10 Fast Facts About Credit Scores
If you are in the market for a home, you are probably very familiar with your credit score. Lenders are one of the primary users of credit scores and it can have a huge impact on whether you get approved for a loan and just how much interest it is going to cost you. What isn’t well known about credit scores is where they come from, and what makes them go up (or down!)? Your credit score is going to be with you for life, so why not take a couple of minutes to get the facts.
There are two credit-reporting agencies in Canada: Equifax and TransUnion. Your credit score may vary between the two. Lenders may check one or both agencies when you apply for credit.
Your credit score is actually derived from the data in your credit report — which can be had for free once per year from Equifax and TransUnion. Some banks, credit unions, and other financial services companies provide your credit score for free as part of their services.
Credit scores range between 300 and 900 with the Canadian average being 650.
Your credit score is used for a lot more than just borrowing money; insurance companies, mobile phone providers, car leasing companies, landlords and employers may all require your credit score to make decisions.
Five factors affect your credit score: length of credit history, credit utilization or how much of your limit you have used, the mix/types of credit you hold, the frequency you apply for credit, your payment history.
Mistakes and omissions are not uncommon and is a good idea to check the details of your credit report. Both agencies have a process to report errors and get them corrected.
Credit scores of 700+ are considered “good” and offer a higher chance of loan approval, greater borrowing limits, and lower or “preferred” interest rates and insurance premiums. You must have a credit score of at least 600 to get an insured mortgage in Canada
Credit scores are continuously evaluated and adjusted. If you have “errored” in your past, the damage is not permanent! Your score can be raised/rebuilt by using credit responsibly (see #10).
Checking your credit score regularly is a good idea and will help detect errors, monitor improvements, and identify fraud. This is a “soft” enquiry and will not affect your score.
To increase your credit score: make payments on time, pay the full amount owing, use 35% or less of your available credit, hold a variety of credit types, apply for new credit sparingly.
Don’t make the mistake of ignoring your credit score. Even if you aren’t looking to borrow money anytime soon, there are a lot of reasons to keep an eye on it.