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Credit Building Guide

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Credit Building Guide

A credit score is a number that reflects a borrower’s ability to pay back a creditor or lender. In Canada, credit scores range from 300 to 900 with a poor credit score being anything below 650 and excellent being anything above 750. A low credit score indicates to potential lenders that you are a risky borrower and are more likely to default on your payments. On the other hand, a high credit score would indicate the exact opposite. Your credit score is calculated, using the information found in your credit report, by Canada’s two credit bureaus: TransUnion and Equifax. 

These are the programs that can help you build stronger credit:

Credit RepairMore InfoGet Help Now
Credit Rehab Savings LoanMore InfoGet Help Now
Secured Credit CardsView Options
Consumer Proposal Payoff LoanMore InfoGet Help Now
Boost Your Credit With Score-UpMore InfoGet Help Now
Rebuild Your Credit With The Help of a LoanMore InfoGet Help Now

What is a Credit Report?

A credit report is a file that includes information regarding your credit history. Lenders and creditors check your credit report to determine your creditworthiness. The better you look on file the more likely you are to be approved. A credit report includes data regarding four major categories: 

  • Personal data: This includes your name, address, phone number, SIN, employment history, etc.
  • Credit history: This includes information about all loans, credit cards, line of credits, and all other forms of credit. Any missed payments, as well as payments made on time, are recorded here. 
  • Inquiries: This includes information on the number of people who have been given permission to do a credit check on you. 
  • Public Records: This includes information regarding any bankruptcies, consumer proposals, debt settlements, etc.

Who Checks Your Credit?

It isn’t just lenders and creditors that can check your credit, there are many other instances where you may have to undergo a credit check.

  • If you need to renew a financial contract with a lender or creditor, they may require another credit check to determine if you are still creditworthy. 
  • When looking for an apartment, landlords have a right to check your credit report before approving you.
  • Potential employers may also conduct a credit check before offering you a job or promotion (not a common practice in all industries).
  • Insurance providers may also perform a credit check to determine your risk level or likelihood of claiming insurance. 
  • Before providing their service, utility and phone companies may require a credit check.

How to Build a Healthy Credit Score

Building a healthy credit score may seem like a daunting task, but with knowledge, organization, and determination anyone can have a good credit score.

A secured credit card

If you have bad credit, a secured credit card can be a more viable option than getting a regular credit card. A secured credit card is secured with a cash deposit, which is usually the same amount as the credit limit. Once the deposit is paid, you can use the secured credit card in the same way you would use a regular credit card. This card is meant to help increase your credit score until you can get a regular credit card. As for your deposit, you’d get it back once you close your account. 

These are the secured credit cards that we recommend:

Become an authorized user on a family members credit card

You can build your credit by asking a family member with a strong credit history if they’d be willing to put you as an authorized user on their credit card. Doing so will transfer payments made on their credit card to your credit file. Of-course, be sure that the credit card company reports activity to Canada’s credit bureaus. 

Credit rehab loan

A credit rehab savings loan is a savings and credit building program that is typically offered by community banks and credit unions. As you pay off the loan, a portion of your payments is saved in a GIC, which you will be able to access after you complete all your payments. Furthermore, each payment you make will be reported to the credit bureau to build your credit. 

Guarantor loan

Having your parents or significant other be a guarantor when you apply for a credit product is a great way to increase your chances of getting approved. You’ll also increase your chances of being eligible for a more affordable interest rate or more favourable terms. 

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Qualify for a personal loan regardless of your credit rating with a guarantor loan

Credit builder loan

If you’re struggling to rebuild your credit after a past financial misstep, a credit builder loan is a good option to consider. When you take out a credit builder loan, you’ll make monthly payments, similar to any other type of loan. Your payments will be reported to the credit bureau which will ultimately help your credit improve. Your loan payments are saved in an account and once you’re happy with your credit score or you’ve come to the end of your term, can you withdraw your money. Not only will you have an improved credit score, but you’ll have jumped started your savings.

These are the credit builder loans that we recommend:

How to Build and Maintain Good Credit

Maintaining a good credit score can be easy when you know what affects it. Being aware of this is one of the most important and productive ways of keeping your credit in good standing. 

