NEW YORK ( MainStreet) — Having bad credit is the pits.

A lousy credit score impacts just about everything you want to do in life, from renting an apartment to getting a job or even buying a cup of coffee on plastic. These days, credit has become increasingly interchangeable with moral worth, leading people to run credit checks for things that have no bearing at all on finances. Some states even require good credit to earn a professional license .

It's easy to let your credit slip, because, like many things in life, negatives weigh more heavily than positives. One late payment matters more than even a series of timely ones, and it doesn't take more than a few mistakes to start looking at some pretty scary numbers especially since standards have only gone up for our generation. Whereas fifteen years ago a gentleman's 620 was considered sound and reliable, these days anything below a 700 spells trouble.

Obviously the best way to handle bad credit is to have made better decisions in the first place, but that's a little like telling someone to get over a flu by avoiding sickness. It isn't particularly helpful for someone sitting at 475 and wanting to climb back up. Fortunately there are some very specific, and effective, ways to improve your credit rating.

Unfortunately, they pretty much all involve convincing someone to lend you money.

According to Jeff Golding, CEO of William Paid, the number one thing someone can to do rehabilitate bad credit is to get back to making sound and timely payments on future lines of credit.

"There's really no magic, you can't just change it," he said. "I always equate your credit report as your financial health to a certain degree. It has nothing to do with your savings or how much money you have, but it's how other people see you. And I equate it with your actual health. If you have an unhealthy event, you get a disease, you have a heart attack, there's a long process to repair that. It's not just overnight."

According to Golding, a full third of your credit score is determined by payment histories. The easiest way to begin rebuilding that score, then, is to start putting more and more positive numbers in that column.

"Open up individual lines of credit and use them wisely," he said. "35% of your credit score, according to the FICO model, is based on payment history, so make your payments on time."

Credit cards and small loans are great for this, creating regular, manageable bills that you can pay on time each month. Every timely payment is a small tick in the right direction, although it takes a while to accumulate. Rebuilding poor credit isn't a fast process, and patience is a key component.