How to improve your credit score without a credit card in Canada?

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In today’s day and age, having a good credit score is essential for your financial well-being. It not only affects your ability to secure loans and credit cards but can also impact your insurance premiums and even your chances of landing a job or renting an apartment. But what if you don’t have a credit card? Can you still improve your credit score in Canada? The answer is yes! In this article, we will explore various alternative ways to build credit and provide you with some valuable tips to improve and maintain a good credit score.

Ways to Build Credit
Best for
Getting your money back at the end
Using it like a regular credit card
Tenants with few credit accounts

Alternative Ways to Build Credit

In Canada, credit cards are widely used to establish credit, but they are not the sole means to achieve a good credit score. Many individuals choose to live without a credit card and still maintain a favorable credit standing. How is this possible? Discover alternative methods that Canadians employ to build credit without relying on credit cards.

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Applying for a secured loan

Building a healthy credit score without a credit card can be a challenge in Canada. One method of improving a low credit score or limited credit history is applying for a secured loan, such as a credit builder loan. These loans are purpose-built for those with low credit scores, as there are no credit score requirements to get such a loan.

For instance, Borrowell offers a Credit Builder feature designed to help individuals rebuild their credit. Unlike traditional loans, the borrowed funds aren’t provided upfront. Instead, the loan amount is secured and repaid over time. Throughout the 36-month term, the borrower makes regular payments which include a program fee ($10-$50/month). These repayments are reported to the credit bureaus, thus gradually improving the borrower’s credit score. At the end of the loan term, the borrower receives the money paid towards the loan, excluding the fees. This approach fosters financial discipline, enables credit score enhancement, and sets the stage for more favourable lending conditions in the future. Credit Builder is available to people who live in Canada, excluding Quebec, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.

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Get a secured credit card

In Canada, more than 70% of credit card users pay their balance in full each month. But for some people, that may not always be easy. That is why getting a secured credit card is another highly effective strategy to improve your credit score in Canada without a traditional credit card. Unlike regular credit cards, secured credit cards require a cash deposit, which serves as your credit limit. This means if you deposit $500, you’ll have a credit limit of $500. The key advantage is that your credit utilization will always be guaranteed as long as you have the deposit. This helps reduce the risk for the card issuer and allows individuals with low or no credit score to get a credit card.

Using a secured credit card responsibly can significantly boost your credit score. It involves making small purchases and paying off the balance in full every month. This positive financial behaviour is reported to the credit bureaus, thereby improving your credit history and score over time. A secured credit card can be a powerful tool to rebuild your credit, acting as a stepping stone towards qualifying for a traditional credit card or other types of credit in the future.

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Rent Reporting Services

Did you know that your rent payments can contribute to your credit score? Rent reporting services, such as Borrowell Rent Advantage, allow you to report your rent payments to credit bureaus. This can be particularly helpful if you have a history of on-time rent payments but no other credit accounts to establish a credit history.

By reporting your rent payments, you can showcase your responsible financial behavior and build credit without relying on traditional credit cards or loans. This can be especially beneficial for individuals who prefer to avoid credit card debt or have limited access to credit options.

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Understanding Credit Scores in Canada

Before we dive into the various ways to improve your credit score, it’s important to understand what a credit score is and why it matters. In Canada, credit scores range from 300 to 900 and are calculated based on several factors such as your payment history, credit utilization ratio, credit history length, types of credit, public records, and credit checks.

What is a Credit Score?

Your credit score is a numerical representation of your creditworthiness. It provides lenders with an indication of how likely you are to repay your debts on time. The higher your credit score, the more trustworthy you appear to lenders, making it easier for you to obtain credit at favorable terms. Understanding the components that make up your credit score is essential, so let’s go over a few of them.

Payment history

Payment history is one of the most critical factors. It shows how consistently you’ve made your payments on time. A history of late payments or defaulting on loans can significantly lower your credit score.

Credit Utilization

Another factor that affects your credit score is your credit utilization ratio. This ratio measures the amount of credit you’re using compared to your total credit limit. Keeping your credit utilization low, ideally below 30%, demonstrates responsible credit management and can positively impact your credit score.

Age of credit

The length of your credit history also plays a role in determining your credit score. Lenders prefer to see a longer credit history as it provides a more accurate picture of your creditworthiness. If you’re new to credit, it may take time to build a solid credit history and improve your score.

Types of credit

The types of credit you have can also influence your credit score. Having a mix of different credit types, such as credit cards, loans, and mortgages, demonstrates your ability to handle different forms of credit responsibly. However, it’s important to note that opening multiple new credit accounts within a short period can negatively impact your score.

