05/01/2012 10:12 am ET Updated Jul 01, 2012

Survey: Consumers Want to Build Their Credit

Nationwide, more consumers are growing aware of the considerable importance their credit rating carries, and the way it affects them in their everyday lives. As a consequence, many are now looking to improve their credit score, but may not be sure how to do it.

These days, the majority of consumers say that the area of personal finance in which they could use the most help is in improving their credit score, according to a new survey from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. In all, 56 percent said they want to build their score but don't know how to do it. In fact, the majority also said that they hadn't taken the time to order a copy of their credit report or credit score at any point in the past 12 months. (If you don't understand how a credit score works, you'll want to take the time to learn.)

Experts note that this is the best way a consumer can get a handle on what areas of their finances need improvement, the report said. Without knowledge of where they're lagging behind and where they're doing well, they may be working toward indeterminate goals.

"What consumers continually fail to understand is that the credit score is based on information contained in the credit report," said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC. "The process of improving the credit score starts with obtaining the credit report, fully understanding the contents, and acting upon that information. Nonetheless, only 5 percent of respondents indicated they needed help understanding their credit report."

The poll also found that consumers want to get control of their spending in general, as 23 percent felt this was their biggest area of concern, the report said. Another 11 percent want to know how to get better at saving money, which can be important to helping avoid taking on large amounts of debt in the event of an emergency.

Federal laws allow consumers to order three free copies of their credit report every calendar year -- one from each of the three credit reporting bureaus -- and experts advise that Americans take advantage of all of them to keep tabs on their credit standing every few months. Doing so will help consumers spot any potentially incorrect or unfair entries on their report, and give them the chance to clear up those mistakes.

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