MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — With holiday spending often comes overspending, sometimes justified by ever-competitive credit card rewards programs. Financial expert Shannon Doyle, from LSS Financial Services, urges consumers be mindful of how they’re going to pay for holiday gifts, to avoid debt.

She says the strategy starts with understanding how much you’re spending.

“We are seeing credit card debt rise, and we’re also seeing savings fall,” said Doyle. “So to me as a financial counselor, when I see those two things happen, I think, ‘Uh oh. People are overspending. They’re spending more than they’re earning.’”

Besides knowing what you spend, Doyle urges consumers pay attention to what they’re using credit cards for, and being mindful that the rewards can change. Companies, however, will usually give its customers notice ahead of significant changes.

The higher stake rewards, especially the bigger travel perks, usually come with two things: minimum spending within the first few months, and higher interest rates. Experts say the best time to sign up for that time of card is right before a large payment, but only if it was money you were going to spend anyways.

Doyle encourages consumers consider closing a card they no longer have use for, if it has an annual fee and is no longer serving its rewards purpose. When it comes to how that affects credit scores, she says, it generally won’t impact users significantly.

“When you think about the credit score pie, it’s like a pie chart and you have two areas of your credit score that are the largest pieces of that pie: paying your bills on time, and your debt to credit ratio,” said Doyle. “So the other piece, closing an account, is a little piece of the pie.”

Experts at Credit Karma urge caution in a few areas. It advises against closing too many accounts at once, as that might look suspicious to creditors, and closing the oldest account on the credit report, as that serves as a marker for credit history.

Christiane Cordero

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