Navigating credit reports and credit scores can get tricky and confusing, but there are some key things you can focus on to ensure you’re getting the most out of the time you spend managing your outstanding credit and new credit requests.

Credit reporting agencies are notorious for being secretive about how exactly they get your score, but the following tips from Money Crashers may provide some insights that can help you maintain and manage your credit and debt.

Your credit score is affected by four major factors:

  1. Your Past Payment History. This accounts for 35% of your credit score. If you’ve made late payments, skipped payments, or failed to pay your debt at all, your credit report will show it, and your credit score will go down. On-time payments improve your credit score, which is why good accounts should never be closed – since that credit history will eventually vanish from your report.
  2. The Amount of Money You Owe. This is known as “credit utilization,” and it impacts 30% of your credit score. Credit utilization just means the ratio of credit you have available versus the amount you actually owe. For example, someone with $10,000 in available credit on various credit lines who owes $2,000 has a credit utilization of 20% (2,000 divided by 10,000).
  3. How Long You’ve Had Credit. The longer you have had accounts in good standing, the better your credit score will be. This makes up 15% of your credit score.
  4. The Amount of New Credit and Types of Credit Accounts You Have. This accounts for 20% of your credit score and includes both how often you have applied for credit, and which credit accounts you’ve secured. If you apply for 10 credit cards in one year, you’ll be seen as a bigger risk than someone who applies for one card in a year. This is because it seems like you’re trying to take on a huge amount of credit all at once, and thus, your credit score suffers. Plus, the credit companies think that a person with different types of credit – such as a car loan, a credit card, a student loan, and a mortgage – may be a lower risk borrower than someone with just high interest credit cards or a bunch of department store cards.

Whether you’re looking to request new credit soon, or are simply trying to maintain your credit score, focusing on these four key credit score data points will help you reach your financial goals.