Taking a look at your credit report is a great place to start (or continue) your financial journey. If you’re not sure what a credit report is — or even if you have one — you’re not alone. A credit report is a summary of your credit history. Credit scores are calculated based on the information in your credit report at the time the score is calculated.
There are two major credit reporting agencies in Canada – Equifax and TransUnion – both of which maintain consumer credit reports containing information reported to them by lenders and creditors.
Your credit report may not be identical with each of the two agencies, as some lenders may report information to both of them, just one, or sometimes none at all. Since I work for Equifax Canada, I will be focusing on how things work there.
How do I get my credit reports?
Did you know that as an individual in Canada, you are entitled to access your credit reports for free? In fact, you have a number of rights when it comes to your information at registered credit bureaus (also known as credit agencies). At Equifax, we want to help you live your financial best and we are here to work with you.
What am I entitled to?
All people in Canada have these rights. It doesn’t matter if you are technically a Canadian citizen or not. If you have credit accounts in Canada, you are likely to have credit reports in Canada and you are entitled to:
You can access your credit report and a credit score free of charge. When you access your own credit report and score, there is no impact to any credit score calculations.
Be proactive about security
There is no charge to place a security alert on your credit report. Depending on the circumstances, the security alert may be an identity alert or a fraud warning.
You can add an explanatory statement, sometimes called a consumer statement, to your credit report, free of charge. This is an opportunity to provide information you would like to be included with your credit report any time it is reviewed by a third party.
It is important to all of us that your information is as accurate as possible. There is no charge to let us know that something doesn’t look right on your credit report. We will work with you to investigate and update your credit report as applicable.
Have negative credit information removed from your credit report after a period of time
Generally speaking, negative information such as late or missed payments, accounts that have been sent to collection agencies, or a bankruptcy stays on credit reports for approximately six years. Here is more information about how long different types of information will remain on your Equifax credit report.
What happens when I contact a credit bureau?
We are committed to protecting your privacy. This means that we must confirm your identity when you contact us to discuss your credit report. When you contact us, we will ask you to:
Prove your identity
In order to protect your privacy, we need to be sure that the person we are talking to matches the identity of the credit report. We will ask for proof of identity in order to discuss any of your specific information.
Explain your concern or request
Once we understand your concern or request, we can work through the appropriate steps with you.
At Equifax we operate on facts and we expect you to do the same. Depending on the nature of your question or concern, we may need different pieces of government ID or supporting documentation. For example, if you are requesting an address change on your credit report, we will need to see evidence that the new address is yours.
What if I am struggling with my credit situation?
You are not alone. There are a number of places you can get help and support. There is publicly-available information on the Government of Canada website, covering many aspects of managing your money. Certified Credit Counsellors like those at Credit Canada can review your debt situation, discuss your options, and explain the pros and cons of each. This service is completely free and confidential.
What should I avoid?
Some companies may say they can solve your debt problems quickly, or boost your credit scores. Others may push high-interest loans to pay off your debts, or say they can manage your consumer proposal or bankruptcy. It’s important to remember that companies, agencies or counsellors can’t quickly and easily “fix” your credit scores or your credit history. If the information on your credit reports is accurate and complete, the only way to improve your credit standing is through the passage of time and solid repayment behaviour.