If you’re in the market for a mortgage, a car loan, or looking to rent an apartment, it may be time to check your credit score.
A credit score is an ever changing three-digit number between 300 and 900. The higher your number, the more likely you are to be approved for a loan or to negotiate a preferred interest rate. If your credit score is low, you may pay higher rates or be denied credit based on the lender’s criteria.
Your credit score is an important piece of financial information. It’s used by lenders, insurers, and landlords to gauge your credit behaviour and determine if you’re a good candidate for credit. If you’ve lost out on an apartment or been denied a loan recently, it may be your credit score that’s holding you back.
But don’t worry if your score is low, there are ways to improve it. Since your credit score is recalculated continuously to reflect your recent bill payments and debt levels, your score from a month ago is probably not the same score today. Here are seven ways to raise your credit score:
1. Check your credit score at BOTH credit reporting agencies.
Your credit score can vary between Canada’s two major credit reporting agencies, Equifax and TransUnion. Each agency uses different credit data as well as a slightly different credit scoring model to tally your number. If you’re being denied credit, it may be that one agency is reporting differently. Checking your credit report and score at both agencies can also help you detect any fraudulent activity or possible instances of identity theft.
2. Report and correct any inaccuracies.
Don’t let your credit score suffer due to inaccurate information on your file. Be proactive and protect yourself by reviewing your credit files. If you find an inaccuracy, contact the creditor or the credit reporting agency to correct it immediately.
3. Pay all your bills on time.
Lenders look for patterns and love to see a solid history of paying every bill on time. Any late credit card payments, collections, or bankruptcies can significantly lower your credit score — so be punctual with each bill payment to raise your score.
4. Watch your debt.
Don’t run your credit balances close to your limit! Staying below half your available credit limit can help to improve your score sooner. For example, if you have a credit card with a $5,000 limit, try to keep the balance owed below $2,500.
5. Avoid applying for credit.
When you apply for credit, a “hard query” may be made to your report by the lender to check your creditworthiness. Too many “hard queries” in a short period of time can lower your score, so stick to applying for credit only when you need it. Checking your own score won’t lower your score since this is a “soft query”. Applying for a lot of credit may be interpreted as a sign of financial difficulty, which can impact your score as well.
6. Give yourself some time.
Time can improve your credit score, especially if you can establish a long history of paying bills on time and being responsible with credit. Negative factors such as bankruptcies, collections, or foreclosures drop off your report after a number of years , depending on your home province or territory.
7. Don’t close old accounts.
It may seem counterintuitive to us, but unused credit is a good thing in the eyes of a credit reporting agency and lowering the amount of money you can borrow relative to your debt can impact your score.
Do you know your score?
When you’re looking for a loan do you know how well you’ll score with lenders before setting foot in a bank?
If you’re like many Canadians, chances are you’ve never requested a credit report or seen your credit score. In a recent survey , the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada found that only 15 percent of Canadians have requested a credit report, while only 24 percent know their credit rating. Startling numbers when you consider the vital importance of this information to your financial health. Here’s a quick guide to your credit report and credit score.
What is a Credit Report?
A credit report is a “snapshot” or profile of your credit history. It shows how often you pay your financial obligations, if you miss credit card payments, or if you’ve gone over your credit limit. Your credit report contains these details about you:
Personal: Your name, current and previous address(es), Social Insurance Number (SIN), current and past employer(s), date of birth.
Credit: Any credit you have — such as a credit card, line of credit, a loan, or a mortgage.
Banking: Any accounts you have, history of non-sufficient funds (NSF).
And more: Any bankruptcies, collection agency interactions, or credit report inquiries made by yourself or a lender.
A credit report is created when you first borrow money or apply for any form of credit. Over time, your banks, credit unions, and retailers send updates to credit reporting agencies about your payment habits. This information is documented in your credit report and can be made available to lenders, landlords, and employers when you’re applying for credit, housing, or a job.
What is a Credit Score?
Your credit score is a number between 300 and 900. Higher numbers show you’re very credit worthy while lower numbers indicate a credit risk to lenders. Most Canadians don’t know their credit scores, but finding out this information can help you significantly. If you have a high score, you can use it to negotiate lower interest rates on loans. On the other hand, finding out you have a low score gives you the opportunity to improve it before dealing with lenders.
Check out this handy Loan Calculator so see how higher interest rates can cost you!
So what’s a good credit score? The majority of Canadians score between 700 and 850 which is considered to be a very good credit risk.
Checking Your Credit Report and Credit Score
It’s a good idea to request a copy of your credit report once a year to verify the correctness of your personal and financial information. Checking your credit report can also help protect you against identify fraud since you’ll see any unusual credit activity on your report.
In Canada there are two major credit reporting agencies, they are: Equifax (www.equifax.ca) and TransUnion (www.transunion.ca). Both agencies will mail you your credit report for free, or you can request to see it online for a fee. Obtaining your credit score from either agency costs around $25 and must be done online. Doing this also gives you access to your credit report.