6. Take care of your established credit accounts. Another way to increase your credit score is by having a long, positive credit history with a few lenders. Also, once you've opened a credit account, don't be too quick to close it. Contrary to public opinion, closing unused accounts sometimes hurts your score.

7. Don't apply for new credit unless you really need it. Credit scores typically drop when you request or open a new credit account. So be careful when you open a new charge account. Getting "90 Days, Same as Cash" or even a free floppy hat or beach towel is not usually worth the hit on your score.

8. Check your credit at least once a year. Make this a part of a regular, financial "check up." If you're working to increase your score, check it at least once a quarter and note your progress.

9. Protect your identity. The FBI announced recently that "Identity Theft" is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. Your financial identity is tracked primarily through your social security number, mailing address, and other personal information. Keep this information confidential or you could see financial accounts opened in your name and thousands of dollars added to your credit report that aren't yours. While this problem can usually be corrected, your credit score could suffer in the meantime.

10. Be patient. It will take time for the system to raise your score. But every positive step matters and, in nine to eighteen months, you can raise your score dramatically.

Dr. Kregg Hood preaches, teaches, and consults with churches around the country in the area of stewardship, financial ministry, and helping people understand God's powerful principles for managing money. He has authored three books, including his latest, Escape the Debt Trap. Dr. Hood is also a frequent contributor to a wide variety of Christian newspapers, magazines, radio, and television programs. He and his family live near the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.