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Creditors, which are lenders, use credit bureaus in Canada to check a consumer’s creditworthiness before extending credit. The credit bureau is where lenders see your loan and payback history.

The two main credit bureaus in Canada are Equifax and TransUnion. Lenders tend to have a preference for either Equifax or TransUnion, but some will check both.

Understanding what a credit bureau is, how they get their information, and how to monitor the information contained in your credit report will help you down the road when you apply with lenders and creditors in the future.

What Is A Credit Bureau?

A credit bureau also referred to as a consumer credit reporting agency, is a business that gathers and compiles information regarding a consumer’s credit history from banks, financial institutions, and other organizations, like courthouses and the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy. 

What Do credit Bureaus Do With Your Credit Information? 

A credit bureau uses the information they’ve gathered about individual consumers and creates a credit report and score which then becomes available to a variety of lenders and other financial institutions with your permission. In Canada, there are two credit bureaus: Equifax and TransUnion, that lenders refer to when analyzing your creditworthiness. 

Do Credit Bureaus Make Lending Decisions? 

There is a common misconception that credit bureaus make lending decisions, however, this is incorrect. A credit bureau is an independent third-party company that relays information between the consumer and the lender. The consumer’s information is made available to lenders by credit bureaus but, at the end of the day, the final lending decision lies with the creditor.

Free Equifax credit score

How Do Credit Bureaus Collect Consumer Credit Information?

As previously mentioned, credit bureaus collect their information from creditors, lenders and other organizations like the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy. However, it’s important to note that not every lender and creditor reports to both credit bureaus (although, most major lenders do report to both), in fact, some don’t report to either. This can cause a discrepancy between your reports from Equifax and TransUnion, which can lead to multiple different credit scores

What Type Of Information Is Collected By The Credit Bureaus?

Credit bureaus collect a variety of information including: 

  • Personal details such as your legal name and address. 
  • Credit account information such as your account’s status, and payment history
  • Credit inquiries 
  • Collections information and public records such as bankruptcies, tax liens, and consumer proposals.

Which Credit Bureau Do Lenders Check in Canada?

As mentioned, your credit scores can vary due to the discrepancies in your credit report. Meaning one credit score is likely better than the other. Knowing which credit bureau your lender checks can help you understand how you’ll look as a borrower. For example, if you know your bank uses Equifax, you can check your Equifax credit report and credit score to see how you stand.

Which Banks Use Equifax Canada?

  • Bank of Montreal (BMO)*
  • TD Canada Trust (TD Bank)
  • Scotiabank*
  • Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC)
  • National Bank*
  • Desjardins
  • Meridian Credit Union
  • Tangerine*

*These financial institutions may pull from either or both bureaus depending on application type.

Which Banks Use Transunion Canada? 

  • Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)
  • Bank of Montreal (BMO) *
  • Scotiabank*
  • National Bank*
  • Laurentian Bank
  • Bridgewater Bank
  • Tangerine*
  • Vancity

*These financial institutions may pull from either or both bureaus depending on application type.

Which Credit Bureau Do Credit Card Companies Pull From?

  • Amex Bank of Canada TransUnion
  • Capital One Equifax and or/ TransUnion
  • PC Financial  Equifax and/or TransUnion
  • MBNA TransUnion to start then Equifax if additional information is needed
  • CAA Mastercard TransUnion
  • Wal-Mart MasterCard TransUnion
  • Bell Mobility/Virgin Mobile Equifax
  • Borrowell Equifax
  • Canadian Tire (CTFS) TransUnion
  • Rogers Wireless/Fido TransUnion
  • Telus Mobility/Koodo Mobile Equifax
  • Chase Canada Equifax

How To Get Your Credit Report For Free In Canada?

You can get your credit report for free from Equifax online or by mail. On the other hand, TransUnion offers Canadians their Consumer Disclosure; which is like a credit report, for free once a month via mail, in-person or online. 

How To Request Your Equifax Credit Report

  • Online – You access your credit report and credit score online, you simply need to create an account online with Equifax. You’ll need to create a username and verify your account before being able to access it. 
  • Mail – To request your credit report and credit score by mail, simply fill out this Equifax Canada – Consumer Request for Free Credit Report form and attach a government-issued photo ID and any document (ex: hydro bill, phone bill, etc) that verifies your name and address on the ID. 

How To Request Your TransUnion Consumer Disclosure

  • Online – You can access your TransUnion Consumer Disclosure by signing up online. Like Equifax, you’ll need to create an account and answer a few questions to verify your identity.  
  • Mail – To request a copy by mail, fill out the following form: Consumer Request and attach a government-issued ID. 
  • In-Person – To request a copy in-person, visit a TransUnion office in your location and bring two pieces of ID.

Check Your Credit With A Third-Party Provider

 CostCredit ScoreCredit Report 
CompareHub logoFreeYesYesVisit Site
Borrowell logoFreeYesYesVisit Site
CreditKarma logoFreeYesYes-

What Is A Credit Pull?

A credit pull or inquiry is a request by a lender, creditor, financial institution or any other individual to view your credit report. Third parties can pull your credit report to review your creditworthiness and other details before extending credit. There are two types of credit pulls, hard inquiries and soft inquiries. 

  • Soft Inquiries –  A soft inquiry occurs when you check your own credit. Soft inquiries are often performed by employers, insurers and landlords.  Only you can see your soft inquiries on your credit report and they do not affect your credit. 
  • Hard inquiriesHard inquiries are visible to anyone who looks at your report and may negatively affect your credit. Anytime a potential lender looks at your credit report, a hard credit inquiry occurs. An example of a hard inquiry is when you apply for a mortgage and the lender pulls your credit report to determine your worthiness for extension of credit.

Bottom Line

Now that you’re more knowledgeable about credit bureaus and how they assist lenders and consumers, you can make use of your new understanding when you apply for credit or a loan in the future.  While it may seem small, your credit has the potential to affect numerous aspects of your life.

Veronica Ott avatar on Loans Canada
Veronica Ott

Veronica is a writer who specializes in creating unique and educational personal finance content. She has extensive experience writing blog posts for companies in the financial sector. Veronica's background is in accounting as she graduated from Western University in 2017 with a degree in accounting. She is passionate about using her accounting expertise to help others with their personal finance questions and issues and enjoys using her writing to educate Canadian readers. When Veronica is not writing, she enjoys film, reading, travelling, going to the gym, and listening to music.

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