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A credit score is a valuable number that you should take care to improve or maintain.

The higher the number the more likely you are to get the best interest rates for a home, an automobile, a credit card and a personal loan. Today this number means more than ever. It can help you to acquire auto insurance from a premier company and it can even factor into whether or not you land a job.

For these, and many other reasons, maintain a good score is a must. If your score has taken a hit or two in the past year, not to worry, there are ways to improve it.

1. Transfer Balances on High-Interest Cards

You may not know this, but there are many companies who will approve you for a credit card and allow you to transfer a balance or two from pre-existing cards. The deal gets even better; most, if not all of them offer an introductory interest-free period for anywhere from 6 months up to a year. This is a great way for you to stop the accumulating interest and pay down your existing balances quickly. You can go to sites such as CreditSoup.com and find the perfect one for you.

Related: 4 Questions to Consider Before a Balance Transfer

2. Pay Your Bills on Time

There’s no better way to keep your credit score in check then by paying your bills on time. This is where budgeting and disciple really play a vital role. While you may want things, even need these, you have to do everything within your means to stay on track and make your monthly payments. Even one late or one missed payment will reduce your score.

Often the problem is that your budget is tight to begin with and giving in to an impulse purchase with money you don’t have now translates into late payments. If you do this often enough you’ll end up missing a payment entirely. Instead, learn how to save up the money for the extras.

This way your credit score will remain good and you won’t add any more debt to your budget.

3. Reduce Your Debt

Even if you pay your bills in a timely fashion you could still end up with a lower credit score than you might desire. The reason for this is simple, too much outstanding debt can often have the same negative results on a credit report as making late payments. Debt is something that often creeps up slowly.

The only time you really pay attention to it is if you are applying for something and don’t get the approval or you pay your bills and there’s nothing left over. Having a mortgage and a car payment is fine. However, if you have more than 5 credit cards and a personal loan too, you might end up actually reducing your good score. The reason is that your credit score consists of many factors including the amount of outstanding debt, the amount of revolving credit, how much you make and your payment history.

Credit cards are revolving credit and even though you may only use half of the money available, the reporting agency bases your score on the amount of credit you have at your disposal. If you want to raise your credit score limit the number of credit cards and personal loans to 5 or 6. Any more than that and you will have difficulty raising your score.

Consequences of a Bad Credit Score

A bad credit score isn’t just a number. It, unfortunately, acts as a reflection of you and your credit worthiness.

Fair, or not fair, this is how the system works.

A score below 700 can take you out as a contender for the best interest rates, whereas a score below 550 can take away your ability to even acquire a home.

A low credit score also requires a deposit on things like cell phone service, gas, water and electric. It can also get you denied as a tenant, even if you have the cash in hand to pay the monthly rent. The credit card companies that will accept you charge a higher interest rate and some even have an annual fee just to have the card.

Maintaining a good credit score is very important. It can open doors, get you luxurious things and help you to pay less in interest. If you’re working on a tight budget, work quickly to reduce it. The benefits of having a good score are plentiful.

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