Each week the NZ Herald and Newstalk ZB's Cooking The Books podcast tackles a different money problem. Today, it's how to use your credit score to your advantage. Hosted by Frances Cook.

Most of us wouldn't give much thought to our credit score. In fact, depending on who you ask, only between 20 to 40 per cent of New Zealanders even know what a credit score is.

But as with most things in personal finance, knowledge is power. Whether or not you're keeping an eye on it, banks are constantly scoring us on how good we are with our money.

This score can impact everything from getting a credit card, to bagging a new rental house, or even what kind of deal you get when you pay off your bills.

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And yet, while we're ignoring our credit scores, many of us are also tanking them.

Research from Credit Simple shows credit card bills tend to get neglected around this time. Late payments peak in the first quarter of the year, at 7.6 per cent.

Meanwhile research from Canstar shows more of us are using the plastic, up nearly 50 per cent from 2009 to 2017, to hit $43 billion in credit card debt.

Those Kiwis who didn't pay it off in time ended up paying a combined $700 million extra last year, according to Canstar.

But it's not just the obvious debts that can hurt your credit score. There are some sneaky little tests that can hurt your financial plans, if you don't know about them.

The first step is to face the facts, and the second is to leverage all of that new information to your advantage.

I talked to Hazel Phillips from Credit Simple for the latest Cooking the Books podcast.

We talked about what hurts your credit score, what helps it, and how you can use all of this information to help your back pocket.

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For the interview, listen to the podcast.

If you have a question about this podcast, or an idea for the next one, come and talk to me about it. I'm on Facebook here, Instagram here and Twitter here.

Don't forget to subscribe on the Apple podcasts app or I Heart radio, to make sure you never miss an episode.