Lenders look at credit scores as a tool for predicting how well prospective borrowers will pay their debts in the future. Fortunately, there are things you can do to better your score, and improve your chances of gaining funds at a lower interest rate.

Simply paying bills on time is the first key to a better credit rating. Lenders generally are pleased to provide money to consumers who are able to stick to a budget, and make bill payment a priority.

But even being a day late can mean a credit bureau will report that you’ve missed a payment. Set up a system to ensure you’re able to consistently meet those obligations, and you’ll be well on your way to an excellent credit rating.

It’s tempting to close a credit card once the balance is paid off. Yet credit experts say doing so actually can lower your credit score.

Lenders see it as a positive if you have available credit that you’re not using. So if you have several charge cards, make sure none of them is maxed out.

And once you’ve paid off an account, it’s better not to cancel that card. If you do want to cancel a card, select one you haven’t had for long, and which has a low credit limit.

It’s important to periodically review your credit report to check for errors. Do this a few months before you plan to buy a home; if there are issues, it can take several weeks for the credit bureau to correct your report.