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Why is good credit so important?

Today's economy runs on credit. If you want to get a mortgage loan for a house or a student loan to pay for college, or if you just want to put your lunch on a credit card, a company is extending credit to you.

Your creditworthiness is defined by your three-digit credit score and is the key to your financial life. Good credit can be the make-or-break detail that determines whether you'll get a mortgage, car loan or student loan. On the other hand, bad credit will make it more difficult for you to get a credit card with a low interest rate and it will make it more expensive to borrow money for any purpose, says Liz Pulliam Weston, author of "Your Credit Score."

But even if you're not in the market for a loan, good credit can have a major impact, Weston says.

"Your credit information can be a factor in whether or not you can rent a nice apartment, how much you pay for insurance or whether or not you can get a job," she says. Landlords, insurers and employers frequently use credit information as a litmus test to see if the people they are dealing with are reliable and responsible.

Bad credit can suggest you're a risky bet. While bad credit may only show the details of how you deal with debt, some will extrapolate the characteristics from your financial life to other situations and assume that your bad credit implies that you may be just as irresponsible driving a car, taking care of an apartment or showing up for a job, Weston notes.

Good credit can signify that your financial situation -- and the rest of your life -- is on the right track.

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