In Canada’s personal finance realm, a good credit score stands as a cornerstone of financial stability and flexibility. A good credit score, ranging from 660 to 900 on the FICO credit scoring scale, reflects a history of responsible financial management and prudent credit behaviour. It symbolizes an individual’s reliability in meeting financial obligations on time and in a whole, such as loan repayments and credit card dues.
With a good credit score, Canadians can access various financial benefits, including favourable interest rates on loans, credit card offers with rewarding perks, and increased prospects for securing mortgages and other significant financial agreements. Understanding what constitutes a good credit score is pivotal for anyone navigating the Canadian economic landscape, as it can significantly influence access to essential financial opportunities.
Who determines a Credit Score in Canada?
Credit bureaus calculate credit scores in Canada based on the credit information they collect from various sources. Equifax and Trans Union are the two main credit bureaus in Canada. These credit bureaus gather data from lenders, financial institutions, credit card companies, and other relevant sources to build individual consumer credit profiles. They use this information to calculate credit scores using specific algorithms and models.
The credit bureaus consider various factors to determine a person’s credit score, including payment history, credit utilization, length of credit history, types of credit accounts, and recent credit inquiries. Each credit bureau might have slightly different information and scoring models, which can lead to variations in credit scores between the two bureaus.
It’s essential for individuals to regularly review their credit reports from both Equifax and Trans Union to ensure accuracy and to monitor their credit health. Individuals can positively impact their credit scores by maintaining good credit habits and responsibly managing credit.
Canadian Credit Scores
Credit scores in Canada typically range from 300 to 900, with higher scores indicating better creditworthiness. The specific range and definitions can vary slightly between credit bureaus and scoring models. Here’s a general breakdown of Canadian credit score ranges and what they mean:
300 – 579: Poor
A credit score in this range indicates a higher risk of default. Individuals with scores in this range might have a history of missed payments, high credit card balances, and other adverse credit events. It can be challenging to qualify for loans or credit at reasonable interest rates with a poor credit score.
580 – 669: Fair
Credit scores in this range suggest that there have been some credit challenges in the past. While not as high-risk as poor credit, individuals in this range might still need help obtaining credit or loans with favourable terms.
670 – 739: Good
A good credit score indicates responsible credit behaviour. Individuals in this range will likely qualify for most loans and credit products at competitive interest rates. People with these credit scores have a history of making payments on time and managing credit responsibly.
740 – 799: Very Good
This credit score range reflects a strong credit history. Individuals with perfect credit scores are usually eligible for better interest rates and may have access to premium credit products and rewards.
800 – 900: Excellent
An excellent credit score indicates an exceptional credit history and responsible financial behaviour. Individuals in this range will likely be approved for loans and credit products with the best terms and lowest interest rates.
What determines the Calculation of your Credit Score?
Several factors play a crucial role in calculating your credit score in Canada. Credit bureaus and scoring models use these factors to assess your creditworthiness. The following are the key factors that can affect your credit score:
Payment History (35%): Your payment history is one of the most significant factors. It includes whether you’ve paid your bills on time, late payments, defaults, bankruptcies, and accounts in collections. Consistently paying bills on time helps boost your score.
Credit Utilization (30%): This factor measures the percentage of your available credit that you’re currently using. A lower utilization rate indicates responsible credit management. It is therefore wise to keep your credit utilization below 30%.
Length of Credit History (15%): The time you’ve held credit accounts contributes to your score. A more extended credit history demonstrates your ability to manage credit over time.
Types of Credit (10%): A mix of credit types, such as credit cards, mortgages, and instalment loans, can positively impact your score. A diverse credit portfolio shows that you can manage different types of credit responsibly.
New Credit (10%): Opening new credit accounts can slightly lower your score temporarily due to the increased risk associated with new credit. Applying for multiple credit accounts quickly can negatively affect your score.
Public Records and Derogatory Marks: Negative information like bankruptcies, foreclosures, and tax liens can significantly impact your credit score and stay on your report for several years.
Credit Inquiries: When you apply for credit, a hard inquiry is generated, which can have a small, temporary impact on your score. Multiple hard questions within a short period can signal higher risk to lenders.
Outstanding Debt: The total debt you owe, including credit cards, loans, and mortgages, is considered. In most cases, credit scores are lowered by high levels of debt relative to your income.
