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How to Get a Free Credit Report in Canada
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When you’re thinking of applying for a loan, whether it’s for your education, a new car, or a mortgage, one thing that you should always do first is check your credit report and credit score. In fact, checking your credit report at least once a year is recommended by any financial professional you’re likely come across. Reviewing your credit report is a good way to determine your financial stability and whether or not you’ll be able to get approved for loans and credit in the future.
In the article below, we’ll tell you how you can get a free copy of your credit report from Canada’s credit bureaus, Equifax and TransUnion. We also have some information that could prove useful to you, if and when you’re making any big financial decisions that will impact both your life and the health of your credit.
What is a Credit Report?
The first thing to do is to find out what exactly a credit report is. A credit report is a lot like your school record, but instead of displaying what classes you took, and the grades that you got in them, it notes all the instances of your credit usage throughout the years. If you’ve ever applied for, used, or cancelled a credit card, it will show up on your credit report. The same goes for any loans you might have applied, been approved, or rejected for.
Want to know how to read your credit report? Take a look at this article.
What is the Difference Between a Credit Report and a Credit Score?
There are a few areas where credit reports and credit scores differ from one another.
Your credit score is a three-digit number that lenders, creditors, and other organizations will use as a deciding factor when they’re considering approving you for loans or other types of credit products. Would-be employers and landlords will also look at your credit score to confirm that you’re a trustworthy, creditworthy, financially stable individual. Your credit score is another part of your financial livelihood that a lot of people, professionals, and friends alike, will recommend that you check on a regular basis. After all, a solid credit score comes with many benefits.
A good credit score ranges anywhere from 680-900 and will open up the possibility of new credit products and other offers in the future. However, a score of 300-579 is considered low, meaning you’ll have a harder time getting the approval from lenders and other organizations for borrowing purposes. Again, like a credit report, your score is dependant on how you’ve been using your credit. There are 5 main factors that determine how your credit score is calculated:
- Your payment history
- Your debt usage
- Your credit’s age
- Inquiries for new credit (done by you or other organizations)
- Your variety of credit accounts (credit cards, lines of credit, loans, etc.)
Where credit reports differ from credit scores is just how detailed the actually are. Again, we’ll give an example based on a school report card. A credit score is a number that works kind of like your grade-point-average. All of your transactions, good or bad, are added up to create one number, your credit score. It will determine the likelihood of you being approved for loans and other products in the future. A credit report, however, is a detailed history of all your credit usage. With a credit report, you can see what products you’ve been using and how they’ve affected both your overall credit health and credit score. It also includes all your personal information, which lenders and other organizations will check when they pull your credit report.
Who Creates My Credit Report?
When you start using credit products, your credit report will be created by the two major credit reporting agencies in Canada: TransUnion and Equifax. Once every 12 months, at your request, they can mail you a free copy of your credit report. For a fee, both companies can also provide your credit score and credit monitoring (both are optional).
Want to know how credit reporting agencies work? Read this.
What Type of Information is On My Credit Report?
Here is a list of the personal and credit-related information that will show up on your credit report:
- Full name
- Date of birth
- Current address and any previous addresses
- Your current and previous telephone numbers (home, cell, work)
- Social insurance number
- Driver’s license information (if you have one)
- Passport number
- A list of your employers, both current and previous
Credit Related Information:
- A history of your credit accounts and transactions
- Cell phone service account
- Internet service accounts
- Any “black marks” (fraud, NSFs, etc.).
- Legal judgements
- Your credit accounts that are currently in collections.
- Hard credit pulls
- Fraud alerts
- Identity verification
A record of all your credit related actions will remain on your report for several years. For example, if at any point you take on a loan, that action will remain on your credit report for 6 years. Unfortunately, bad credit-related actions will also remain on your credit report for a set number of years. For a more detailed look at how long information stays on your credit report, read this.
How Do I Read My Credit Report?
As we mentioned above, once you’ve requested a copy of your credit report, you’ll find a detailed history of your credit usage inside. When you’ve made transactions or opened accounts with them, your lenders and creditors should send your information to both TransUnion and Equifax. Each account will be listed in your credit report, identified by a number and a letter.
