Miss a car payment? A few late credit card fees? Before you know it, you could have bad credit. It can make your life miserable, and much more expensive. A new study by insurancequotes.com says it can even raise your insurance rates! In some cases, bad credit can almost triple your insurance rates. Even having “average” credit scores, instead of “good” scores, can increase your homeowner’s insurance rate by about 37% in Washington state.

Experts say insurance companies use credit scores to determine how much of a risk you are.

“They have found that customers with poor credit file more claims, so they are riskier customers. So those consumers end up paying more. And then if you got good credit or excellent credit you’re getting a really good price break.” says insurance analyst Laura Adams. She adds, if you have good credit scores, “they believe that you will not be a risky customer; that you will not be filing future claims; and give you a break for that.”

You might be able to lower your insurance rates by raising your credit score – and that starts with monitoring.

You can get a free copy of your credit report through the three credit report bureaus. Find more information about that by clicking here.

Once you know what your credit score is, you will want to build it up. That starts with paying outstanding debts, lowering your overall debt by paying off credit cards and loans, and paying bills on time. If you have a hard time keeping track of when bills are due, you might want to consider signing up for auto-pay options, or setting reminders for yourself to make sure you aren’t late.