If your credit score isn't as high as you'd like, you're not alone. According to Experian, more than 50% of consumers in the US have a credit score that's considered Poor (550-649) or Very Poor (549 & below). Your credit score impacts everything from buying a car to the apartment you rent to whether or not you can get a decent cell phone plan. A poor credit score can keep you from reaching your financial goals and living the life you want. The good news is that your credit score can change; it's just a matter of understanding it.

Since 2010, Credit Sesame has helped millions of consumers manage their credit score and continues to provide people with education and tools needed to take control over their finances. If you have a low credit score and are not sure how to improve it, start by identifying which of these 5 common credit mistakes you might not know you're making.

1. You don't check your credit score

Checking your credit is free of charge, and yet many of us rarely do it. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that as many as 20% of consumers have errors on one of their credit reports, many of which go unnoticed. Errors, like a wrong address might seem small, but the effects can wreak havoc on your score. Consumers who check their credit reports regularly are able to spot errors and dispute them more quickly, avoiding the effects of potential low marks. Credit Sesame makes it easy to keep tabs on your credit score without negatively impacting your score.

2. You miss credit card payments

Your payment history may be the most important factor affecting your credit score. Paying your balance in full each month can help maintain a strong score, but if you miss payments, this can cause your score to suffer. One common reason people miss payments is that their due dates don't align with pay cycles. Consider calling your bank to change your due date , and signing up for automatic payments. If you can't pay the balance each month, try to pay the minimum to ensure payments are still being made.

3. You don't diversify your credit

Almost 40% of Americans have only a single line of credit but having multiple lines of credit in good standing shows agencies that you can manage multiple accounts effectively. This doesn't mean you should take out a car loan simply to have more lines of credit. Instead, you could replace your debit card with a credit card as your go-to method of payment for everyday expenses. Just be sure to pay off your monthly balance to avoid interest payments. Credit Sesame is a great resource and gives its users personalized tips and lets them know about relevant financial opportunities.

4. You max out your cards

Credit utilization measures the amount of available credit you have and how close you are to reaching your limit. For example, if you have a limit of $8,000 and charge $6,000, your utilization is 75%--in other words, too high. People with the best credit scores make sure to keep their utilization below 10% of their available credit, and never more than 40%. If you can't reduce your spending to lower your utilization, see if you can request a credit limit increase.

5. You close your old accounts

Having a longer credit history suggests to lenders that you're more likely to be a trustworthy borrower. Americans with 11+ years of credit history have on average a 100-point lead in their credit scores. Nearly half of Americans could have a higher credit score if they simply left unused accounts open, because this could diversify credit and lower overall utilization.

Whether you want to keep tabs on your credit, improve your score, or get approved for a loan with a better interest rate, Credit Sesame makes it easy. Start by getting your free credit check at Credit Sesame today , and take the first step towards financial freedom.

Update: The folks at credit sesame are extending a special offer to our readers. Follow this link for a free credit consultation including your free credit report summary and score!

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NBC

Over the past month, both Haiti and Afghanistan have been pummeled by tragic disasters that left devastation in their wake.

In Haiti, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake erupted, leading over to 2,189 deaths and counting. A few hours later, in Afghanistan, Kabul fell to the Taliban just after U.S. troops had pulled out after 20 years of war.

In many ways, these disasters are both chillingly connected to US interference. The United States invaded Haiti in 1915, ostensibly promising to restore order after a presidential assassination but really intending to preserve the route to the Panama Canal and to defend US creditors, among other reasons.

But the US forces soon realized that they were not able to control the country alone, and so formed an army of Haitian enlistees, powered by US air power and intended to quell Haitian insurrection against US controls. Then, in 1934, the US pulled out on its own, disappointed with how slow progress was going. Haiti's institutions were never really able to rebuild themselves, leaving them immensely vulnerable to natural disasters.

Something similar happened in Afghanistan, where the US sent troops and supported an insurgent Afghan army – only to pull out, abandoning the country they left in ruins, with many Afghans supporting the Taliban.

In both cases, defense contractors benefited by far the most from the conflict, making billions in profits while civilians faced fallout and devastation. While the conflicts and circumstances are extremely different and while the US is obviously not solely to blame for either crisis, it's hard not to see the US-based roots of these disasters.

Today, in Haiti and Afghanistan, civilians are facing unimaginable tragedy.

