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Taking charge of your credit report

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Your credit report shows your history of paying bills and borrowing money. It’s used to calculate your credit score. Here are key things to know about how credit reports work.

What you should know

Say you open a new line of credit at the bank. Or you’re late paying your phone bill. For events like these, the bank or business you’re dealing with reports the information to a credit reporting agency.

There are two main credit reporting agencies in Canada: Equifax and TransUnion. They gather your information into a credit report.

You’re entitled to a free copy of yours. We offer guidance on how to get it. See ordering your credit report.

The credit reporting agencies plug your credit information into mathematical formulas to come up with your credit score. A high credit score is good. It means you’re a good bet to lend money to — because you’re seen as likely to pay it back.

Your credit report is really the story of you and your money. Your history of borrowing, paying back, and covering your bills. The moment you get your first credit card or take out your first loan, the credit reporting agencies open a file on you.

Your file grows as you do business with banks and companies. These “creditors” regularly report details about you to the credit reporting agencies.

For example, when you open an account. If you miss payments. What your credit limit is.

Credit information is broadly defined. It includes your history of paying bills and borrowing and paying back money.

But it also includes:

  • your name and age
  • where you live now and where you’ve lived in the past
  • where you work and roughly how much you earn
  • your education and work qualifications
  • your spouse’s name and age
  • your marital status

Any of these details can appear in your credit report. So can information collected from public records — for example, court or marriage documents.

Certain information can’t be in your credit report. Including:

  • information about members of your family (other than your spouse)
  • your race, religious beliefs, skin colour, sexual orientation, ethnic background, or politics
  • criminal convictions that have been discharged or pardoned
  • criminal charges that were withdrawn or dismissed

As well, some information can’t be in your report if it’s more than six years old:

  • a court judgment against you (unless you still haven’t paid the debt)
  • a criminal conviction
  • a bankruptcy (unless you’ve been bankrupt more than once)
  • any other negative information about you

If you notice something in your credit report that shouldn’t be there, we can help you get it fixed. See fixing a mistake in your credit report.

Credit reporting agencies use a formula to generate a credit score from the information they have on you. Banks, businesses, and others look at it to decide whether to lend you money.

Your credit score doesn’t appear on your credit report. But you can order it from either credit reporting agency. Visit Equifax or TransUnion.

Credit reporting agencies don’t have to say how they calculate credit scores. And lenders often have their own ways of doing the math. So your credit score might be slightly different depending on who came up with it.

We offer guidance on how to boost your score. See improving your credit score.

If you're interested, we have more on everything we've covered here. See our in-depth information on taking charge of your credit report.

  • This information applies to British Columbia, Canada
  • Reviewed for legal accuracy in February 2020
  • Time to read: 3 minutes

Reviewed for legal accuracy by

Wendy Andersen, Digby Leigh & Co. and Casey Harris, Barrister & Solicitor

Wendy Andersen, Digby Leigh & Co.
Casey Harris, Barrister & Solicitor

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This information from People’s Law School explains in a general way the law that applies in British Columbia, Canada. The information is not intended as legal advice. See our disclaimer.


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