Pay off credit cards in full each month. The miles and cash-back are only valuable if you’re not falling into debt or paying interest.
Start with a goal of reducing your credit card debt by just $1,000. That $1,000 debt reduction will probably save you $150-200 a year in interest, and much more if you’re paying penalty rates of 20-30 percent.
Use only the ATMs of your bank or credit union. Using the ATM of another financial institution once a week might seem like no big deal, but if it’s costing you $3 for each withdrawal, that’s more than $150 over the course of a year.
Check your credit report for free once a year. Use your annual free credit report from the three credit reporting bureaus to look for inaccuracies or opportunities to raise your score. Credit scores are used by loan providers, landlords, and others to determine what they’ll sell you, and at what price. For example, a low credit score can increase the cost of a 60-month, $20,000 auto loan by more than $5,000.
Pay all of your bills on auto-pay. This ensures they are paid on time, in full to avoid late charges. As a bonus, some loan providers offer a small interest rate deduction if you enroll in auto-pay.
Get free debt counseling. The most widely available help managing your debt is with a Consumer Credit Counseling Services (CCCS) counselor. CCCS’ network of non-profit counselors can work with you confidentially and judgement-free to help you develop a budget, figure out your options, and negotiate with creditors to repay your debts. Best of all, the 45-90 minute counseling sessions are free of charge and come with no obligations.
Freeze your credit, literally. If you are having trouble controlling your credit card use, but don’t want to cut up your credit card in case you need it at some point, freeze your credit card in a bag of water. Needing to thaw your card will force you to really consider the purchase before you make it.