Using a credit card responsibly and paying it off on time

Paying your bills on time is one of the most significant factors that affect your credit. It is recommended that you never spend more than you can afford. Always make sure to budget and track your spending. This will ultimately lead to you making full on-time payments, which will increase your credit score.

Keep your credit utilization low

Ideally, you should not go over 30% of your credit limit. Spending more than 30% can impact your credit negatively, so it’s best to keep all your credit card balances below this ratio.

Paying all your bills on time 

Credit card issuers are not the only people who report your payment history to the credit bureaus. Lenders will report both on time and missed payments while phone providers and utility providers will report if you fall behind on your payments.

Keep your old credit accounts open

Unless you have a good reason for cancelling a credit account it’s best to keep them open as closing an account affects your credit score negatively. One of the main factors used in the calculation of your credit score is the total length of your credit history or how long you’ve been a credit user. Closing an old account will shorten your credit history and affect the health of your credit. The longer you have an account open the better it looks to creditors. 

Don’t submit too many credit applications within a short period of time

Every hard credit check will bring your score down by a few points. As such, applying for too many credit products within a short period of time is not advisable. Moreover, too many credit checks can indicate to lenders that you’re in a desperate financial situation and could decrease your chances of approval. 

Monitor your credit score and report for errors and signs of fraud

It is recommended to check your credit report every 6 to 12 months. By monitoring your report you can catch any errors on file that affect your credit score negatively like an account that doesn’t belong to you. You can also catch any signs of fraud which can cause serious financial and credit issues for you.

Financial Habits That Are Ruining Your Credit

As mentioned there are many actions you can take to build and maintain your credit. Just the same, there are also many behaviours that can ruin your credit. 

Maxing out your credit cards

As previously mentioned, using more than 30% of your credit limit can hurt your credit, so maxing it out is far worse. Plus, lenders and banks typically see maxed-out credit cards as a sign that you have more debt than you can handle and thus, are more likely to reject you for any credit products you apply for.

Relying on credit to cover the cost of daily expenses

Though using credit to cover the cost of daily expenses isn’t bad itself, it can quickly affect your credit if not used carefully. Using it too often can leave you open to fraud, overspending, and large balances, all of which can negatively affect your credit.

Cosigning an account for someone who is irresponsible

An unfortunate way your credit may be affected is when you are trying to help out someone you care for. There are times when the person you cosign for ghosts you or stops making payments which will hurt your credit. It is imperative that when you cosign for someone, that you understand the severity of the situation and realize that you are taking responsibility for this person if they cannot make the payments. 

Ignoring a bill that is past due

Ignoring your bills that are past due doesn’t make them go away, it just prolongs the inevitable. When a company tries to collect money from a client who is past due on their bill, they will call and send letters to try and get payment. However, if their attempts of collecting payment do not work, they will likely send the client’s account to a debt collection company. If the debt collector or creditor reports this to the credit bureaus, you will end up with a collections account on your credit report for about six years. A collections account on your credit report will affect the health of your cred which in turn will impact your future ability to get approved for credit products.

Making only your minimum payment on your credit card

Paying only the minimum on your credit card doesn’t directly affect your credit but continually doing so will, because your debt will increase as you continue to use your credit card. Thus, increasing your credit utilization ratio which as discussed is bad for credit. Moreover, by only paying the minimum, you not only take more time to pay off your debt but you also commit yourself to pay more on interest. 

Not using credit at all 

As scary as credit may seem with all the ways it can be affected negatively, choosing to hide from it isn’t the answer either. No credit, means lenders and banks have no way of judging if you are someone who is likely to default on payments or not. This may even affect apartment applications or even phone services you want as they typically do a credit check before approving you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does applying for a loan affect your credit score?

Yes, every hard inquiry you have will cut your credit score by a few points. 

Why do I have more than one credit score?

There are two credit bureaus in Canada. Each may have a different score because some lenders don’t report to both the bureaus, so one bureau may have more favourable information on you than the other. As such, your credit scores may differ with each bureau, leaving you with more than one credit score. 

How long does information stay on your credit report?

In general, negative information like missed and late payments will stay on your report for six years. Bankruptcies stay for six to seven years (a second bankruptcy stays for 14 years) and consumer proposals stay on your report for two years after your debt has been paid.

How can I raise my credit score quickly?

