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Posted by Stacey West (NH/MA) on 8/28/2015

When you are looking to buy a home or refinance it is important that your credit is in tip-top shape. It is often a credit score that gets in the way of a home buyer and their dream home. Credit today means everything as far as your purchasing power. So if you want to be ready when opportunity knocks read on for some for smart ideas on how to keep your credit score going up.

1. Use your credit cards.

This may sound funny but it is important to have credit over having no credit. Paying in cash and over using credit cards isnít always a good move for your credit score. Cards that are seldom used are often shut down or closed by the credit card companies. Because 30 percent of your credit score is based on your debt-to-credit-limit ratio you will want to have a high your total available credit. Having one account closed increases that ratio of available credit to debt and thus lowers your credit score.

2. Pay off your credit cards.

It may seem to make sense to pay off the highest-interest card first and save the most money in the end. But your credit score will get a bigger boost from knocking off the lowest-balance card. Instead of spreading your monthly payments equally among credit cards, pay down the lowest-balance card first and pay minimum balances on the rest. As you pay off each card, apply the money you would have paid on it to the next-lowest-balance card.

3. Donít close cards once they are paid off.

The length of time youíve had credit determines fifteen percent of your score. By closing your oldest account, you can shorten the length of your credit history causing a big hit to your score.

4. Keep the balance low

Much of your credit score is determined by your debt-to-credit-limit ratio on individual accounts. Maxing out one card raises your debt-to-credit-limit ratio and your credit score. So be sure to keep balances as low as possible. Try to target no more than 30 percent of your credit limit.

5. Stay away from retail-card accounts.

These are a big no-no. Retail store cards often have lower limits and higher interest rates. So running up balances on low-limit store cards affects your credit score more negatively than does using one or two bank cards. So in the long run the fifteen percent you were going to save on the one purchase will probably cost you more in the end.