Ignorance about credit scores is hurting consumers’ financial health, a report issued by the Consumer Federation of America Monday.

Many consumers aren’t aware that low scores can raise their cost of credit significantly or make it impossible to get the loans they want, said CFA Executive Director Stephen Brobeck.

He said consumers can avoid those problems by making loan payments on time, using only a small portion of the credit available on a credit card, deferring purchases until they have the financial ability to pay off the debts on schedule, and paying down debt rather than just moving it around, as well as not opening many new accounts at the same time.

Brobeck pointed out low credit scores are likely to increase the finance charges on a $20,000, 60-month car loan by more than $5,000.

However, the study showed only one out of five consumers is aware that the added burden of a low credit score can be that great.

Brobeck noted different lenders can give different credit scores for the same consumer seeing a loan.

He cautioned a higher credit score doesn’t always result in the lowest cost when shopping for an auto loan or a mortgage.

A lender who rates at a consumer at 650 may charge more in interest than a competitor who places the individual at 625 because the way the interest rate is computed.

“It’s better than a document for learning because it’s interactive and fun,” said Brobeck.

He urged adults in the market for credit to check the accuracy of their credit scores and credit reports at least once a year.

The survey was taken between April 9 and 12 of 1,000 adults.