Credit score ranges in Canada vary based on the entity providing the score, but in general, they’re described as: Poor, Fair, Good, Very Good and Excellent.
Knowing where you fall on the credit score spectrum can better prepare you for the experience of applying for different forms of credit, such as a loan, credit card or even an apartment lease.
Credit score ranges in Canada
Here are examples of how certain credit scores are rated by the credit bureaus, Equifax and TransUnion, as well as the credit scoring company, Fair Issac Corporation.
|743 – 789
|725 to 759
|760 and up
|833 and up
What is a Credit Score?
A credit score is a three-digit number that ranges from 300 up to 900.
The higher your credit score, the more likely you’ll be perceived as creditworthy and the more willing creditors will be to extend you credit (like a loan or a credit card).
How a credit score is different from a credit report
A credit score and a credit report are integral components of your financial health but they have important differences.
- A credit report is a comprehensive record of your credit history and financial behavior over years or even decades (ever since you got your first credit card or loan). Credit reports provide a detailed overview of how you manage credit and give potential lenders an in-depth perspective from which to gauge your creditworthiness.
- Your credit score is a three-digit number that summarizes your credit health. Your credit score distills the information contained in your report into a number that provides creditors with a fast and easy way to assess what kind of credit risk you’ll be.
Who determines credit scores in Canada?
Canada has two credit bureaus: Equifax and TransUnion. Each agency uses established scoring models from companies, like FICO and VantageScore, as well as their own proprietary scoring models, to calculate scores. These complex algorithms rely on information like your payment history and credit utilization to calculate a simplified credit score.
Note that Equifax and TransUnion have slightly different credit score ranges because, while they may rely on FICO or VantageScore scoring models, they each also incorporate their own scoring algorithms. Equifax may use a predictive scoring model called Equifax Risk Score 2.0 and TransUnion may use CreditVision risk scores.
Furthermore, lenders may have their own thresholds for poor credit or good credit, and use those ranges to approve or deny applications for credit.
How to Find Your Credit Score
There are a variety of paid and free ways to check your credit score.
Free options to find your credit score
By law, Equifax and TransUnion must offer consumers free copies of their credit report (which TransUnion calls a Consumer Disclosure).
TransUnion only provides free credit scores to residents of Quebec, while Equifax provides all Canadians with both a credit score and credit report free of charge. Credit scores can be accessed online via the websites of each agency. You can also request your credit information via mail, by phone and in-person.
Some financial companies, like Credit Karma, Borrowell and ClearScore, also offer free credit scores and reports when you sign up for membership on their websites. Be aware that these websites may send you credit card and loan offers based on your score, after you sign up.
There are also some banks, like RBC, that will provide a credit score (usually just the score, not a full report) for free to online banking customers.
Paid options to find your credit score
If you want to get your TransUnion credit score directly from the agency, you’ll have to sign up for a paid credit report and credit score package. For a monthly fee of $24.95, you’l get access to updated copies of your TransUnion score and credit report, fraud alerts and identity theft insurance.
Major factors that influence your credit score
While each credit bureau may give slightly more or less weight to any given aspect of your finances, there are five main factors that collectively go into creating your credit score.
- Payment History: Accounting for as much as 35% of your score, payment history is the single most important element of that all-important number. Making payments on time and in full is the best way to strengthen your score. Late and missed payments can cause a significant drop.
- Credit Utilization: This is the amount of credit you are using versus how much you have available. The lower your ratio the better; aim for a ratio below 30%.
- Length of Credit History: A longer credit history provides a more comprehensive overview of your financial management.
- Types of Credit: When you have a mix of credit types on your report, such as credit cards, installment loans, and mortgages, it may help lenders determine how you handle different credit types. (Note that Equifax appears to emphasize public records, such as bankruptcy or consumer proposals, over credit mix.)
- Credit inquiries: Applying for new credit accounts can activate a hard pull on your credit report, which could cause a temporary decrease in your score.
Other financial factors that may affect your credit score
There are a variety of additional factors — like income and job stability — that don’t directly impact your credit score, however, they can still indirectly influence your score because of how they affect your spending and ability to pay down debt.
So, for example, if you were to lose your job you may no longer make timely payments on your credit cards, which would in turn bring down your credit score.
On the other hand, things like bankruptcy and consumer proposals do have a direct negative impact on your score because they can stay as long as six or seven years on your credit file and lenders will likely be reluctant to extend you credit or will only do so at a high rate of interest.
DIVE EVEN DEEPER
Bad credit can prevent you from getting a mortgage at a Big Six bank, but you might still find the financing you need at one of these alternative mortgage lenders.
Building credit is an important part of starting your new life in Canada. It requires applying for the right credit products, using them responsibly and paying all of your bills on time.