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      Knowing your credit score

      It's one of the most important numbers in your life....your credit score.

      But according to the American Bankers Association, just 42 percent of Americans know their credit score.

      Credit scores are used for a multitude of things in a person's life.

      It can determine everything from interest rates on loans to even getting a job.

      That little number really has a big impact on your financial welfare.

      "It helps to tell you how responsible they are. If their credit score is higher that means they're more responsible," said Mark Curran, President of Curran & Company.

      The average American has a credit score of 633.

      A score 680 and above is considered good to excellent.

      "Financial institutions, credit card companies are required to report that data to the credit bureaus. So anything that you owe on loans, mortgages, credit cards, everything shows up on your credit card. Anything referred to collections," said Dan Freberg, Harvey Branch Manager at the Marquette Community Federal Credit Union.

      Contributing factors in your credit score is payment history, outstanding debt, credit history length, type of credit received and how often you fill out credit applications.

      What really packs a punch to your credit score is paying your bills and total debt, which account to 65 percent of your score, according to the Consumer Federation of America.

      Your credit score is watched by financial institutions, credit card companies,insurance companies, employers, even landlords.

      "You know sometimes we do get people with lower credit scores than our standards. And we'll always look at it, because sometimes there might be a graduate student with high student loans and that can drive their credit score down," said Curran.

      Freberg says if you have no credit or you're just starting out, paying your bills on time is the best way to create a good score.

      "The biggest factor for keeping a good credit score is paying your bills on time. You pay your bills on time and you're not late, it's over a third of what makes up your credit score," said Freberg.

      There are two types of credit checks.

      One by financial institutions.

      They check your score when you're applying for a loan or a credit card.

      That will affect your credit score negatively.

      Freberg says checking your own credit score often is a very good idea, and a great way to keep yourself on track and in check financially.

      He says www.creditkarma.com is one of many easy and free websites to use in order to get a weekly credit report.

      And checking your own credit is considered a soft inquiry, so it does not affect your credit negatively.