for the bank. Now look at how much interest you have to pay the bank to use their money if you don’t pay your balance each month. It’s over 15%. Think about how hard it is to earn that much interest on your money.”
Since then, I’ve always been what the issuers refer to as a “freeloader”: I use their money, but never pay any interest because I pay my balance in full. Thanks for the advice, Dad, and happy birthday.
More credit card advice