Here are charities offering support in Afghanistan:

1. The International Rescue Committee is looking to raise $10 million to deliver aid directly to Afghanistan

2. CARE is matching donations for an Afghanistan relief fund. They are providing food, shelter, and water to families in need; a donation of $89.50 covers 1 family's emergency needs for a month.

3. Women for Women International is matching donations up to 500,000 for Afghan women, who will be facing unimaginable horrors under Taliban control.


4. AfghanAid offers support for people living in remote regions of Afghanistan.

5. VitalVoices supports female leaders and changemakers and survivors of gender-based violence around the world.

Here are charities offering support in Haiti:

1. Partners in Health has been working with Haiti for a long time, and they work with the Department of Health rather than around them, which is extremely important in a charity.

2. Health Equity International helps run Saint Boniface Hospital, a hospital in Haiti close to the earthquake's epicenter.

3. SOIL is an organization based Haiti, "a local organization with a track record of supporting after natural disasters." They are distributing hygiene kits and provisions on the ground to hospitals and to victims of the earthquake.

4. Hope for Haiti has been working in emergency response in Haiti for three decades, and their team is comprised of people who live and work in Haiti. They focus on supporting children and people in need across Haiti.

via Tiffany & Co.

When the new Tiffany's campaign was unveiled, reactions were mixed.

Tiffany's, the iconic jewelry brand which does not (despite what some might be misled to believe) in fact serve breakfast, featured Jay Z, Beyoncé, and a rare Basquiat painting in their recent campaign.

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Road trips can be a lot of fun — but they can also drain your wallet quickly if you aren't careful.

From high gas costs and park admission fares to lodging and the price of eating out every night, the expenses can add up quickly. But at the same time, it's very possible to do road trips cheaply and efficiently. Without the headache of worrying about how much money you're leaking, you can enjoy the open road a whole lot more. Here's how to save money on a road trip.

1. Prepare Your Budget, Route, and Packing List in Advance

If you want to save money on a road trip, be sure you're ready to go. Try to count up all your expenses before you hit the road and create a budget. It's also a good idea to plan your route in advance so you don't end up taking unnecessary, gas-guzzling detours. And finally, be sure to pack in advance so you don't find yourself having to buy tons of things you forgot along the way.

2. Book Cheap Accommodations — Or Try Camping

All those motel rooms can add up surprisingly quick, but camping is often cheap or free, and it's a great way to get intimate with the place you're visiting. You can check the Bureau of Land Management's website for free campsites. Freecampsite.com also provides great information on If you don't have a tent or don't want to camp every night, try booking cheap Airbnbs or booking hotels in advance, making sure to compare prices.

Camping camping road tripConde Nast Traveler

If you're planning on sleeping in your car, a few tips: WalMart allows all-night parking, as do many 24-hour gyms. (Buying a membership to Planet Fitness or something like it also gives you a great place to stop, shower, and recharge while on the road).

3. Bring Food From Home

Don't go on a road trip expecting to subsist on fast food alone. You'll wind up feeling like shit, and it'll drain your pocketbook stunningly quickly. Instead, be sure to bring food from home. Consider buying a gas stove and a coffee pot for easy on-the-go meals, and make sure you bring substantial snacks to satiate midday or late night cravings so you can avoid getting those late night Mickey D's expeditions.

Try bringing your own cooler, filling it with easy stuff for breakfast and lunch — some bread and peanut butter and jelly will go a long way. Bring your own utensils, plates, and napkins, and avoid buying bottled water by packing some big water jugs and a reusable water bottle. Alternatively, try staying at hotels or Airbnbs with kitchens so you can cook there.

4. Avoid Tolls

Apps like Google Maps and Waze point out toll locations, so be sure to avoid those to save those pennies. (If it takes you too far off route, you might have to bite the bullet and drive across that expensive bridge).

You can also save on parking fees by using sites like Parkopedia.

Road Trip Road TripThe Orange Backpack


5. Save on Gas

Gas can get pricy incredibly fast, so be sure that you're stopping at cheap gas stations. Free apps like GasBuddy help you find the most affordable gas prices in the area. Also, try going the speed limit on the highways — anything faster will burn through your tank. Be sure that you don't wait till you arrive at touristy locations or big cities to fill up.

6. Get a National Park Pass

All those parks can get really expensive really fast. If you're planning on visiting three or more parks, it's a great idea to get an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass. For $80 you can get into every National Park for one year.