1) Pay all of your bills on time. According to myfico.com, your payment history makes up 35 percent of your credit score.   Even one late payment can lower your score dramatically.

2) Closing any credit card accounts just before you apply for a loan is bad! Credit utilization, the amount of all revolving debt divided by your overall credit lines, accounts for 30% of your score, according to myfico.com.  The more credit you have available to use, the lower your credit utilization.  The lower your credit utilization, the higher your score.  When you have more credit available, you have a better chance of getting a desirable interest rate on the loan. Wait until after you secure the loan to close the card.

3) Request copies of your credit scores at least a two to three months before making any major purchases, such as a home.  This will allow you to take simple steps now to help get your credit in the best shape for that loan.

4) Educate yourself. Search online, take a course, ask a friend to learn all you can and be your own financial expert. No one will take care of your money like you!

5) Close store cards if you must close any accounts — unless those cards are your oldest accounts. In addition, the limit on store credit cards is often very low, as little as $500.  At such a low limit, carrying a balance of $300 puts your credit utilization at 60%, which lowers your score.

6) Do not close your oldest credit cards. Part of the credit rating formula is longevity. Fifteen percent of your FICO score is the average age of all your trade lines, according to myfico.com.

7) Open a credit card if you don’t already have one. Having new credit accounts for 10 percent of your score, according to myfico.com.  If you’ve never had a credit card before or your credit is a little spotty, you may be able to open a secured card with a deposit.  Do some research and shop around for the best terms – interest rates vary widely.  Make sure that any card you wind up getting reports to the credit bureaus so you get credit for timely payments.

8) Opening multiple new cards at the same time is a bad idea! Each time you apply for new credit, an inquiry is placed on your credit report, which can lower your score by anywhere from 2 to 20 points, depending upon the number and frequency of applications.

9) Call your lenders and ask for your interest rates to be decreased. Having lower interest rates will help you to pay off your debt sooner, decreasing your credit utilization. Make a game plan and get out of debt!

10) Protect your information from fraud and identity theft. Sign your card as soon as you receive it, shred statements before disposing of them, and keep a list of phone numbers for all of your lenders in case your wallet gets stolen.