Late Payments: Recent late payments can hurt your score more than older ones. Consistently making payments on time is crucial for maintaining a solid credit score.
Credit Age: The average age of your credit accounts can influence your score. Older versions show a more extended history of credit management.
Credit Management: How well you manage your credit accounts and whether you’ve defaulted or settled debts can impact your score.
A credit report in Canada is a detailed record of your credit history and financial behaviour. It provides a comprehensive overview of your borrowing and repayment activities, which lenders and financial institutions use to assess your creditworthiness when you apply for loans, credit cards, mortgages, and other forms of credit. Your credit report is a snapshot of how responsible you’ve been with your financial commitments.
Below is what you can find in your Canadian credit report:
- Personal Information: This includes your name, address, date of birth, and other identifying details.
- Credit Accounts: A list of your credit accounts, including credit cards, loans, mortgages, and lines of credit. This section also provides information about the creditor, account balance, credit limit, payment history, and account status.
- Payment History: A record of your payment behaviour, including whether you’ve made payments on time, missed any fees, or defaulted on any accounts.
- Credit Inquiries: A list of companies or individuals who have requested your credit report due to your credit applications. There are two types of inquiries: hard inquiries (those initiated by your credit applications) and soft inquiries (those not related to credit applications, such as when you check your credit report).
- Public Records: Any legal or general financial information about you, such as bankruptcies, tax liens, or court judgments, may be listed here.
- Collections: Information about any accounts sent to groups due to non-payment.
- Credit Utilization: The ratio of your outstanding balance to your total available credit. This ratio assesses your credit utilization, which impacts your credit score.
- Credit Score: While not included in the credit report, your credit score is often provided alongside it. It’s a numerical representation of your creditworthiness based on the information in your account.
How to improve your Credit score
It takes time and consistent effort to improve your credit score. Here are steps you can take to work towards a better credit score in Canada:
Check Your Credit Report: Obtain a copy of your credit report from Equifax and Trans Union. Review them for accuracy and report any errors or discrepancies.
Make Bill Payments on Time: Timely payments have a significant positive impact on your credit score. Set up reminders or automatic payments to ensure you never miss a due date.
Reduce Credit Card Balances: Aim to keep your credit card balances well below the credit limit. If you highly utilize your credit, then it would definitely lower your score. Paying down balances can improve this ratio.
Limit New Credit Applications: Multiple credit applications within a short period can lower your score. Only apply for credit when necessary and avoid opening numerous new accounts.
Diversify Your Credit Mix: A mix of credit types—such as credit cards, instalment loans, and mortgages—can positively influence your score if you manage them responsibly.
Ensure that your Old Accounts are Open: The length of your credit history matters. Keep older accounts open, even if you’re not using them, to demonstrate a more extended history of responsible credit use.
Pay off Collections: If you have accounts in collections, work on paying them off. While they won’t be removed from your credit report immediately, resolving them will show lenders that you’re addressing past issues.
Avoid Bankruptcy: Bankruptcy has a severe and long-lasting impact on your credit score. Explore alternatives before considering bankruptcy.
Use Secured Credit Cards: If you need help getting approved for traditional credit cards, consider a secured credit card. These cards require a deposit and can help you build or rebuild credit.
Create a Budget: Managing your finances well is critical to improving your credit score. Create a budget to track your income and expenses, ensuring you have funds to cover your bills.
Negotiate with Lenders: If you’re facing financial challenges, contact your lenders to discuss hardship programs, lower interest rates, or payment plans that can help you manage your debt more effectively.
Seek Professional Help: If your credit situation is complex or overwhelming, consider seeking advice from a credit counsellor or financial advisor specializing in credit improvement.
What is considered a good credit score in Canada?
A good credit score in Canada generally falls within the range of 670 to 799 on the FICO credit scoring scale. However, scoring models and lenders may have slightly different fields and criteria.
Why is it essential to have a good credit score?
A good credit score is essential for obtaining favourable interest rates on loans, credit cards, and mortgages. It increases your chances of approval for credit applications and can save you money.
How can I check my credit score in Canada?
You can request a free copy of your credit report from Equifax and Trans Union once a year. There are also online platforms that provide access to your credit score and information for a fee.