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While moving to a new country can be daunting and expensive, there may be a great new home and job waiting for you when you arrive, as well as the prospect of earning dual citizenship, so all the effort can certainly be worth it. What’s more, moving from the United States to Canada is relatively easy compared to other parts of the world.

However, one thing that you may not be able to pack up in a box is your credit report. If you’re an American who has recently moved to Canada, you may be wondering if you can use your American credit history to access credit products in Canada.  

Keep reading to find out whether it’s possible to transfer your American credit history to one of Canada’s credit bureaus.

Is It Possible To Transfer My Credit History Between Countries?

Unfortunately, it is not possible to transfer the elements within your U.S. credit report to the one you establish in Canada, even though there are Equifax and TransUnion offices located in both countries. There are too many technological and informational differences between these two versions of your report and too much red tape to bypass.

Don’t worry, because your U.S. report will certainly remain active if you’re a dual citizen and you continue using American credit products. However, if you’re starting over in Canada, you’ll need to begin building a whole new credit history from the ground up.

Learn how to read your Canadian credit report

Similarities Between American vs. Canadian Credit Reports

In Canada, there are two main credit bureaus that can create a credit report in your name when you start using credit products, known as Equifax and TransUnion. These two companies also exist in the U.S., along with a third bureau called Experian. 

Strictly speaking, both the U.S. and Canadian versions of your report are similar in many ways, containing elements such as your:

  • Personal information (name, address, etc.)
  • Credit accounts & types (currently & recently active products) 
  • Credit history (how long products/accounts are used)
  • Payment history (paid & unpaid debts) 
  • Hard & soft inquiries (new credit applications, credit checks, etc.)
  • Credit score (3-digit number)

Differences Between American vs. Canadian Credit Reports

All this said, every bureau has a slightly different way of creating and modifying all of these credit-related elements. There are even a couple of distinct features that appear on Canadian reports but not on the versions from the United States. 

For instance, every account within a Canadian report is assigned a credit ‘rating’ from 1 to 9, which goes up and down according to your payment activity.

R0Too little credit history or, credit unused.
R1Account paid within 30 days of due date or one or fewer payments late.
R2Account paid more than 30 days past the due date, not more than 60 days late, or two or fewer payments late.
R3Account paid more than 60 days past the due date, not more than 90 days late, or three or fewer payments late.
R4Account paid more than 90 days past the due date, not more than 120 days late, or four or fewer payments late.
R5Account paid 120 days late or more but had not yet received an R9.
R6Not assigned a value.
R7Account holder is making agreed-upon payments through a debt relief program.
R9Account in collections or bankruptcy. Account holder moved and did not provide a new address.

Each rating is also accompanied by a letter that indicates the type of credit involved

  • I = Installment (loans, etc.)
  • R = Revolving (credit cards, etc.)
  • O = Open (student loans, etc.)
  • M = Mortgage

Differences Between American vs. Canadian Credit Scores

Canadian credit scores range from 300 (on the low end) to 900 (on the high end), whereas credit scores in the U.S. only range from 300 to 850. Although these aren’t huge differences in retrospect, they do make things more complicated if you’re trying to transfer your credit report from the U.S. to Canada, or vice versa.

How To Build A Credit History In Canada?

Since your credit report cannot move to Canada along with you, it’s essential to establish yourself as a credit user as soon as you’re settled in your new home. After all, having good credit is just as important here as it is in the United States. 

Luckily, it’s relatively easy to build a credit history in Canada. You simply have to become a regular user of credit products, which you can do by applying with any bank, credit union, or alternative financial institution.

Here are a few other steps you can take to build your credit history in Canada:

Apply For A Credit Card

This is one of the easiest and most basic credit products to get approved for. Most individuals who are starting to build credit, start with a credit card. It’s also one of the simplest and most efficient ways of building a credit history. Every payment you make will help build your payment and credit history. To reduce any risk you’re taking, try a card with no annual fee.

Apply For A Secured Credit Card

If you can’t get approved for a regular credit card, you can apply for a secured credit card. A secured credit card works just like a credit card, except it requires a security deposit which also acts as your credit limit. These credit cards are easy to qualify for and are a great tool for building credit, especially for newcomers and those with bad credit. The biggest drawback is the lack of perks and point system that most regular credit cards have. 

Use Your Rent To Build Credit

Generally, rent payments are not reported to the credit bureaus. However, if you rent with a landlord who is registered with the Landlord Credit Bureau, you can have your rent payments reported to the Equifax credit bureau. This in turn can help build your payment history which may increase your credit scores. 

Tips On Building Your Credit In Canada

  • Find the right lender – In Canada, most lenders report their clients’ payment activity to at least one credit bureau. However, there are some institutions that don’t report to either. As such, you should ensure your lender reports to the credit bureaus before applying for any credit products. 
  • Avoid applying too often – If you’re denied any credit product, always wait a few months before applying again, as hard inquiries can negatively impact your credit.
  • Make responsible payments – Whatever credit product you choose, the best thing you can do is to continually make full, on-time payments. While a credit card allows you to make minimum monthly payments, full balances are healthier for your credit scores and finances.
  • Review your credit report regularly – In Canada, you have free access to your credit report and score through Equifax. Similarly, you can request your Consumer Disclosure for free, which contains the information in your credit report. It’s important to check both copies of your report periodically for errors or signs of identity fraud, both of which can harm your credit and finances badly. 

Building Credit In Canada FAQs

Will I Automatically Have Good Credit When I Get Approved?

Sadly, you are not likely to have good credit when you first become a credit user, whether you’re in Canada or the United States. In fact, it can take a few months before your credit scores start to improve.

What Happens If I Don’t Make Full Payments?

As mentioned, one of the best things about credit cards is that you can also make minimum or partial balance payments to avoid any defaulting penalties. However, one huge drawback to this option is that the more unpaid debt you carry, the more interest you’ll accumulate and the higher your credit utilization will be (which may negatively impact your credit).  Similarly, if you miss or make a partial payment on a loan or another fixed credit product, it could result in late penalties, extra interest, and damaged credit.

How Long Do Items Remain In My Credit History?

This answer depends on what kind of product you apply for, how responsibly you use it, what credit bureau you check with and which province or territory you live in. Remember, both Equifax and TransUnion have slightly different versions of your report on file. Most of the time, your credit activity will be recorded for several years.  For example, a simple hard inquiry will remain on your Equifax report for 3 years, but a full 6 years with TransUnion. Negative information, such as defaulted payments and bankruptcies will stay there even longer, upwards of 7 years in most cases. Thankfully, both bureaus will also keep your positive information on file for many years.

Need Help Building Your Canadian Credit History?

Moving to another country can be tricky, no matter how close you are to it. Whether you’re a new or prospective resident to Canada, rest assured that Loans Canada can help you become a responsible credit user for years to come. We offer a wide variety of credit, loans, and debt relief products to help all Canadians build the financial future they want.

Bryan Daly avatar on Loans Canada
Bryan Daly

Bryan is a graduate of Dawson College and Concordia University. He has been writing for Loans Canada for five years, covering all things related to personal finance, and aims to pursue the craft of professional writing for many years to come. In his spare time, he maintains a passion for editing, writing screenplays, staying fit, and travelling the world in search of the coolest sights our planet has to offer.

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