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Certain exceptions are made if, say, you’re applying for a mortgage or auto loan. The FICO score recognizes you may be rate shopping and will not penalize you.

But other inquiries will count against you. Be sure to know when inquiries are made too.

Rental car agencies, for example, will review your report when you rent a car with a debit card.

Closing a credit card. Finally, while you don’t want to open too many lines of credit, you also don’t want to hastily close old accounts.

The length of your credit history makes up 15 percent of your score.

An additional 30 percent of the score is determined by how much of your available credit you’re using.

If you close an old credit card, you could hurt your rating by both shortening your credit history and raising your ratio of debt to available credit.

Want to learn more? Go to www.myfico.com/crediteducation.

Carolyn Bigda writes Getting Started for the Chicago Tribune. yourmoney@tribune.com.

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