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Your credit score can have a big impact on your financial future, whether it's buying a house, renting an apartment or landing your dream job. Join over a million Canadians and get the tools you need to help understand, manage and master your credit - in under 3 minutes.

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What is a Credit Score?

Your credit score is a number ranging from 300 to 900 which reflects your creditworthiness to potential lenders. Higher scores make you more likely to qualify for better rates on things like mortgages, credit cards and loans- potentially saving you hundreds and even thousands of dollars.

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Who Looks at Your Credit Score and Report?

Your credit report is like your financial report card. In addition to banks and lenders, your report can be looked at by car dealerships, insurance, cell phone companies, landlords and future employers to judge your ability to manage debt and financial obligations.

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Canada's first AI-powered Credit Coach, Molly, will share personalized tips, articles, and tools that may help improve your credit.

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What you Need to Know About Credit Scores

Answers to Commonly Asked Questions

Your credit report is a detailed breakdown of your credit history, provided by one of Canada's credit bureaus, Equifax or TransUnion. Your credit report is like your financial report card. It shows when you’ve been granted credit, for things like a new mobile phone, or a personal loan. Your credit report also contains personal information, a history of your trades and accounts and any derogatory marks.

Credit scores are calculated by weighing various factors from your credit report, you can learn more in the Ultimate Guide to Credit Scores. The core factors that make up the Equifax scoring model (provided by Borrowell) include:

  • 35% payment history

  • 30% credit utilization

  • 15% credit history

  • 10% credit mix

  • 10% credit inquiries

The main benefit of monitoring your credit score is that it gives you more control over your overall financial wellbeing. Because it’s such an integral part of your financial life, it’s vital to consistently check your credit score to ensure that you keep your number as high as possible. By monitoring, you can also see if you’ve got any missed payments or have forgotten about something in your credit history. Being vigilant about your score also makes it easier to detect anomalies (like credit card applications you didn’t make or a sudden sharp score decrease) that could signal potential credit fraud or identity theft. 

Checking your credit score with Borrowell anytime is considered a ‘soft’ inquiry and will NOT hurt your score, making it easy to track and monitor your progress as build and improve. A hard inquiry on the other hand, does impact your score and is triggered if you apply for credit, such as a mortgage, personal or car loan, or credit card with banks or lenders.

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Starting to build your credit from zero can seem overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be. Many Canadians, such as newly arrived immigrants or students heading off to university, may not have a credit history. Some of the best ways to build credit if you have zero credit history include:

  • Getting a secured credit card. With a secured card, the cardholder guarantees repayment of the debt they will accrue by depositing a specified amount of money as collateral. The money they deposit acts as their credit limit. The user’s credit card activity will be reported to credit reporting agencies and help to build-up a credit history. 

  • Become an authorized user. When you become an authorized user on a parent’s or friend’s credit card, your payment history will be tracked just as it is with the primary card user. 

  • Get a loan. Though it can be hard to get a loan with no credit history, it’s worth the effort because taking out a personal or car loan can be a good way to develop a credit history as long as you are responsible with repayments.

When trying to keep your finances in check it can be tempting to cancel a credit card, but it could have negative repercussions for your credit score. Two of the main factors that go into calculating your credit score are credit utilization (which makes up a whopping 30%) and the length of your credit history (which makes up 15% of your score). 

Credit utilization refers to how much credit you owe relative to your overall credit limit. Generally speaking, you want to owe less than 30% of your total credit limit. Clearly, the more cards you have, the larger your credit limit will be and the easier it will be to stay below that 30% level, thus giving you a better credit score. 

Because credit history is another factor taken into account for your credit score, you don’t want to cancel a credit card that you’ve had for a long time. So, before you cancel, just be sure to consider the possible negative effect it may have on your overall credit score.

While the term “limited credit history” may sound ominous, it’s not generally a major cause for alarm. It simply means that you do not have enough accounts (like loan or credit card accounts) to calculate an accurate credit score. Having a limited credit history can be especially common for young people or newcomers to a country who have not yet applied for credit cards or loans and thus have no payment history. 

Overcoming a limited credit history is a matter of time and applying for credit cards and/or a loan and then responsibly making payments. For more ways on how to build up a credit history, see How do I build credit if I have zero credit history?

Credit histories don’t have a standard “reset” period at which time all information is erased from your credit account and you begin anew. Information about a specific account will remain until you close the account (and even once an account is closed it could stay on your record for as long as 10 years). However, negative items like bankruptcies and non-payments will remain on your credit history for six years on average. Hard inquiries (when a potential creditor requests a copy of your credit report) can stay on a credit report for as long as 3 years.

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer about how many credit cards are good for a credit score. At the very least, you should try to have one credit card in order to start building a credit history. Two is a good number because that way you always have a backup card. Beyond that, the ideal number of credit cards really depends on you and what you feel you can comfortably and responsibly manage.

Though both TransUnion and Equifax produce credit scores each credit bureau relies on its own unique scoring models to calculate your credit score. TransUnion uses what they call the CreditVision Scoring model to compute a person’s credit score. According to its website, TransUnion claims that “CreditVision risk scores are built from TransUnion’s own expanded consumer credit report and utilize new data elements including actual payment amounts as reported for each account, revolving/transacting behaviour on credit cards, and up to 24 months of history for each tradeline.” Equifax, which is the largest credit bureau in Canada (and is where Borrowell sources your score), uses the popular Equifax Risk Score  (ERS 2.0).

The credit scores you receive from credit bureaus may be different because each company uses its own proprietary model to calculate your credit score. Note, however, that while the scoring algorithms vary, credit bureaus largely depend on the same factors when establishing your score, including payment history, credit utilization, length of history, types of credit and new credit.

The rule of thumb is that an account that has gone to a collection agency stays on your credit report for 6 years after the date of your last payment. According to Equifax, if you pay the debt off before the 6-year period expires, the account remains on your credit report, but it may have less of an impact on your overall Equifax credit score.

A consumer proposal is when you form a legally binding agreement with your creditors to pay back a set percentage of your debt. A consumer proposal will stay on your credit report for 3 years after you settled the debt. If you don’t satisfy the debt, the consumer proposal will stay on your credit record for 6 years.

A credit limit is the maximum amount a cardholder is allowed to put on a credit card. Every time you make a purchase with your card, the amount is added to your balance, which can not exceed your credit limit. Each time you pay off your balance, your credit limit returns to the maximum allowable amount. You can check by looking at your statement or by speaking to your credit card company.

It's important to know your credit score! Your credit score is an indicator of your overall financial health. You can check your free credit score in Canada with Borrowell. Banks, lenders, and landlords take your score into account when you’re looking to get a mortgage, personal loan or your dream rental. Luckily, we’re here to provide tools and personalized tips to help you improve your credit health. Just so you know, checking your credit score with Borrowell won’t hurt it.

Borrowell gives you access to your Equifax credit score and free credit report. Your credit score is a three-digit number, ranging from 300-900, depending on the scoring model. Your credit score is used to determine your overall creditworthiness or how likely you are to pay back credit. Borrowell provides the ERS 2.0 credit score for free. This is a popular and legitimate score used by many banks and lenders and is used in our own lending decisions.

The first in Canada, Molly is Borrowell's AI-powered Credit Coach who helps you understand your credit score and provides tips that may improve it. Sign up to get free access today.

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Borrowell® is a registered trademark of Borrowell Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Equifax credit score is based on Equifax’s proprietary model and may not be the same score used by third parties to determine your credit profile. The score provided to you for educational use is the Equifax Risk Score.

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