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Top Five Ways To Protect Credit, Prevent Fraud This Holiday Season

DETROIT (WWJ) - With the most popular shopping day of the year just around the corner, consumers are encouraged to make informed decisions about holiday spending when taking advantage of Black Friday and all holiday deals.

"Americans are expected to outspend last year's holiday shopping season by 4.5 percent so this is going to be a very big spending year," John Ulzheimer, a credit expert for Credit Sesame, said in a statement. "Many consumers approach the shopping season without a budget or spending plan, which can wreak havoc on your personal finances. It's important to stay conscious of your budget and how your spending will affect your credit in the year to come."

Consider the following when spending for the holidays this year:

1. Avoid Opening New Retail Store Cards
Retail store credit cards often have very high interest rates and very low credit limits, which means that even modest balances can harm your credit scores.

2. Use Credit Over Debit and Cash
Data breaches have become a common occurrence, so choose your payment methods wisely. If your credit card information is hacked in a data breach, you won't be held liable for any unauthorized charges on the card. You can't say the same if your debit card information, prepaid debit card information or cash is stolen.

3. Don't Spend More Than Can Be Paid in Full... By January
Meaning, don't go into debt when you're shopping for the holidays. Consumers should aim to spend an amount lower than what they can comfortably pay off by the due date of their December statement – usually around mid to late January.

4. Check Credit Reports Before December 31st
Use resources to check your credit report and get your credit score for free. As the New Year approaches, consumers often set resolutions to improve their credit scores or financial situations. One cannot improve their credit score without first knowing what's on their credit report.

5. Use the Credit Card With the Highest Limit for Holiday Shopping
This credit score protection strategy focuses on keeping the credit card balance to credit limit ratio, or revolving utilization, low. Credit scoring models like to see balances that do not eat up too much of the credit limit.

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