"I pay my bills on time, so I don't have to worry about my credit ..." or "I don't need credit, I pay cash for everything ..." or "I can't wait to completely pay off all of my debt ..." or "My credit score never changes ..." or "Credit cards are bad ..."

Do any of those statements sound familiar? If so, then you might be surprised how wrong you are when it comes to understanding and improving your credit score.

Every time we step out the door it seems that someone wants our Social Security number, or wants to run our credit rating. We can't escape it: We, as Americans, live in a society of credit. Don't let this scare you. With a little bit of know-how, you can feel confident when dealing and even benefiting from these situations.

Even if you don't have loans or other forms of credit, your credit report could affect you in ways you don't know. Of course, you can't have good credit, if you don't have credit at all. The average census online suggests keeping a few credit accounts open with a debt-to-income ratio below 10 percent. Some other tips include staying with the same bank, paying on your account more than once a month and don't buy large items on credit or change your job before applying for new credit.

As most people know, a good credit report allows someone to qualify for a credit card, loan, car, home, and so on. A bad credit score can result in being denied credit, higher interest rates, higher insurance premiums and could even cost you your job. A growing majority of employers now check credit scores before hiring. Federal law allows potential and current employers to view a modified version of a candidate's credit report for employment purposes, such as hiring or promoting.

For these reasons and many more, it is important for you to regularly review your credit history and resolve any problems or delinquencies you see on it. Keep in mind, reviewing your own credit report results will only be seen on a personal credit report and this has no impact on your scores. It is recommended that you check your reports at least once a year. However, if you apply for credit, a lender will pull and review your credit report, adding a "hard inquiry" your report. Hard inquiries, which do affect credit scores, are shown to other lenders because they may show new debt that doesn't yet show on a credit report. The three major nationwide Consumer Reporting Agencies are required to provide to you, upon request, a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months. Those agencies are Equifax, (800) 685-1111, www.equifax.com; Experian, 1-888-397-3742 (www.experian.com), and Trans Union, 1-800-916-8800 (www.transunion.com).