No credit or bad credit? If you want to get approved for a loan or get decent financing rates, you’ll need to steer your credit into favorable territory. Improving your credit score is no easy feat, but it’s a necessary step to getting back on track. While it can be overwhelming, take it one step at a time and you’ll rate more favorably.

On a previous post, I went over mistakes that can lower your credit score. Here are some tips that will help you improve your credit score.

Take Care of Late Payments

Most people don’t aim to drive their credit into the ground. Everyone forgets to send a payment sooner or later. It happens. Credit card companies are rather lenient in this regard though. Simply call them up and handle the payment promptly. If you have been on time with your other payments, this shouldn’t cause problems. If you have many missed payments though, the worst thing you can do is close the account. Those payments won’t disappear. Set up alerts for yourself so you know when everything is due and stay organized from now on.

Face All Debts Head On

Often in our youth, credit card debt can spiral out of control. It’s easy to charge everything we want and not think about the repercussions. But once you’re older with a family, it’s time to be responsible. If you have an unpaid debt, contact the debt collector about it. You’ll find them listed on your credit report. Offer to make a full payment in exchange for them to stop reporting this debt to the credit agencies and if they agree, be sure to get it in writing.

Sign up for a Credit Card

For those who have never had a credit card, credit scores are deeply affected by this. The best way to build credit, particularly if you don’t have any, is to sign up for a credit card. Please note this is not free license to sign up for EVERY credit card though. One is enough to manage. Make sure you make your payments on time or else it will ruin your efforts to build good credit.

Try a Secured Credit Card Instead

For really bad credit, you won’t be locked out forever. Especially if your mistakes were in your youth. You can prove you’re a responsible cardholder by getting a secured credit card. Simply put a deposit down from your checking account that acts as the limit for spending on your card, for example, $1,000. This will be a great way to prove yourself to creditors. Again, pay on time! Also, after a year of making timely payments, the amount you deposit to the card will be returned to your checking account. Just don’t spend it all in one place!

Don’t Apply Too Much

At the mall, your favorite store offers you 10% off your purchase if you sign up for their credit card. It seems like a great deal but they will run your credit. Every time your credit is checked, it impacts your score a little bit. If you do this often, you’ll find your score has been hit a lot, making it harder for you to get credit when you really need it most.

The first step to getting back on track with credit is to take it. Forgive yourself for your past indiscretions and move forward toward your goal of good credit.