December 1st, 2005

Get your annual free credit card reports...

Get a copy of your credit reports from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. You get one for free each year from each of them – know precisely where you stand.

Don’t succumb to their ploys to get you to subscribe to a (pretty worthless) "Credit watch" service, although you may want to pay for a copy of your FICO score for a nominal fee from one of the agencies. Personally, I didn't do this. I just took the free reports.

While you’re at the site of each reporting agency, take time to opt-out from pre-approved credit offers, so a pre-approved application doesn't’t land in your mailbox, waiting for someone to steal it and your identity.

Get your three free reports, from Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian, here: (Warning, you have to provide some personal information, some of them account numbers, to verify your identity, so it's best to do this when/where you have access to such information.)

The Experian report gives you monthly balance information on your credit cards, which I found interesting.

These are my only two credit cards, and I pay off both of them each month, and for every dollar spent on each of them, I receive frequent flyer points. That's why I charge everything I can (groceries, gas, recurring bills, eating out, auto and house insurance, all of my medical bills, etc.) to my cards.

This allows me to virtually write one check a month for everything I buy. And in reality, I pay these bills online with a bank transfer, so I don't ever really write a check for them.

I write so few checks any more. In fact, just within the last three months, I finished up a box of checks that still had the address on them of the house that I lived in with my wife up until 1994. Yes, for 11 years, I stuck return address labels of my new addresses onto the upper lefthand corner of my checks. But I digress.

The almost $9000 due on my June 2005 AMEX card was the month I charged our Alaskan Cruises, among my "normal" expenses. Of course, I charged my parents' trip on my card to get the points, and they wrote me a check to reimburse me. They couldn't care less about frequent flyer points.

You laugh; I've already taken two trips this year on frequent flyer points, and am about to take two more (me and Robert) to Tahoe in a couple of weeks.

Why not take advantage of money you're going to spend anyway? The expenditures on these two cards have netted me almost 60,000 points -- that's two free tickets, and then some.

I received my first Christmas card in the mail today. It was from my ex-mother-in-law and -father-in-law.
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