While many people recognize the importance of having a good credit score, they may not actually know what theirs is and where it falls within the credit score range of 300 to 900. When it comes to your credit score, the higher your number, the more creditworthy you're deemed to be. Having a strong credit score is essential since lenders will use it as one factor to determine if they should lend to you or not and sometimes what interest rate you're offered.

Fortunately, it's never been easier to check your credit score, and it's a good idea to check it at least once a year.

Where to get your free credit score in Canada?

Canada has two credit bureau reporting companies: TransUnion and Equifax. These companies are private, and they get their consumer data regularly from lenders, utility companies, and public records. Based on the information provided to them, your credit score is then calculated.

Getting your free credit score check is simple when you're a Scotiabank customer. Simply log onto your Scotiabank account to get your free credit score report provided by TransUnion.1

Checking your credit score won't lower it, so you can check it as often as you want. That said, your credit score is generally updated on a monthly basis so you wouldn't see a change in it daily, so checking once a month or every few months is likely enough to see how your progress is doing. It’s a good idea to check your credit score at least once a year.

Since Equifax and TransUnion are two separate companies, you'll likely have different credit scores with each of them because more or less weight may be given to different factors. For example, some lenders report your credit history to both companies, but others may only report to one. It's typical to have different credit scores when comparing yours from Equifax and TransUnion. You can order a free report from both Canadian credit reporting agencies.

What is a credit report?

While your credit score is a number to quickly show how creditworthy you are, your credit report is more detailed. It covers your entire credit profile and includes information such as:

Personal information

Your personal information is vital as it would include your name, social insurance number, address, and date of birth. When checking your credit report, you want to verify this information is correct.

Credit account

The types of credit accounts you have open and their details, including payment history, will clearly be displayed on your credit report. It would include accounts such as a line of credit, credit cards, mortgage, and consumer loans. In addition, any closed accounts within the last six years would also appear.

Inquiry information

Your credit report will show both hard and soft credit inquiries. A hard inquiry — often referred to as a hard check — is when lenders take a detailed look at your credit history. A hard check will drop your credit score by a few points. Soft inquiries don't reduce your credit score, but it allows lenders to quickly see your credit score and report. When you check your TransUnion credit score on the Scotiabank app or on Scotiabank.com, it’s a soft check that will not impact your overall credit score. 

Bankruptcies, collections, and other public records

If you've declared bankruptcy your credit report will show it for seven to ten years and most negative information generally stays on your report for seven years.2

What is credit monitoring?

Both TransUnion and Equifax offer a paid credit monitoring service. When you subscribe, you'll be alerted immediately if there are any credit inquiries on your account. You'll also have instant online access to your credit report. Credit monitoring is a valuable service if you've been a victim of a data breach or if you suspect that you've been a victim of fraud. The alerts sent to you will allow you to investigate things further right away. Scotiabank offers InfoAlerts, sends you an app notification, email or both when important activity happens on your account. 

How often should you check your credit score and report?

As a general rule, you'll want to check your credit report at least once a year. However, it's also an excellent strategy to spread your requests between the two credit bureaus. For example, you could order your TransUnion credit report in January and your Equifax one in July. By doing this, it can be used as a way to help you detect any potential fraud quickly.

If you see multiple credit inquiries that you don't recognize, it could be a sign of identity theft. It would be wise to contact those financial institutions that performed the inquiries to see if someone tried to open an account under your name.

Checking your credit report also allows you to spot anything that might be a mistake, such as your personal information or any collections accounts. It's possible to correct these issues, but it might take months.

Scotiabank customers can quickly check their financial health by using the TransUnion CreditView service through the Scotiabank app.3 It'll check your TransUnion credit score for free and allow you to access your credit report. In addition, you'll get tips on how to improve your credit score.

What is a good credit score?

Generally speaking, a good credit score is anything above 742. However, it's not that simple, so it's best to look at the overall range to see where you fall:

Illustration which outlines numbers associated to credit score ranges.  Excellent: 833 - 900 Very good: 790 - 832 Good: 743 - 789 Fair: 693 - 742 Poor: 300 – 692.

Having a higher credit score is always beneficial, so you want to strive for very good or excellent standing. However, it's not just lenders that look at your credit score. Potential landlords and employers may also request to see your credit score. Since they have different criteria, they may prefer someone that has a higher credit score.

Build a history

Your credit score starts building once you open a credit account. There are plenty of things you can do to improve or maintain your credit score, including:

Making regular payments

Your payment history is vital to determining your credit score. Always try to make more than the minimum payment required and avoid missed or late payments.

Limit your spending

Lenders don't like it when you spend too much on credit. Try to minimize the amount of credit you're using relative to what you have access to. Remember it’s best to keep your credit utilization below 30%.4

Spread your credit

Having different credit accounts, such as a credit card, mortgage, and cellphone bill, may increase your credit score.

Build a history

Your credit score starts building once you open a credit account. Applying for a credit card can help with that history.

Avoid too many inquiries

Since your credit score drops whenever there's a hard check on your credit profile, it's best to avoid too many credit applications.

Stay on top of your credit

Since checking your credit score is free and it doesn't affect you negatively, it's beneficial to check it regularly. Not only will you be able to monitor how your credit score is doing, but you can also potentially catch any signs of fraud. 

The average Canadian has a credit score of 667^. Want to see how you compare?