Are you a serial balance checker?

If youíre strapped for cash half-way through the month and constantly checking your bank account to see what you can afford, you are probably not alone.

According to a new survey, one in five people check their bank account at least once a day, with a further 22 per cent making sure theyíve got enough to get by more than three times a week. As a result, almost 40 per cent of us claim to know how much cash weíve got, to the nearest £5.

ìTechnology has made it easier to keep an eye on our spending but this generation of compulsive bank balance checkers is missing a trick,î says Experian Interactive managing director Peter Turner.

ìAlmost all of them rely on some form of credit, as the survey found that theyíre feeling the pinch just 17 days after payday. And understanding what you owe and how youíre coping with repayments is just as important as knowing what youíve got in the bank. Manage credit properly and it could help your money to go further.î

Start with the basics

If youíre feeling the pinch, itís easy to take the credit that keeps you afloat for granted, so get a reality check by looking at your credit report. This lists your credit accounts, from mobile phone and catalogue accounts to cards, loans and your mortgage, along with your repayment history. It gives you a snapshot of what you owe and how well you are coping.

Drop what you donít need

Direct debits, subscriptions, old accounts ñ they can all drain money from your bank account without you really noticing, so go through your bank and card statements, and credit report, looking for anything thatís now redundant, such as subscriptions that you no longer use. Closing down any credit accounts you donít need can also remove temptation, and could help to improve your credit score.

Pay less when you borrow

Lower interest payments mean more money in your pocket but to get the best deals, you need an immaculate credit history thatís up to date and accurate. Check for any errors in your credit report, such as inconsistencies in the way your address is recorded, and ask the relevant lender to amend them. Register to vote at your current address and, if circumstances such as illness or an accident explain past problems, add a note of explanation.

Remember your repayments

No matter how tight money is, try never to skip or delay a repayment without talking to your lender first. The evidence will stay on your credit report for at least three years, showing other lenders that you may not be reliable. Direct debits may be the best solution. And if you really canít make a repayment, ask the lender if you can pay later or reschedule the debt, so repayments can become more affordable month by month.

Target the deals you want

Even in todayís climate, thereís a flood of advertising for different cards, loans and other credit. The knack is to do your research carefully and to be realistic. Use personal finance and price comparison sites to find the offer that best matches your circumstances. Donít send of lots of applications in the hope that someone will say yes ñ each one will trigger a search of your credit report, which leaves a record that will be seen by other lenders. Too many, too quickly, could make them fear that youíre desperate, or may make them suspect a fraud.

Keep on top of your credit score

The higher your credit score, the better the deals you should get ñ if you let it slip, some lenders may even charge extra interest on existing accounts. So schedule in regular checks on your credit report as well as your bank account and find out your Experian Credit Score ñ you can see it as often as you like when you take a free, 30-day trial of CreditExpert.

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