For millennials who may be new to managing credit and financial activities, protecting a credit score might not seem like a big deal until it comes time to borrow money, buy a car, or even buy a house. Good credit is a huge factor in whether you’ll be able to get future mortgages, car loans and credit cards and now is the time to get on the right track.

According to Experian’s 2013 State of Credit report, released late last year, Millennials have the lowest average credit score at just 628. That’s more than 100 points lower, on average, than the Greatest Generation at 735. Furthermore, Boomers average a 700 and Generation X averages a score of 653.

So what kind of financial advice can help you keep your credit score as undamaged as possible? We’ve got five tips to get you started.

Know your credit score

Robert Palmer is big on his rules of Saving Thousands, and if you’re an avid listener, you know that Rule 2 is know your numbers. Unfortunately, there are fewer than half of millennials who are taking advantage of their free credit report, which is offered to consumers once a year. Just the act of knowing your credit score will help you determine if you will qualify for credit and what is already on your credit report. Before you take the plunge to apply for a credit card or loan, educate yourself on your credit score and credit report.

Pay off debt you already have

That’s right, before you decide to open new credit, make sure you pay off your current credit card debt. Delinquent small loans, credit lines, and credit cards can puncture your credit score immensely. Cleanup your credit report by paying these debts off first- particularly if they have a history of late payments. Late payments and other delinquencies reflect an irresponsible borrower.

Shop around before you decide

Another Saving Thousands rule that can literally save you thousands, is to always shop around (it is actually Rule 1). When it comes annual fees and annual percentage rates (APR) every card is different. You can apply for a credit card that offers cash back rewards or you can elect a card that offers airfare points. Take the time and really get to know your options.

Pay your credit cards on time

Two of the most important tips to a higher credit score is making your payments on time and in full. Understand that credit utilization refers to how much of your available credit you use on a monthly basis. It is defined as your total open credit card balances divided by your total open credit card limits. A good rule of thumb is if you can see that you’re going to cross the 30 percent utilization line, request an increase in credit.

 Start saving now

It is never a bad time to start saving. According to Rule 10 of Robert Palmer’s Saving Thousands, your savings account should equal three months worth of your gross pay.

Don’t abuse credit, but don’t be afraid of it either. Right now is the perfect time to start getting your financials in line so that you can one day own a house or buy a car.