Many Americans choose online shopping during the Holiday Season for convenience and because many retailers offer special offers and greater discounts to online shoppers. However, shopping online comes with a risk of your identity being stolen. As we’ve heard, almost every year lately, major retails such as Target, Home Depot, etc., have had customer data breaches resulting in millions of customers having their credit information stolen. While, as a shopper, you cannot prevent such large data breaches, you can try protecting your credit information while shopping online by following few advises:
- Do not click on links included in emails you receive that look like they were sent by a retailer, bank or credit card company, and that are asking you to login to your account. Hackers send phishing emails that look like those from your bank or credit card company, or a retailer, in an attempt to make you click on links that will allow them to steal your identity. Instead, go directly to your bank, retailer, credit card company website and click on the links provided on their websites.
- However, if the email contains a special offer or a discount that seems harmless and doesn’t ask you to login to your account after opening it, remember that, if it is a phishing email, clicking on it may open a web page with malicious content that can infect your computer. Most of the time, retailers will post special offers directly on their websites for everyone to see, or, if you’re a member, you can find them in your online account.
- Before entering any login or credit card information on any website, make sure the website has a security certificate installed, i.e. the website address or the url in the browser address bar always starts with: https:// or there is a picture of a lock next to the website address, such as: or . Additionally, if you click on the lock picture, you can view the security certificate information for the website.
- Avoid, as much as possible, to enter your credit card information, if your computer or device is connected to a public network, i.e. airport networks, coffee shops, restaurants, etc…
- Additionally, if you’re in a public place while making an online purchase or payment, make sure there is no one behind you that can view and steal the data you enter on the computer screen or mobile device.
Knowing how you’re going to pay for college is one of the most powerful ways you can set yourself up for success – in college and beyond.
FAFSA: Submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid to get access to federal grants, loans and work-study funds available for college
Scholarships: Visit Tuition Funding Sources for access to over 7 million scholarships worth over $41 billion.
Use the Net Price Calculator (NPC) at each college’s website to estimate your total college costs at that school based on your personal situation. Then, compare the costs, options, and opportunities at different schools.
Additional financial options:
- Tuition payment plans. These plans may be available by colleges to help you pay tuition in interest-free monthly installments instead of one lump sum at the start of the semester.
- Federal Direct PLUS Loans. These student loans, offered by the federal government, are available to graduate or professional degree students and parents of dependent undergraduate students who do not have an adverse credit history.
- Private or alternative student loans. These credit-based student loans may be available for undergraduates, graduates, professional degrees, or qualified certificate or licensure programs. There may also be financing options available for anyone (such as a parent or relative) who may be interested in borrowing to help you pay for college. These loans are provided by banks or other lenders.
Secure Your Internet Access on Public Wi-Fi
If you use public Wi-Fi, connect only to secure sites and avoid accessing financial information or mobile banking.
Protect Your Devices
Your devices are meant to make your life easier, but having them hacked could be trouble. Lock your phone’s access and set strong passwords.
Monitor Your Credit and Finances
Credit card numbers and other personal information can get stolen while traveling. Keep an eye on your bank and other financial accounts to help ensure fraudulent charges don’t get lost in your vacation expenses.
If you graduated high-school recently and want to start building credit in your own name and gain financial independence, applying for a credit card could be a starting point.
What building credit can do for you
Building a credit history can help give you more financial freedom and choices down the road – and possibly lower your interest rates on future purchases, like a car or a home loan.
Use your credit card wisely
Your credit history reflects your ability to use credit responsibly. It’s important to charge only what you can afford, stay within your credit limit, pay more than the minimum monthly payment, and always pay on time.
Your credit report and score can influence the type of home you can afford in different ways. It influences the interest rate of your mortgage, the total amount of money you are qualified to borrow, the lending terms of your mortgage agreement. It is recommended that you check your credit score and report at least three months prior to applying for a home loan. Buying a home is the biggest investment in most people’s lifetime. So, take the time to do your homework, ensure that your credit score is based on accurate credit report information, in order to find a home that fits your budget.
– Don’t max your credit cards
– Keep a healthy credit utilization ratio (most creditors consider a ratio of 35% or lower as healthy)
– Make your monthly credit card payments on time
– Keep tabs on your scores and check your credit report regularly
In general, keeping a low balance on your credit card or paying your credit card off each month is ideal. However, letting your credit cards sit idle, without activity, it may not benefit you as the creditors have nothing to report.
Your VantageScore® and grade is based primarily on a 24-month review of your credit report. Your credit report has information – such as your history of payment punctuality, the total amount of your available credit, the total amount and type of debt you have, the number of open and active accounts, and the longevity of your relationships with creditors.
“Only available as part of TransUnion® Credit Monitoring, the Credit Score Simulator tool shows you ways your current credit score would change based on future actions and events.”
The online credit score simulator is a useful tool that provides an insight of how different factors may affect your credit score. For example, just applying for a new credit card may downgrade your credit score by 2 points.
“With Credit Score Simulator, you won’t just know where your credit score stands, but also where it could go.”
Credit Score Simulator Highlights:
- Learn the easy way by planning credit actions ahead of time
- See how future actions or events would impact your score
- Select from 14 different categories
- Explore thousands of possible credit score simulations!
Most credit card companies will let you change their card’s monthly due date. Doing so may help you spread your expenses more evenly within each month. Just remember, if you end up calling in and getting your monthly due date changed, take note of it so you don’t forget and miss a payment! Also, changing the credit card’s monthly due date may only be allowed once during a specific period of time.
Criminals can install theft devices on top of gas station payment machines to steal your credit card information. To help reduce your risk, choose pumps closer to the gas station’s convenience store and check the machine for anything out of the ordinary before putting your card in.