Canadians excel at a lot of things but maintaining a good credit score can be tough for anyone. A lot of good people have bad credit because of unexpected events or poor money management skills. However, there are some people who can manage their credit score and maintain a great credit rating. While a good credit score seems to be elusive to some Canadians, it’s possible to improve your score at any point. It takes discipline and maybe learning a new set of financial skills. It’s important to know what a credit score is and how you can use it to your advantage.
Credit scores are calculated in Canada through two different reporting agencies, TransUnion and Equifax. You may have better credit through one of these agencies than the other. Their scales and algorithms differ from each other so if you’ve been using just one kind to determine what your credit score is, you may be surprised at the result of the other.
If your credit is low you’ll be considered a high risk borrower so you will pay higher interest rates than people with a good credit score. Don’t worry. We’re going to let you in on how you can get good credit and all the many benefits you get.
What is a good credit score in Canada?
A good credit score is a three digit number. In Canada, it ranges from 660-900. A good credit score is based on the three digit number you receive from TransUnion or Equifax.
Your score is calculated from the credit report, which includes payment history, amount of debt you have, and how long your credit history is. The credit score will help a lender figure out what they can offer you in terms of loans or credit cards and at what rate. If you have good credit, you’re most likely to get the loans you want at low rates. Your good credit shows that you pay your bills and manage your money well enough to pay back loans.
A score that reflects good credit is 660-719. If your score is 720 to 779, it’s considered very good, and if you’re 780 and above, you have excellent credit. The higher the score, the more you’ve demonstrated responsible credit management. This gives lenders more confidence in loaning you money.
Different lenders have different opinions on what they consider a good credit score. For instance, Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) will allow Canadians to apply for CMHC mortgage insurance with score as low as 600. At traditional banks, 660 is considered good enough to get a mortgage.
How a good credit score positively affects your finances
A good credit score opens your world up to getting the best financial products on the market. It’s easier to get loans you want so you can own your own home or invest in a business. If your credit score is really good, lenders will give you the best possible interest rates. You’ll save money in the long run. They also offer you special offers and incentives, especially with credit cards. You can get cash back credit cards and travel rewards.
Your good credit gives lenders the confidence to loan money to you. You’ll be qualified for the many top-tier products out there. Things like unsecured credit loans and low interest loans will be available to you. Here are some of the benefits you’ll get from having a good credit score:
Better credit cards with perks
You can benefit from getting the best credit cards available in Canada for the lowest interest rates. Not only that but you can also get in on perks like cashback rewards and travel points. This can lead to free upgrades or free flights while you’re traveling. You may get to enjoy additional travel perks like free entry to airport lounges around the world.
Greater chance of getting a lower-interest mortgage
Owning your own home with a low mortgage rate is one of the top benefits to having good credit. This is a long term loan and the lower your interest, the more money you save in the long run. Your good credit could have lenders competing for your business so you have the luxury of shopping around for the best offer. If you don’t have good credit right now, you should work on improving it before trying to get a mortgage or you’ll be stuck paying high interest for years.
Ability to rent an apartment in a competitive market
If you have a good credit score, you can more easily compete to get the home you want to rent. Landlords that have accommodation in competitive markets will potentially include a soft credit check as part of their process. In this case, someone with a credit score that’s less than 650 will not be considered for the rental. If you have good credit, you can beat out those people who have a lower credit score.
Helps you get hired
If you happen to be looking for a job in the financial world, they may ask to do a credit check on you. Employers have to be careful who has access to other people’s financial information. Having good credit will show them that you’re a good choice as you’re setting an example of how to properly manage your money.
How to get a good credit score
If you don’t have good credit at the moment and are looking for ways to improve your status, there are a few different things you can do. It may seem like a daunting task but it’s not actually that difficult and the myriad of benefits are well worth it. As discussed, you’ll pay lower interest rates and credit products will compete for your business.
