Dear Readers: Wondering how to clean up your credit, or thinking about giving some advice to a young person about responsible credit usage? What are the parameters lenders look at before issuing you credit? Let’s take a look at what matters:

Recent Credit, or applications for new credit. The fewer applications, the better.

Credit Mix, or the types of credit you have. Can you balance your mortgage or rent payment with your revolving credit card payments? If you can, that’s a plus.

The Length of your Credit History, or how long you’ve been borrowing money. If you’ve managed credit payments well for a long time (several years), that’s a good thing.

Credit Usage, or credit utilization. This is a measure of how much credit you are using, versus the amount of credit you have available. Keep this number low — below 30%.

Payment History, or paying your bills on time. This is the most important factor lenders look at. After all, if they are lending you money, they want to be reasonably assured they will get repaid, and the only measure they have is your past performance.

These items, listed above from least important to most important, are the biggest determining factors in establishing your credit worthiness.

— Heloise

Where to write: Got a hint you want to share? Send your tips and tricks to: Heloise, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5000. Send a fax to 1-210-HELOISE, or email Heloise@Heloise.com