We continue our look at the importance of credit. Last week, we showed you how to get started establishing it. Now, we take a deeper dive into your credit report.

Millions of Americans are applying for new jobs, planning home renovations and looking to buy real estate — all of which are more attainable with a good credit score.

“Having a good credit report and a good credit score is truly the key to unlocking, I would say, your whole financial future,” Lisa Gill, Investigative Reporter, Consumer Reports says. “It’s like the best gift you can give yourself.”

Lisa recognizes that how your credit report is calculated is often ambiguous but there are straightforward ways to keep your scores from dipping.

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First off, don’t close credit card accounts even if you’re not using them.

“It’s important because it would change the credit to debt ratio in your credit report, which could actually negatively affect your credit score,” Lisa added. “So don’t rush to close these accounts. Keep them open as long as you can.”

Another important strategy, if you’re shopping for a mortgage or a car loan, try to submit your applications within a one-month period.

“Those lenders are doing what’s called a hard pull on your credit, and when they do that, it dings your credit by a couple of points.”

If you do your applications in a 30-day window, credit bureaus usually consolidate the applications, which can lower the negative impact on your overall credit score.

It’s also important to think carefully when looking for credit cards.

“Don’t apply for credit cards that you don’t want or that you don’t think you can actually get because it will also negatively show on your account,” Lisa says.

Lastly, pay off debts in collections as soon as possible. Lisa says to pay down any kind of credit card debt so you’re not using any more than about 30% of your revolving credit. She also recommends you check your credit report for errors that could be negatively affecting your score.

You can get a free copy of your report through the authorized website, annualcreditreport.com.