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Equifax and TransUnion: Why are They Different?

Sandra MacGregor

Dec 04, 2022 7 min read

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Why are TransUnion and Equifax scores so different?

In Canada, there are two credit bureaus: Equifax and TransUnion. If you’ve been checking your credit score (as you should to stay on top of your financial health) you may notice that the score you get from each bureau could be significantly different. TransUnion and Equifax credit scores are different because each of these credit bureaus use their own proprietary credit scoring models to calculate credit scores based on a variety of factors.

To ensure your credit profile stays healthy, it’s crucial to understand what factors influence credit scores and why yours may differ between credit bureaus.

Why Are My TransUnion and Equifax Scores Different?

In general, there are three main reasons that Equifax score and your TransUnion score may be different:

Reason #1 Different Credit Scoring Models

Credit-reporting agencies like TransUnion and Equifax essentially both do the same thing, which is to maintain credit reports and calculate credit scores based on the financial data provided to them by banks and creditors. That being said, what they do with that data is slightly different because they each have their own unique proprietary credit scoring models and algorithms. That’s why you could have an excellent credit score with one agency and only a good score with the other.

Equifax uses a risk prediction tool called Equifax Risk Score 2.0, while TransUnion uses what they call their CreditVision risk scoring model. While both metrics rate credit scores in Canada between a range of 300 to 900 — with 900 being the highest possible score — each credit scoring agency gets different numbers because they weigh different elements differently.

Keep in mind that, although credit bureaus may give credit information slightly different weight, the factors credit agencies measure are much the same. These factors, listed from highest to lowest impact, are:

  • Your payment history

  • Your credit utilization (how much credit you’re using as a proportion of your available credit)

  • Your credit history

  • Your credit mix

  • Inquiries into your credit file

Note that payment history, credit utilization and credit history are generally the factors that count the most when it comes to your score and overall credit health.

Other factors that also influence credit scores are things like public records (such as bankruptcies and consumer proposals). In general, things like where you live, your marital status, your employment record and yearly income are not the types of information that credit bureaus use to calculate credit scores.

Equifax credit scores

Reason #2 If and How Lenders Report Credit

There are really no firm rules as to how lenders and credit card providers must report credit information to credit bureaus. That means that your lender could choose not to report your account to credit bureaus at all. Another important consideration is that some creditors may only report your credit account to one of Canada’s two credit bureaus, which could also explain the different credit scores you see when you check your Equifax or TransUnion rating.

Reason #3 When Lenders Report

There is no strict timeline on when creditors must report financial data to credit bureaus. Smaller lenders without big accounting and payment departments to handle financial accounts may take a while to get their balance sheets up to date and so may be behind in reporting late or missed payments to credit bureaus.

When comparing your Equifax and TransUnion credit scores it’s also vital to make sure you’re comparing similar dates. Your credit score and credit report are essentially snapshots in time of your credit health so you’ll want to compare similar dates when looking for differences between the two credit bureaus.

TransUnion credit score

Which Score Matters More?

It would be inaccurate to say that your Equifax score matters more than your TransUnion score or vice versa. It’s really up to your potential lender what credit score agency they want to consult when they go to look up your score and credit profile. It’s even possible that a creditor may get your file and score from both credit bureaus.

A good approach is to not worry so much about small differences between the individual credit bureau (unless there is a major difference between the two — in which case you should contact the bureau) and focus instead on keeping your score strong and monitoring your credit file so that you can catch any errors that may need updating.

Why is My Equifax Score Higher Than TransUnion?

Your Equifax credit score may be sometimes lower and sometimes higher than your TransUnion score for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Each of Canada’s two major credit bureaus use different credit scoring models to establish your credit score and file. While they consider many (if not all) of the same factors when calculating your score, such as payment history, credit utilization, credit history, credit mix, and credit inquiries, the weight they give to each may be slightly different.

  • Your creditor only reports your credit account to one of the credit agencies rather than both. Consider contacting your lender to ask what bureau they report to. There could be an error or inaccuracy on one of your credit reports. Reach out to the credit bureau to update or dispute any errors.

  • It could be a matter of timing and one credit bureau may have updated your score and report sooner than the other credit bureau.

Free credit score

Do Banks Look at your TransUnion Score or Equifax Score?

It can be difficult to know what credit bureau a bank or other lending institution relies on to get your credit information and score. You can always reach out to your bank or creditor and ask what credit bureau they use or whether or not they get credit reports from both bureaus — though they aren’t obligated to tell you.

How Can I Check my Credit Score for Free?

One of the easiest ways to get your credit score and credit report for free is via Borrowell. When you sign up online through the Borrowell website, you can get your Equifax credit score and credit report at no cost. Signing up takes less than 3 minutes and it won’t impact your credit score. Once you sign up, you’ll then be able to check your credit score or download your credit report any time you'd like. You’ll also get weekly updates on how your score has changed, as well as personalized tips on how to improve your score. You’ll even get suggestions on financial products that match your profile.

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Get Your Credit Score

You can also get your credit report by contacting the credit bureau directly. Note that both Equifax and TransUnion offer credit monitoring services for a fee. However, you do not need to pay for any credit products to be able to access your credit report at no cost.

Equifax

Equifax will provide you with both your entire credit report as well as your score for free.

Depending on what option you use, it can take anywhere from five to 20 business days to receive your report. You can get your score and credit file in one of four ways:

  • Online: You can request your credit score and file online via their website. You have the option of requesting and receiving your report digitally, or filling out the request form online but then receiving it through the mail.

  • Phone: You can submit your request by phone free of charge at 1-800-465-7166. Note that if you submit your request by phone, you’ll have to provide your Social Insurance Number. If you do not wish to provide your SIN you will need to use a different option.

  • Mail: You'll need to download and fill out an official Canadian credit report request form from the website. You’ll then need to send in a photocopy (front and back) of two pieces of valid Canadian Government-issued identification. At least one of which must have your current home address.

  • In-person: Equifax has four office locations that you can visit in person to ask for your free Equifax credit report. To do so you’ll need to bring at least two forms official identification, including one photo identification and proof of current address. Be aware that you’ll have to provide original copies of your chosen identification documents because photocopies are not accepted at the office locations.

Credit reporting agency

TransUnion

Unfortunately, TransUnion only provides free credit scores to residents of Quebec. They will, however, provide you with a free copy of your credit report (though TransUnion refers to the document as a Consumer Disclosure). As with Equifax, to get your TransUnion Consumer Disclosure you have four options:

  • Online: You can sign up online for your Consumer Disclosure on the TransUnion website.

  • Phone: Call 1-800-663-9980.

  • Mail: You can print and fill out the consumer request and mail it in along with photocopies of two pieces of official ID.

  • In-Person: To request a copy of your report in-person, visit a TransUnion office and be sure to bring along two pieces of identification.

Another way to get a free copy of your score and/or credit report is via your bank. Some banks, like RBC, Scotiabank, and CIBC allow you to download a free copy of your report and/or score via their website or app as long as you’re a client.

Bottom Line

There are a variety of reasons that you may have a different credit score with TransUnion and Equifax, including that they use different scoring models. This is normally not a serious issue unless there is a big difference between the two credit bureaus scores, in which case you should check your credit report and contact the credit agency to see if there’s an issue with your credit file.

Sandra MacGregor
Sandra MacGregor
 | 
Personal Finance Writer
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Sandra MacGregor is a professional writer who specializes in topics such as finance, travel, health, and lifestyle. Her work has been featured in the Toronto Star, the Montreal Gazette, and the New York Times. She is a regular contributor to the Borrowell blog.

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