If you want to get a loan for a car or house, or even just apply for a credit card, then you need a good credit score. However, if you’ve defaulted on debt before, that number may be less than stellar. Fortunately, there are ways to rebuild your credit. In fact, by putting these five tips into practice, you can raise your score significantly.

1. Create Good Financial Habits

Good financial habits are the number one way to ensure that you’re not only rebuilding your credit score, but making wise decisions with your money. One good habit is staying on top of your accounts; make sure to look over every statement and check your balance before making purchases. You should also start saving to build up an emergency fund. This is typically equal to six months’ worth of expenses.

2. Work on Paying Down Debts

Whether you have credit cards or loans, there’s interest accumulating. The longer debts go unpaid, the more interest you’ll accumulate and the more you’ll end up spending in the long run. Figure out how much you have to pay toward each debt to chip away at the principal and eventually pay off the full amount. If your debt is overwhelming, you should look into debt consolidation so you’ll only be responsible for one monthly payment at one fixed rate.

3. Make Payments on Time

Making timely payments is crucial to rebuilding your credit, as late payments can be reported to credit bureaus. If you can’t make a payment in full, it’s essential that you contact the merchant or bank to let them know, as they may be able to extend the due date, change it or accept a partial payment. If you have difficulty remembering to make payments, you should consider setting up automatic payments or bill pay.

4. Don’t Take on New Debt

While you’re trying to pay off loans and credit cards, you shouldn’t apply for any other financing. Doing so can end up costing you more, as you’ll likely get high interest rates. You should especially avoid title loans and other financing of that ilk, as the interest rates are astronomical and the lenders’ practices may be predatory.

5. Check Your Score Regularly

You have the right to get your credit score, free of charge, once a year from each of the three credit bureaus: TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. You should look over any marks in your history and ensure none are due to identity theft. If you do find identity theft, you can dispute the mark with the credit bureau.