Public records

On your credit file, a public record indicates if you have any debts with a collection agency. It also shows potential lenders if any other creditors have pursued you in court for unpaid debts, or if you have experienced a bankruptcy or consumer proposal. 

Credit Checks

Lastly, hard credit checks can affect your credit score. When you apply for new credit, lenders typically perform a hard inquiry on your credit report. Multiple hard credit checks within a short time frame can suggest financial instability and lower your credit score. On the other hand, soft credit checks, such as checking your own credit score, do not impact your credit score.

Why is a Good Credit Score Important?

Holding a good credit score is crucial in Canada, as it can significantly impact your financial opportunities and the cost of borrowing. Lenders use your credit score to assess your creditworthiness and determine whether to approve your loan applications. A higher credit score can also make you eligible for lower interest rates and better loan terms.

Having a good credit score not only makes it easier to secure loans, credit cards, and mortgages but also opens doors to other financial opportunities. Landlords often check credit scores when considering potential tenants, and employers may review credit history as part of the hiring process for certain positions. A good credit score can give you a competitive edge in these situations.

Furthermore, maintaining a good credit score allows you to take advantage of credit cards with attractive rewards and benefits. Many credit cards offer cashback, travel rewards, or other perks based on your creditworthiness. By having a high credit score, you increase your chances of qualifying for these lucrative credit card offers.

Tips to Improve Your Credit Score Without a Credit Card

In Canada, a strong credit score plays a crucial role in many factors of your life, but surprisingly, many remain unaware of easy ways to improve your credit score that you can start doing today..

Regularly Check Your Credit Report

Obtaining a copy of your credit report from the major credit reporting agencies (Equifax and TransUnion) is a good practice. Review it carefully to ensure all the information is accurate and up-to-date. If you spot any errors or discrepancies, report them immediately to the credit reporting agencies to have them corrected.

Checking your credit score regularly not only helps you identify any potential errors but also allows you to monitor your credit health. It gives you a clear picture of your financial standing and helps you understand how your credit behavior is impacting your score.

Additionally, reviewing your credit report can help you detect any signs of identity theft or fraudulent activity. By staying vigilant and proactive, you can protect yourself from potential financial harm and maintain a healthy credit profile. Luckily, there are many ways to check your credit score for free in Canada so that you can always be aware of your credit health.

Dispute Any Errors on Your Credit Report

If you find any errors in your credit report, dispute them promptly. Contact the credit reporting agency in writing, providing supporting documentation to substantiate your claim for any inaccuracies. The agency is required by law to investigate the matter and correct any errors within a reasonable time frame.

Disputing errors on your credit report is crucial for maintaining an accurate credit history. Inaccurate information can significantly impact your credit score and affect your ability to secure loans or obtain favorable interest rates. By taking the necessary steps to correct any mistakes, you can ensure that your credit report reflects your true creditworthiness.

It’s important to note that the burden of proof lies with the credit reporting agency. They must investigate and resolve any disputes in a timely manner. However, it’s your responsibility to provide the necessary documentation and follow up on the progress of your dispute.

Reduce the Amount of Debt You Owe

High levels of debt can negatively impact your credit score. Take proactive steps to reduce the amount of debt you owe, focusing on paying off high-interest debts first. By lowering your debt utilization ratio (the amount of available credit you’re currently using), you can improve your credit score over time.

Reducing your debt not only improves your credit score but also helps you achieve financial stability. By paying off your debts, you free up your income for other essential expenses and savings. It’s important to create a budget and prioritize your debt payments to effectively manage your financial obligations.

Consider exploring debt consolidation options or negotiating with creditors to establish manageable repayment plans. By taking control of your debt and making consistent payments, you can gradually improve your credit score and pave the way for a healthier financial future.

Develop Good Financial Habits

Building and maintaining good credit requires responsible financial habits. This includes living within your means, budgeting, tracking your expenses, and avoiding unnecessary debt. By managing your finances prudently, you can keep your credit score on the right track.

Maude Gauthier is a journalist for Hardbacon. Since completing her Ph.D. in communications at University of Montreal, she has been writing about finance, insurance and credit cards for companies like Fonds FMOQ and Code F. As a responsible user of credit cards, she can spend hours reading the fine print to fully understand their benefits. Because of their simplicity, she developed a preference for cash back cards. After suffering steep increases with her former insurer, she can now proudly say that she saved hundreds of dollars by shopping around for her auto and home insurance. In her free time, she reads novels and enjoys streaming popular shows (and possibly less popular shows, like animal documentaries).