There’s a lot you need to know about credit scores, starting with what they are and how you check yours. Find the answers to those basic questions (plus a couple more complicated ones) below.
What’s a credit score?
A credit score is a 3-digit number that’s meant to be a representation of your overall credit worthiness and a measure of your riskiness to lenders. Your credit score is calculated using the information in your credit report, and scores range from a low of 300 to a high of 900.
What’s a ‘good’ credit score?
In general, credit scores above 700 are considered ‘good’. If your score is higher than 700, you’ll be able to borrow money at low interest rates and be approved for higher-tier (better) credit cards.
Who can provide my credit score?
In Canada, credit reports and their corresponding scores are provided by two credit bureaus: TransUnion and Equifax.
Will getting a free credit score harm my credit?
No. Free credit scores are based on a ‘soft’ credit pull, which doesn’t affect your score in any way.
How often does my credit score change?
Very often. Your score can change as frequently as once per day, especially if you’re actively using your credit.
How can I see my credit report?
You can buy your report from Equifax, or call them at 1-800-465-7166 to get a free copy mailed to you.
How can I improve my credit score?
Try these four easy tips:
- Pay your bills on time: Your payment history is the number one factor that determines your credit score. Stop making late payments and watch your credit score rise.
- Maintain a low balance on your credit cards and lines of credit: Put simply, just pay off your balances in full every month.
- Maintain your current credit lines and don’t apply for new credit lines all at once: Credit bureaus look at the ‘average age’ of your credit lines. The longer you’ve had your credit, the better it is for your credit score. Applying for new credit will shorten the average age of your credit lines and lower your score. The same is true for closing down lines of credit that you’ve had for a while: doing so will shorten that all-important average age number and harm your credit. And if you do need to apply for new credit, avoid opening several new lines of credit all at once.
- If you don’t have a credit history, get started right away: Canadians with longer credit histories typically enjoy higher credit scores. If you’ve only recently joined the workforce or immigrated to Canada, you should open a credit line right away. To get started, try applying for a credit card.