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Why should you monitor your credit? Well, because bad credit can cost you thousands.  

Think about it—the higher your credit score, the lower interest rate you’ll have on loans (home, auto, etc.), and you’ll end up saving thousands of dollars. However, the time to monitor your credit score is now, not a month before applying for a loan to buy your dream home.

So where does one start monitoring their credit? Great question. Here are 10 steps to monitor your credit.

1. Start with a Free Credit Report

Go to AnnualCreditReport.com and request a free credit report. And don’t worry, it really is free (at least from this website). Some people don’t know it, but everyone’s entitled to a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (TransUnion, EquiFax, and Experian) once every twelve months.

2. Review Your Credit Report

Once you receive your free credit report (see previous point), check for any inaccuracies or errors. You might find incorrect information about yourself (addresses, phone numbers, etc.) or an account you don’t recognize. If you do find an inaccuracy or error, you can check for instructions in the report on how to inform the credit bureau.

3. Protect Your Personal Information Online

If you haven’t started already, now is the time to take measures against would-be identity thieves who can sabotage your credit score and finances. For example, if you use the same password for everything you do online—”Password123” is not acceptable—you’ll want to up your password game by creating unique logins for every site you frequent, using anti-virus software, and being cautious about what you share online.

4. Protect Your Personal Information Offline

Be careful about what you throw away. Identity thieves can get to your credit by using sensitive information found in your trash, such as bank statements, medical bills, etc.

Also, watch out for scammy phone calls or texts asking for personal information. Protecting your identity offline is just as important as protecting it online.

5. Get Your Financial House in Order

If you currently don’t have an easy way to see your money all in one place, you might want to check out a service like Mint.com, which can provide you with a high-level overview of all your accounts and even help track your credit score. If you know what’s happening in your accounts, it’s easier to spot anything suspicious and stay on top of your credit.

6. Review Your Accounts on a Regular Basis

If you’re not the type to review your credit card accounts on a regular basis, you’ll want to change your ways in order to properly monitor your credit. You can set yourself a weekly reminder to review your charges and balances, and if you do find anything suspicious, report it immediately.

7. See If You Have Credit Monitoring Perks

Some people don’t realize they may already have some form of free, basic credit monitoring. For example, AAA includes free credit monitoring service for members, and many credit card companies, such as Chase, offer free FICO credit scores for cardholders. So why not make credit monitoring easier on yourself by checking if you have some perks you’re not using?

8. Check If Your Info Was Stolen

The Equifax hack is old news at this point, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods.

The personal information of more than 145 million US consumers was compromised, which is almost one out of every two Americans. You can go to equifaxsecurity2017.com to see if you’re one of the many impacted. If you’re indeed one of the hundred of millions of victims, all the more reason to stay on top of monitoring your credit to thwart identity thieves.

9. Stay Motivated and Continue to Monitor Your Credit

Monitoring credit is definitely not fun, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be rewarding. If you’re having difficulty keeping up with all of your responsibilities and watching your credit, find a way to reward yourself for doing well (treat yo self!).

10. Stay Informed

The last step in monitoring your credit is as simple as staying informed and watching your credit score. If you’re monitoring your credit, you might also want to check out what it takes to build good credit. You can be the one friend who’s always informed and in the know when it comes to credit.

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