These days, everyone seems to be concerned about his or her credit score. Lenders and credit bureaus have made it clear that the credit score, whether the new VantageScore model or the FICO score model, is a vital part of determining whether or not to extend credit to a consumer. The score is a distillation of several factors that make up a consumer’s credit history, and it allows a lender to see, at a glance if the would-be borrower is worthy of the loan.

Not only will a high credit score make it more likely that a consumer will get a loan, but the score will also help determine whether that loan will be granted at a favorable interest rate. The best interest rates are given to those with the best scores, and those with lower scores will have to pay higher interest rates and fees. Because of this, many consumers are interested in knowing how to improve their scores, and there is no shortage of companies that are willing to provide advice on that topic for a fee.

But the one thing that every consumer can do to increase his or her credit score is easy to do and costs nothing – pay bills on time. It may seem both simple and obvious, but a history of paying bills on time is important to creditors. After all, the decision regarding whether or not to grant a loan is based in part upon whether or not the lender expects to be repaid. The more likely the consumer is to repay, the less likely he or she will be to default.

How a consumer has historically paid bills makes up 35% of the credit score. More than one-third of the score is devoted to whether the bills were paid on time or paid at all. No other component makes up as large a portion of the score, and for a good reason – lenders want to be repaid! That said, the easiest and cheapest way to start improving a credit score is to make a concerted effort to pay bills on time. It is better to make even a minimum payment on time than it is to pay late and in full. With online bill paying becoming more and more common, it is not possible to schedule bills to be paid automatically, which can be of tremendous benefit to those consumers who aren’t too organized and sometimes just forget to pay.

This is one of those cases where the most effective solution also happens to be the cheapest, and this solution is free. If you want to see your credit score increase, make sure that your bills are paid on time.