Frequently Asked Questions about Credit

What is a credit score?
What is a credit report?
Why is my credit report important?
What information does a consumer credit report contain?
Who has access to my credit report?
How are my debts rated on my credit report?
What is an inquiry?
How long does Equifax keep information in my file?
How can I make sure the information in my credit report is accurate?

What is a credit score?

A credit score is a number between 300 and 900 that is calculated using the information contained in your credit report. You get points for actions that demonstrate that you can use credit responsibly, and lose points for things that show you have difficulty managing credit.

Your credit score is constantly changing as companies are regularly sending information to the credit reporting agencies. That means that if you messed up your credit in the past, it can be rebuilt. top

What is a credit report?

Your credit report contains all the information that a credit reporting agency has received from companies that have extended credit to you.

A credit report is created when you first borrow money or apply for credit from a financial institution. Companies that lend money (such as  banks, finance companies, credit union and retailers) send specific information related to their transactions with you to credit reporting agencies on a regular basis.  The credit agencies then organize and store this information so that it can be referred to in the future, when your consent is given.

Your credit report may include a list of your credit cards and/or lines of credit along with a history of whether these accounts have been paid on time. If you did not pay a bill and your account was sent to collections, this will be shown on your file.  Additionally, public records such as declaring bankruptcy will also appear. Therefore, your credit file is a report of your financial history and your past performance with creditors. top

Why is my credit report important?

Your credit report is referred to every time you want to apply for credit, or open an account. The grantor will want to be sure that if they extend credit to you, that it will be paid back in the agreed-upon terms. Lenders view a credit file that demonstrates  that debts are paid on time more positively, making it more likely for you to receive additional loans or credit. Your credit report will also show how much you have borrowed in the past, as well as current balances on accounts. This information will allow the creditors to determine your capacity to make monthly payments. top

What information does a consumer credit report contain?

Personal information – contains key identification information, such as name, address, date of birth, and social insurance number

Inquiries – lists of all individuals or organizations that have requested a copy of you credit report in the last 3 years

Public record information – contains information about secured loans (such as lien on car or house), bankruptcies and/or judgments 

Third-Party Collection Agency – information about any involvement with a collection agency trying to settle a debt.

Trade Information – provides details about your credit transactions such as whether payments are being made, and if they are being made on time. Each account is evaluated by the lender/creditor and given a score. See “How are my debts rated on my credit report?for more information. 

Telecommunications accounts – such as mobile phone and internet. These may or may not be considered by a lender.

Remarks – including consumer statements, fraud alerts and identity verification alerts. The consumer statement is an area that allows you to comment on any information in your file. 
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Who has access to my credit report?

There are regulations in place to protect your personal information, including your credit report. Usually your credit report can only be used to:

  • lend money or extend credit to you
  • collect on a debt you owe
  • consider you for rental housing or a job
  • provide you with insurance (some provinces have restrictions)
  • meet a direct business need

Lenders, employers, or landlords can only use your credit report when you give your consent. Typically, when you sign an application for credit, you allow the lender to access your credit report. This consent allows the lenders to use your credit report when you first apply and any time afterward while your account is open.

In most cases, your consent also allows the lender to share information with credit reporting agencies if your application is approved. top

How are my debts rated on my credit report?

Lenders may use codes when they send information to the credit reporting agencies about how and when you make your payments. These codes have two parts: a letter and a number.

The letter indicated what type of credit you are using, as outlined in the following table.

LetterMeaningExample
IInstallment Credit
You borrow money for a specific period of time and repay it in fixed amounts, on a regular basis, until the loan is paid off.
Car loan
OOpen Status Credit
You can borrow money when you need to, up to a certain limit.
Line of credit
RRevolving or Recurring Credit
You can borrow money up to your credit limit on an ongoing basis. You make regular payments in varying amounts depending on the balance of your account.
Credit Card
MMortgage Loan
Mortgage information may be included on your credit report.
Mortgage

The number indicates how well you make the payments in accordance with lending agreement, as outlined below:

NumberMeaning
0 - Too new to rate
- approved, but not yet used
1- Paid within 30 days of billing
- Pays as agreed
2- Late payment: 31-59 days
3- Late payment: 60-89 days
4- Late payment: 90-119 days
5- Late payment: more than 120 days, but not yet rated "9"
6- This code is not used
7- Making regular payments under a consolidation order, Orderly Payment of Debts, consumer proposal or Debt Management Program with a credit counselling agency
8- Repossession
9- Written off as bad debt
- Sent to collection agency
- Bankruptcy

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What is an inquiry?

An “inquiry” occurs any time a creditor/lender requests a copy of your credit report. This will be shown on your report under there recent inquiries section and will display the name of the company or individual that requested your credit file and the date it was requested.

There are two types of inquiries: hard inquiries, and soft inquiries. A hard inquiry will affect your credit score, which is why it is important to only apply for credit as needed. A soft inquiry will give the company or individual who requested a credit report the information they require without affecting your credit score. top

How long does Equifax keep information in my file?

By law, negative information can only be kept on your credit report for a certain length of time. The information provided below pertains to Equifax only.

Credit accounts: 6 years from the date of last activity; credit cards, lines of credit, and secured loans

Inquiries: 3 years;

Judgments: 6 years

Collection Accounts: 6 years

Bankruptcies: 6 years

Multiple Bankruptcies: 14 years

Consumer proposal: 3 years

Remarks: 6 years
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How can I make sure the information in my credit report is accurate?

The best thing you can do is request a credit report from Equifax. Checking your credit report periodically will keep you from getting any surprises, especially when attempting to make a large purchase or applying for additional credit. If you believe there is an inaccuracy in the report, simply provide information about the disputed item to the credit reporting agency. top

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