Your credit score is important when applying for a loan as your credit score is viewed as a marker of your overall financial responsibility.

For instance, you’ll likely undergo a credit check when you rent an apartment, apply for an insurance policy and set up utilities in your home. Some employers even look at your credit before deciding whether or not to extend a job offer to you. Because your credit is scrutinized so frequently, it’s important to understand what types of information most creditors evaluate.

Here are five tips to help keep your credit, and the rest of your financial life, on the right track:

  1. Payment history. Make payments on time every month. Late payments are a negative. The later the payment, the more points you lose.

  2. Credit utilization. Don’t max out your credit limit, even if you plan to pay off the bill every month. Some scoring models like to see 30% or less of your available credit used each month.

  3. Credit history. The longer you own a credit card, the more it improves your score (provided you pay it off every month).

  4. Credit use. Scoring models look at how many forms of credit you have (credit cards, auto, mortgage, utilities, etc.) and how well you manage them.

  5. New credit. It’s okay to apply for a credit card, but if you apply for several at the same time, it may be an indication you’re using one to pay off others and that could be looked at as a negative.

It’s easy to get preapproved. Simply fill out an application or visit your local branch, and then shop with confidence knowing what you can afford.