PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Hoping to buy a new home, a new car, or get any type of loan  – you’d better be sure your credit score is in good shape, it’s being used in more ways than you might think.

Whether you like it or not, your credit score says a lot about you.  It’s based on the concept that how you’ve handled credit in the past indicates how reliable of a borrower — or employee, for that matter — you’ll be in the future.

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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is offering some advice on how to keep your personal score in shape. A good first step; always pay your bills on time.

Don’t max out those credit cards. Your score will be affected if you get too close to your credit limit. Experts recommend using no more than ten to thirty-percent of your available credit.

Don’t apply for new lines of credit too often. Try to resist the urge to open a store account, or apply for a new card just to transfer balances at a low interest rate.

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But don’t stop using your credit cards altogether, your cards can help you build a credit history. Just try not to carry a balance or miss a payment.

Finally, be sure to monitor your credit. You can do that by visiting http://www.annualcreditreport.com to obtain one free copy of your credit report per year from each of the three major credit bureaus.

Regardless of what those commercials say with the singing banjo player, this site is the only place where you can truly get your credit report for free.

For more information visit: www.consumerfinance.gov.

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