Q: I am a first-time homeowner. I just purchased my home and got an awful APR because I had bad credit. My credit score is 581. How soon can I refinance for a better interest rate?

A: When your credit score goes up, you can refinance. But I wouldn’t refinance until you know that your credit has improved and your score has gone up.

To raise your credit score, you’ll need to pay all of your bills on time for 6 months to a year. I have a lot of credit score information at ThinkGlink.com.

Finally, make sure you check your credit history (it’s free, although you’ll pay $5 to $7 for a copy of your credit score) at www.annualcreditreport.com.