- I = Installment Loan (loans that are paid off in monthly installments)
- O = Open Status (you can borrow up to a predetermined limit)
- R = Revolving (you can borrow up to a predetermined monthly limit, payments fluctuate based on how much you’ve borrowed)
- M = Mortgage (installment loans for homes that, in some cases, do not appear on your credit report, depending on which credit agency you’re checking with)
- 0 = the account is not yet used or too new to merit a rate
- 1 = the account has been paid off within the agreed time limit
- 2 = payments made 31 – 59 days late
- 3 = payments made 60 – 89 days late
- 4 = payments made 90 – 119 days late
- 5 = payments made over 120 days late
- 6 = the account is not used
- 7 = the account is in consolidation, consumer proposal or a debt management program
- 8 = the account is in repossession
- 9 = the account is in heavy debt, and has been sold to collections or filed for bankruptcy
To get a better understanding of how to read your credit report, see our other article.
Example of a Candian Equifax credit report (click here for more information).
Who Can See My Credit Report?
There are a number of Canadian laws, both federal and provincial, that specify who is legally allowed to access the information contained within your credit report, besides yourself and the credit bureaus of course. When you’re applying with a lender or creditor for a loan or other credit product, or with a potential employer or landlord who wishes to perform a background check, you’ll have to fill out an application with them. That application should come with a consent form that gives that organization permission to access your credit report.
For a more detailed list of who looks at your credit report, look here.
What all these organizations are looking for are signs of your financial competency. They’ll look at your record of debt, if you’ve ever declared bankruptcy, any signs, both positive and negative, to determine whether or not you’re trustworthy and creditworthy. It’s important to note here, that when a lender, creditor, or other organization pulls your credit report, a “hard inquiry” will be put on your credit report, which will affect your credit score slightly. However, if you wish to access your own report, it will be noted as a “soft inquiry,” and will not affect your credit score.
Click here to learn more about credit inquiries.
How Do I Get Something Removed From My Credit Report?
The most common thing that people want removed from their credit report are errors made by either the lender or creditor that reported your account to the credit bureau or by the credit bureau itself when updating your profile. An unchecked error can have a negative impact on your overall credit and your finances, so it’s another reason you should review your credit report at least once a year, just to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.
Firstly, you’ll need to get a copy of your credit report, which you are entitled to (for free) once every 12-months. Go through it section by section, and make a list of any errors with either your personal (misspelled name, wrong address, etc.) or your credit-related information (wrong account numbers, balance information, etc.) that you come across. You can then dispute the error by writing a detailed letter, outlining each mistake and how it should be corrected, to your credit bureau. Simply follow their mailing instructions, and they should launch an investigation into your case. They will also contact the lender or creditor in question if their organization was the cause of the error. The dispute should come to a conclusion within the next 30 days. If the bureau is unable to verify the error, the information will be removed from your credit report or updated as per your request.
Both credit bureaus will also have a phone line listed on their website so that you can call in to dispute your error, or for any other general inquiries. You may also email them, but it’s not recommended, as your message might not be reviewed and answered within a reasonable amount of time.
How Can I Get a Free Copy of My Credit Report in Canada?
As we mentioned earlier, there are two major credit bureaus in Canada, Equifax and TransUnion. You can request a free copy of your credit report from either bureau, by mail, once every 12 months (you can apply for another copy any time you want, but you will be charged). To make that request, you can follow the instructions provided on their website, fill out the required forms, and send them in with a copy of two pieces of identification. You should then receive your free credit report within 15 business days. It’s important to know, however, that your credit score will not be included with your credit report.
If you want, you can request an instant copy of your credit report and credit score (optional) via their websites. Unfortunately, both bureaus will charge you a fee to obtain this service. You can check out the TransUnion and Equifax websites for more information.
Why Do I Need a Credit Report?
Both your credit report and your credit score are valuable financial tools that can help you in various ways as you make your way through life. In fact, a solid record of responsible credit usage will allow you to secure loans of all kinds. Lenders and creditors want to know, first and foremost, that their clients have the ability to pay them back. They can verify this by looking at your credit report and seeing that you don’t have a history of debt or bankruptcy problems. Similarly, having a good credit report and score can help you not only secure those loans but get the best possible interest rates. So, it’s important to keep up to date and check your credit report and credit score regularly, so that you can have a healthy and happy financial future.
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