It’s now easier than ever to get a credit score check in Canada for free!
I mean… a credit score check is only really important if you hope to:
- Get a mortgage
- Purchase a car
- Rent an apartment
- Get a great credit card
- Qualify for certain types of insurance
- Even gain specific types of employment
Your credit score is a three-digit number that can communicate a lot of things to a lot of different people.
In verifying your ability to repay the loan, lenders generally look at a few criteria: your current income; your current debt; and, your history of repaying debt.
While your current income and debt are easy to quantify, how do lenders quantify your credit history? You may already know this, but when you sign up for a credit card or a loan of any type, this activity is recorded in a database and aggregated into a credit report.
A credit report will track the lender name, the balance on the account, the status, and history of the account (if you’ve paid on time, or missed payments etc). The credit information is put together and a credit score is assigned through an algorithm created by Equifax and/or Transunion – the two main credit reporting agencies in Canada.
To give you an idea, here is the range that your credit score can fall:
- 0-560: Poor
- 560-660: Fair
- 660-725: Good
- 725-760: Very Good
- 760 – 900: Excellent
The higher your credit score, the more favorably a lender will view your application.
Get Free Canadian Credit Scores Online
A number of online Canadian companies have started offering free credit scores. They offer this service as a way to generate more sign-ups to their website and obtain your personal information (no SIN required).
I’m not a big fan of giving away personal info, but I’m fairly comfortable in this case as a SIN number is not required.
Generally, all you need is your name, birthday, address, and the ability to answer some multiple choice credit report questions. It’s also important to note that checking your credit score on multiple sites will not impact your credit score.
Here are the four companies (and the credit agency that they use) that I have come across that offer free credit scores for Canadians:
- Borrowell – Equifax (quarterly updates) – now offers your credit REPORT for free;
- Credit Karma – Transunion (weekly updates – bonus: fairly detailed report with a chart tracking over time);
- RateHub.ca – Equifax (monthly updates); and,
- Mogo – Equifax (monthly updates).
I think overall, Borrowell offers the most value as it provides your credit score PLUS your credit report for FREE.
Update: As of 2021 Equifax allows free Canadian credit score checks (as well as a full credit report):
Why Am I Interested In My Credit Score?
So being mortgage free and no expected loans coming up, why am I all of the sudden interested in my credit score?
I recently realized that most of our credit cards over the past ten years have been under my name with my wife as a secondary cardholder (no credit check). Normally, this would be fine, but I wanted to make sure that my wife had creditworthiness to apply for loans/credit if need be (for example if I were to pass away suddenly).
With that, I created accounts with the websites above to test them out.
It turns out that she has a credit score that would fall into the “Excellent” range (in fact, slightly better than my score). With the confidence of a strong credit score behind us, we decided to sign up for two credit cards under her name.
1) The Neo Financial Mastercard gives us the best value at their partner stores. Read our full Neo Credit Card Review to find out how we get 6% cash back at many of our favourite stores with this card.
2) The Scotia Momentum Infinite card gives us the best value at all non-Neo-partner stores. Read our full Scotia Momentum Infinite Review for more information on how we can 2-4% cash back on everything else. (Not to mention a tasty sign up bonus.)
Now you may have other reasons for improving your credit score. Most important, if you ever hope to borrow money again, your interest rate will be chiefly determined by how confident the lender is that you will one day pack back what you owe!
Even a 1% lower interest rate on your mortgage and vehicle loans can make a massive difference over your lifetime.
Improve your Credit Score
So what if your credit score isn’t the best? There are a number of strategies that you can use.
Through a few quick and easy steps, you can keep your credit score at the top levels:
- Always pay your bills on time with at least the minimum required payment.
- Keep your amount borrowed to less than 50% of your total credit available.
- Avoid applying for several credit products within a short span of time.
- If cancelling credit cards, avoid cancelling the ones with the longer track records.
- If retaining a high credit score is top priority, then avoid loan consolidation. The reason being is that your total credit available will decrease while keeping the total borrowed the same.
What Determines a Credit Score in Canada?
It is important to know how your credit score is calculated if you want to improve it. In Canada, a credit score is impacted by these factors:
Credit History (15%): The longer your credit history stretches back, the better your lender can feel that they know you. This was the reason we wanted to establish a little more credit with my wife’s name attached.
Payment History (35%): Of course the single biggest factor in your credit score is if you paid your bills on time. This is why our first rule is to always make at least the minimum payments.
Credit Being Used (30%): Your “credit utilization ratio” is a basic fraction that tracks the amount you owe, over the amount of debt you could take out. In other words, what percentage of your credit cards and line of credit are you currently using?
New Credit Inquiries (10%): If you are making many inquiries for new credit cards or loans, Transunion and Equifax are going to notice!
Credit Mix (10%): A small part of your credit score is determined by how many different types of credit you have been trusted with. If you only have credit cards and no mortgage, car loan, or line of credit on your credit report, then you’re not likely to get into the absolute best credit score range.
Canadian Credit Score: FAQ
The best thing about these free Canadian credit score checks is that you can track your credit score over time. So if you apply for a new credit card, you can see how it impacts your score, and how it recovers over time.
My wife’s Transunion score dropped 10 points after applying for her (but has since recovered). Take note though that you are giving away your information in exchange for the free credit scores, so be prepared to get a few emails from them promoting their credit products.
Have you signed up with these sites to get your free Canadian credit score?
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