You have the opportunity to get those specialized credit cards that give you travel perks and money back incentives. With a credit score of above 660, the world opens up for you. There are a few tricks to improving your credit and it doesn’t take long to see the improvements. There are a variety of companies that will keep you posted on how your credit is looking and how you can improve it like Borrowell for example. Here are some of the actions you can take to get a good credit score and keep it:
Pay bills on time
Pay everything on time whether it’s your cell phone bill, credit card, rent, or loans. Even if you’re disputing a bill, make the payment on time. You can keep on top of your bills by adding reminders on your phone.
Keep debt under 30%
The Credit Utilization Ratio is an important factor for keeping good credit. It analyzes how much debt you have against how much credit you have. It has an impact on your credit score and by keeping it less than 30%, you can improve the score. By constantly maintaining a good amount of credit, you’ll impact your score in a positive way. Having a high balance in comparison to your credit limit can reduce your credit score.
Be cautious about applying for credit
If you apply for a variety of credit accounts in a short amount of time, this could impact your credit score. While a soft credit check for credit and loans doesn’t have an impact on your credit score, a hard check does. A hard check is something that would be done at a bank, applying for a mortgage or at a car dealership if you’re looking to purchase a new car. Don’t apply for too much credit all at one time as it can reduce your credit score.
Check credit reports often
Online companies in Canada like Borrowell or Credit Karma offer free copies of your credit report. This allows you to make sure your information is correct and complete. You can file disputes if information about you isn’t accurate. You can also ask to receive a weekly update on your financial habits. They will let you know what you can do to improve your credit score and offer you products that you’re most likely able to be approved for. These products can also help improve your credit score if you use them responsibly.
Get a secured or a guaranteed credit card
If you’re looking to gain good credit quickly, you can try getting a secured or guaranteed credit card. There are good ones on the market like Refresh and KOHO. These cards are helpful for those who have bad credit or no credit at all. A credit card like this is good in helping you to manage how you use credit properly. Everyone can qualify for a guaranteed credit card.
You use money upfront, which is used as collateral. That amount of money will be equal to what your credit card limit is. It’s not a prepaid card because it’s reported to credit bureaus when you use it. This allows you to build up to good credit quite quickly.
Avoid canceling credit cards
You may find it hard to use your credit cards responsibly and find that you’re building up debt. The last thing you want to do is cancel the credit card because it’s connected to your credit history. Also, if you cancel a credit card, you increase your Credit Utilization Ratio, which can negatively impact your credit.
A better alternative is to keep it out of your wallet in a safe place. You only use it if absolutely necessary. Also, make sure to disconnect it from any automatic online payments you have.
If you have a credit score of more than 660, it’s considered to be good credit. Do keep in mind that good credit differs with the creditor. If you have a credit score of 700 or more, it’s most likely that any creditor will view this as good. This means you have access to pretty much any kind of credit product you need to improve your life in the ways you want. You can own a home or start a business through a low interest loan.
If your credit isn’t up to this level quite yet, it’s in your power to change this. You can use a guaranteed credit card to learn how to properly manage your credit. Pay bills on time and pay your credit cards down to at least 30%. Even if your credit is bad at the moment, there’s an opportunity to improve it by spending modestly and paying for things on time. The low interest rates you can get by having good credit is worth any effort you put into it.
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About The Author: Arthur Dubois
Passionate about personal finance and financial technology, Arthur Dubois is a writer and SEO specialist at Hardbacon. Since his arrival in Canada, he’s built his credit score from nothing.
Arthur invests in the stock market but doesn’t pay any fees because he uses National Bank Direct Brokerage online broker and Wealthsimple’s robo-advisor. He pays for his subscriptions online with his KOHO prepaid card, and uses his Tangerine credit card for most of his in-store purchases. When he buys bitcoins, it’s with the BitBuy online platform. Of course it goes without saying that he uses the Hardbacon app so that he can manage all of his finances from one convenient place.
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