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Once you decide you’re mentally, emotionally and financially ready for homeownership, it’s a good idea to check your credit score, as it will largely determine the terms of your mortgage. If your credit score is lower than you’d like due to missed payments or maxed-out cards, it’s in your best interest to put off purchasing a home until your credit score rises.

With a few strategies and a commitment to smart money management, you can boost your score and save yourself a lot of money in the long run. Just follow these tips:

Find Your Score

Ask your banker/credit union representative for your credit score. Credit scores range from 300 to 850; a score around 700 is considered good, while anything above 720 is excellent. A score below 620 is generally considered poor. Once you know your starting point you can create a goal credit score and map out a plan of how you will get there.

Don’t Close Old Accounts

A part of your credit score comes from how long you’ve had credit, and the longer a card is open, the higher your score will be. Keep old accounts open; they can help boost your score and balance out newer lines of credit.

Pay Down Your Credit Card Bills

Start by paying down your card with the highest interest rate first, and aim to get all balances below 50% of your credit limit. Since 33% of your credit score is based on the amount you owe, work on relieving your debt in any way that you can.

Don’t Open New Cards That You Don’t Need

Avoid opening new cards at department stores or gas stations for one-time promotional discounts. New cards carry 10% of your credit score, and can bring down the average age of your credit, lowering your score even more.