As if being denied credit wasn’t bad enough, rarely are we told why. Not only are you stuck without the loan you needed, you have no clue what to do about it.

That’s all about to change.

We’re going to walk you through figuring out why you were denied credit, what you can do about it now, and how to make sure you’re approved in the future. Let’s get started!

First of all, you’re going to want to know why you were denied credit.

However, if a lender is not quick to divulge why they won’t extend you an approval, figuring it out might take some digging on your part. Here’s what you can do.

Even if you’re not denied credit, you should know your credit score. While it used to be quite difficult to get your credit score, now you can get your credit score for free from a variety of places.

Just keep in mind that the credit score you see may not be the exact same one the lender sees. That’s because everyone has multiple credit scores, but most lenders consider your FICO score. Even so, if you focus on the range your credit score falls into rather than the specific number, you’ll get a good sense of how strong your credit is.

A lot of credit score platforms will give you a description explaining why your score is what it is. Some might also give you a numerical code called a reason code.

If you see a reason code, type it into ReasonCode.org and read the description that comes up.

For example, let’s say your reason code is “02: No accounts with valid credit amount.” Depending on where you checked your score, you might see the number and a description following it or you might just see the number. All you need is the number.

So with this example, if you type “02” into the website above, you’ll get a detailed description of what that means. This detailed information will include an explanation and advice telling you what you can do about it.

In this case, the explanation states more or less that the credit file doesn’t have enough credit behavior and the actionable advice is to maintain open and active credit accounts.

While credit reports aren’t the same as credit scores, the information on your credit report can factor into your score. That’s why it’s important to review your credit report regularly.

You can check your credit report once per year from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus at AnnnualCreditReport.com. Comb through your report and look for any errors. You might find that an error or account you didn’t even know about (like an old library fine in collections) is hurting your score.

If there are errors on your credit report, dispute them immediately and start the process of repairing your credit score.

This one is a long shot, but you lose nothing by trying.

Ask the lender if they can give you some insight into why you were denied. Perhaps there’s a minimum income requirement or a credit score range the lender looks for.

Again, they’re not likely to tell you much. But if you do get some information, you’ll be able to improve your chances for next time.

Just because you were denied credit doesn’t mean there aren’t other types of credit you can be approved for in times of need. There are types of alternative credit offered by certain lenders to help.

For example, Upstart awards personal loans based on more than just your credit report. They also examine your years of credit, education, your area of study, and your job history. In other words, other factors in your life can help you get approved.

Another personal loan lender, Avant, might also be more willing to work with you if your score or income weren’t high enough to get the credit you originally wanted.

Keep in mind that these other types of credit can come at higher interest rates. Therefore, they should only be used if you really need to get approved for credit in the next month or so.

If you were applying for credit for a big ticket item like a home, then you might want to pause and work on your credit score or income first.

Other types of credit can be a great tool in times of immediate need. But if you’re entering into a long-term loan, then it’s best to optimize for the best interest rate and terms you can get. Even waiting one year to improve your credit score can make a huge difference over time.

Check out the graph below from myFICO to see just how much of a difference your credit score – and the interest you’re charged because of it – can make.

One of the reasons someone can be denied credit is by not having enough credit in the first place. Lenders want to see some proof that you’ll repay your debt – and if you don’t have a credit history they can’t make that determination.

One way to start building credit is to get a credit card and use it for small purchases each month. Just make sure to pay your credit card off before the end of the month; going into debt to build credit is never a good idea. You don’t need to maintain a balance to improve your credit. You simply need to use credit and pay it off on time.

The good news about building credit is it can be pretty easy. Simply paying all of your bills on time can have a significant impact on your credit. That includes your cell phone bill, utility payments, medical bills, and more, which can all get reported to collections if you pay late.

Therefore, never pay late on any of your accounts. Payment history is a huge part of your score and the easiest to accidentally damage. Stay on top of your payments and your credit score will thank you.

If you’re currently battling credit card debt, it’s going to drag down your credit score. That’s because lenders want to see a credit utilization ratio of 30 percent or less. Essentially, you’re should only use 30 percent (or less) of all the available credit at your disposal.

So if you’re nearing the top of those credit limits, it’s time to focus heavily on paying those balances down.

I know paying off debt is easier said than done. But if you focus on paying more than just the minimum – even create a targeted debt payoff plan – you might find faster progress than you expected.

Few things will keep you in debt longer than only paying minimums on a credit card.

If your debt payoff is going to take a lot longer than you would prefer, you can get a quick boost to your credit score by increasing your credit limit. That’s because increasing your credit limit will decrease your credit utilization ratio immediately.

Think about it this way: If you have a $5,000 credit limit and a $4,000 balance, you’re pretty close to maxed out. But if you increase your credit limit to $8,000 while not adding any more to your balance, now you’re only at the halfway mark. It’s still not the ideal 30 percent utilization or less, but it’s definitely an improvement.

Keep in mind that you have to apply for a credit limit increase with your credit card issuer, which means you’re again applying for new credit. However, because they already have a lending history with you, that could potentially improve your chances for approval.

Just make sure not to use any of that new credit limit. Continue to focus only on reducing your balances, not adding to them.

As mentioned above, any blemish on your credit report can get in the way of developing a good score and being approved for credit. But that doesn’t just mean credit reporting errors.

If you see an unpaid account on your credit report that you forgot about, don’t ignore it. Contact the lender that has the account and bring it back to zero so you don’t have unpaid accounts bringing your score down. This won’t get them removed from your credit report right away, but it can get them marked as paid so you can move on.

Income is a large factor in approval for credit. Plus, extra income can help you pay off existing debt and lower your credit utilization. So if your need a boost in your take-home pay, consider picking up a side gig to help.

Another effective way to improve your income without taking on any additional work is to ask for a raise.

Timing does matter: if you just got a raise or are a few months into a new job, it could look out of place to ask for a raise. However, if you’re nearing a work anniversary or the end of the year, start preparing that pitch. Even a small bump in your salary could get you into that coveted credit approval zone you’ve been aiming for.

There’s no question that being denied credit is frustrating. However, as you work towards eventually being approved, don’t get discouraged. Building credit, increasing your income, and generally gaining access to more financial opportunity isn’t a short game.

Stay focused, be consistent, and remember what you’re aiming for in the long run. With time, you’ll be able to get your finances where you need them to be and get the type of credit you want when it comes up.