Insights For Success

Strategy, Innovation, Leadership and Security

Canadians can request their credit files

FinanceEdward KiledjianComment
There are two primary credit collection and reporting agencies in Canada:
  • Equifax Canada
  • TransUnion Canada
These agencies collect, store, process and report on the credit histories of millions of Canadian. Your credit file will determine credit eligibility, interest rates you pay and in extreme cases, security clearance for certain jobs. So it is a good idea to know what is in your credit file with each of these agencies and to ensure all the collected data is accurate.

You have the right

As a Canadian, you have a government given right to obtain a copy of your credit file (from each agency), once every 6 months (via mail). 

Pro 

  • You get a copy of your credit file for free
  • You get to see your file and correct inaccuracies
  • You can see what credit cards have been opened in your name which can help detect identity theft 

Con 

  • The free version does not contain your credit score
  • It takes between 1-2 weeks to get the information
  • The information is sent via regular mail 

Alternatives

You can always go to the credit agencies website and use one of their consumer credit access services online. 

Pro

In addition to the mail benefits, you also get: 

  • instant access
  • you see your credit score and had the biggest impact on it
  • provides guidance on how to improve it. 

Con 

  • Costs money 

What is a credit score?

Your credit score is built using a super secret formula by the credit agency to summarise all your credit history in a simple to use score for lenders. It is an indicator of financial health at a given point in time, based on the information available to the agency.

Although each agency uses its own proprietary score, it typically runs from 300-900 (the higher the better). The higher the score, the healthier you are financially and the more likely you are to get better lending terms (aka lower interest rates).

The credit agencies don't determine who is or should be credit eligible, that is up to each individual lender. Between the 2 agencies, the Equifax one is generally considered the gold standard and that is the score I would pay more attention to.

Unless you are about to make a big purchase, I don't think you need access to your score. I recommend getting the free credit report every 6 months and buying access to the Equifax score a couple of months before you make that purchase.

What's a credit rating

When you receive your credit file, you will notice each history contains a letter and a number. The letter is used to identify the type of credit given:

  • I is for installment based credit (aka car loan, mortgage, etc). This is a situation where you borrow money in exchange for repayment at fixed intervals.
  • O is for open credit. This can refer to things like lines of credit where a lender has allowed you to borrow on an when and as needed basis.
  • R is revolving credit and refers to credit cards.

Next to the letter is a number. Here is the meaning of each number 

  • 0 is too new to rate
  • 1 Pays within 30 days and not over 1 payment past due
  • 2 Pays in more than 30 days from payment due date but not more than 60 days. Not more than 2 past due payments.
  • 3 Pays in more than 60 days but not more than 90 days. Not more than 3 past due payments.
  • 4 Pays in more than 90 days but not more than 120 days. Not more than 4 past due payments.
  • 5 Account is at least 120 days late but has not been rated a 9.
  • 7 Paying back through a special arrangement with the lender.
  • 8 Repossession (voluntary or ordered).
  • 9 Bad debt sent to collection, moved without providing a forwarding address or declared bankruptcy.

How do I request it?

To request your free (by mail) credit file, click on these links. I added the links straight to the forms because the agencies make it time consuming to find the links to the free report.