When you obtain your credit score, you may discover that it is lower than you would like. If your score is very low, you may not be able to obtain credit at all. Unless your score is quite high, you are likely to pay more for credit – higher interest rates and more burdensome terms – than are paid by others with better credit.

It is a good idea to keep your credit score as high as possible. To do so, you need to understand the factors that hurt your credit. In general, your credit score should reflect your past reliability in paying credit. If, for example, you filed bankruptcy, or had a home foreclosed upon, this will have a very negative effect on your credit for a long time. At a lesser level of severity, if you were late in your payments on a credit card, or went over limit on your credit cards, this will also hurt your credit.

Many other things affect your scores. For example, you may have a low credit score, because you have never had any credit cards or other forms of revolving debt and thus you have no track record of paying debt. The best way to maintain good credit is to have a few credit cards, to never go over limit and to pay them promptly.

To understand your credit score, you should obtain a full report from one of the above-mentioned agencies or a similar service. Full reports will include a detailed description of what factors are raising or lowering your score.

If, when you review your report, you find false or inaccurate information, both federal and state law permit you to dispute the information. 15 U.S.C. Section 1681i; California Civil Code 1785.16. You can do this, by filing a written report with the credit agency. This report should describe the information and why it is false or inaccurate.