How to Avoid the Post-Holiday Credit Blues

pay off holiday credit card debt

January is always an interesting time because it feels like a new beginning: we’re starting a whole new year, full of exciting possibilities.

For some people, though, January isn’t just about the possibilities; it’s also about dealing with the credit score impact of your decisions during the holidays. Purchases made on credit cards, for example, are now due for most people, resulting in additional holiday stress even though the holidays are over.

Here’s how to handle the post-holiday season and keep yourself from feeling those holiday blues in January.

1. Review your credit card statements against your holiday receipts.

Check to make sure everything you purchased during the holidays is accurately reflected on the card. It’s possible that busy store clerks may have accidentally entered the wrong amount into the credit card terminal, and if you didn’t catch it at the time then you may have overpaid for something. (Chances are, the store may have caught it and reversed the charge … but not necessarily).

2. Check your credit card statements for fraud.

You’ll also want to check your credit card statements for purchases made that were not authorized by you ( e.g., fraudulent purchases). Fraudulent purchases can happen any time of the year, but it can be particularly difficult to notice them during the holidays when we’re buying so much anyway. Through careful analysis of your credit card statements, you should be able to find any purchases that were not made by you. Dispute those purchases right away – that way, you can lower your credit card statement to what it’s supposed to be and avoid overpaying.

3. Pay your credit card bills in full.

For many people, credit card bills are higher in January because of all the extra purchases during the holidays, so it can be tempting to skip a payment or underpay this month. At the very least, you should make your minimum payment on time; however, pay as much of your credit card bill as you can. It might be worth it in the long term to make a few small financial sacrifices this month – that daily latte, a night out with an open bar tab – so your credit cards get paid off.

4. Make sure you scheduled a credit review soon.

You should check your credit at least twice a year, or even monitor your credit and FICO score using free credit monitoring tools. A great time to check your credit is in January or early February, when you can see the impact of the holiday season on your credit and correct any errors that may have come up. You can check your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com.

The holiday season is a joyous time but when it’s over, you can sometimes feel the effect of a holiday “hangover” on your credit. These four strategies can help you on the road back to healthy credit faster.

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