Making more payments to pay down your balances is one of the best and fastest ways to raise your credit. You may also raise your credit limit so that your credit utilization ratio remains low. Lastly, check your credit report for any mistakes. 

Credit Glossary

Business Credit Report

A detailed report that is meant to provide potential lenders with information to allow them to determine the business’ creditworthiness before extending credit. There is much more information in a business credit report when compared to an individual’s credit report. Business credit reports are generated and regulated by the credit bureau.

Business Credit Score

A number that represents a business’ creditworthiness based on information within the credit report. The credit bureau calculates and regulates business credit scores.

Consumer Reporting Act

A governing body that oversees credit reporting agencies to ensure that personal information is collected, maintained and reported in a responsible fashion. The Consumer Reporting Act also ensures that individuals have the right to know what information is being reported in relation to them and who the information is being reported to. If any of the reported information is incorrect, you have the right to have it corrected under this act.


The extension of money, goods or services with trust that the individual will repay the owed amount in the future. In today’s world, trust of repayment is determined through an assessment of creditworthiness using a credit application.

Credit Application

A formal application, required by the majority of lending institutions, that gathers information from the applicant for the assessment of creditworthiness. The form will request information such as personal identification, income and expenses, residency, existing debt, and employment.

Credit Bureau

A governing body that collects credit information about individuals and sells it to other entities that are in the business of extending credit for a fee. Credit bureaus are also referred to as consumer reporting agencies and credit reporting agencies. In Canada, there are two credit bureaus, TransUnion and Equifax.

Credit Card

A financial product that allows cardholders to purchase goods and services using credit. The amount spent in a particular period becomes due at a specific date. If the amount is not paid on that date, interest will come into effect. Credit cards are a physical, plastic card.

Credit Limit

When a creditor extends credit to a consumer it comes with a credit limit, this is the maximum amount the consumer can borrow.

Credit Rating

Credit bureaus collect information about your personal finances and rate you to give potential lenders an easy way to assess your creditworthiness at first glance. There is a rating system in place for consistency and to protect from bias. Credit ratings are different from credit scores but are often used interchangeably. Your credit score actually determines what credit rating you’re given. As an example, if you have a credit score of 850, you’d be given a credit rating of “excellent”.

Credit Repair

The act of improving your credit score by removing inaccurate information from your credit report and working on healthy, responsible financial habits.

Credit Report

A credit report contains information regarding your credit history and includes things such as your credit score, payment history, financial debts, record of debt payment, and any black marks on your credit. Credit reports can be obtained from credit bureaus, such as Equifax and TransUnion.

Credit Score

A three-digit number that is calculated by credit bureaus using a mathematical rating system and information from your credit report. A credit score falls anywhere between 300 and 900, with 900 being the absolute best. Lenders might have minimum credit score requirements for extending credit which is why it’s important to maintain a healthy credit score.

Credit Union/Caisses Populaires

A type of bank that is owned by its members and operates for the benefit of their members. Credit unions are subject to provincial regulation and tend to be small in size and community-oriented. Because of these features, credit unions tend to be a superior way of investing, banking and lending. Credit unions are referred to as Caisses Populaires in Quebec.


By assessing the historical information associated with a consumers’ finances, creditworthiness is the amount of trust a lender places on a borrower in relation to the repayment of extended credit. Creditworthiness is assessed using a combination of credit report, credit score, credit rating and application information.

FICO Score

A credit score created by the Fair Isaac Corporation. FICO scores are used by lenders to determine a borrower’s creditworthiness before extending credit. Scores range between 300 to 850.


Whenever an entity, including yourself, requests a copy of your credit report, an inquiry is recorded. A hard inquiry is a request from a lender or any other individual that is assessing your creditworthiness. A soft inquiry is a request by you to view your own credit report. A large number of hard inquiries can indicate financial struggles to a potential lender.

Introductory Rate

A special promotional interest rate offered by credit card issuers for a specific period of time, such as a few months to a year. The goal with these rates is to attract new customers.

Revolving Credit

A type of credit agreement that allows customers to borrow against a pre-approved credit line when making purchases. A credit card is the most popular form of revolving credit. The borrower is responsible for paying the borrowed amount plus interest each payment period. Revolving credit is also referred to as open-ended credit or charge account.

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