Holiday shopping may look different this year, with online shopping projected to grow as more shoppers stay at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether you’re planning to shop for the holidays in person, online or a mix of both, you’re probably gearing up to do a bit of spending now.
Make sure that spending doesn’t negatively affect your credit score. Going overboard can get you in financial hot water and damage your credit. All the holiday cheer in the world isn’t worth that.
Here’s how to keep holiday shopping from negatively impacting your credit score.
1. Make Your Payments on Time
In the surge of activity around the holidays – including more emails, physical mail, decorating and errands – it can be easy to forget a bill. But payments more than 30 days late can land on your credit report and lower your credit score for seven years. A single missed payment can do a lot of damage.
If you miss a credit card payment, you could even be hit with late fees or penalty interest rates. Make sure to make your payments on time, every time.
2. Avoid High Credit Utilization
Credit utilization is the amount of available credit you are currently using. For example, if you have one credit card with a $1,000 credit limit and your balance is $500, you are at 50% utilization.
Too much utilization can be damaging to your score, as it indicates that you are over-extended or have trouble maintaining low balances. Pay your credit card balances down as quickly as you can, and don’t think of going near the credit limit if you can avoid it.
3. Buy Only What You Can Afford
You should only buy what you can afford. If you use a credit card for holiday shopping, pay down your entire balance each month before the interest hits. This can help you steer clear of interest, keep your credit utilization low and avoid racking up too much unmanageable debt.
4. Don’t Submit Too Many Credit Applications
Especially during the holidays, retailers might be offering discounts, rewards and other perks if you sign up for their store credit cards. These applications, and any others you submit, can land a hard inquiry on your credit report, which can ding your credit score slightly.
While this is a normal part of the application process, too many inquiries in a short time frame can make you appear desperate for credit and lower your credit score further. Avoid submitting too many credit applications during the holiday season.