How to check your credit reports for free
When you apply for a credit card, loan or mortgage, the bank will check your credit history before making a decision to lend you the money. In some cases, you might find that others take a look at your credit history as well. Insurance agents might consider your credit history when setting your premiums, or a landlord might want to double-check your situation.
The information that others get about you comes from the two reporting agencies in Canada:
- Equifax Canada Inc.
- TransUnion of Canada
These credit reporting companies keep files on individuals who apply for credit. When you apply for credit, or when you make payments on your loans, the information is reported to these agencies. Your creditors send regular reports to the companies about how you pay your bills, and the reporting agencies compile all of this information into a report.
Lenders, insurers, creditors and anyone involved in business transactions with you are able to receive these reports and see how you have conducted yourself regarding money related issues in the past. The assumption is that your past behavior can provide clues to what you are likely to do in the future. If you have been responsible in the past, creditors and others feel more comfortable loaning you money, or giving you better rates.
Your credit file includes information about your occupation, past and present addresses, debts, payment history and bankruptcies. Realize that there is room for error with these reports. If there is something incorrect, you might be punished, even though you have done nothing irresponsible. You should get your credit report from each company once a year to ensure the information is correct. If something is wrong, you can ask the credit reporting agency to fix the problem.
Get a free credit report
When you visit these companies’ sites, it’s not always easy to see that you can get your credit reports for free. The free request form is normally hidden a few pages deep… after you read all the offers to sell you an instant credit report.
There are two benefits to paying for a report. One is that you get a credit score and tips to improve your score. The other is that you get the report immediately. If you suspect any type of credit card fraud or identity theft then this is a must.
But, if you can wait for your free credit report, you can fill out a request form and mail it in. Along with the request form, you will also need to send a photocopy of both sides of two pieces of identification. Together these combined pieces must contain your name, current address, date of birth and signature. Make sure your photocopies are readable and your form is properly filled out. If you make a mistake with your request, you will not be notified by the credit bureau and will not receive your report.
It takes between two weeks to a month for your free credit report to arrive. Once you receive your report, look it over and if you see any incorrect information, return the form they will provide you to get it corrected. Make sure you get a report from each agency, though. Sometimes the information differs, so just getting one report isn’t enough to make sure that everything is accurate.
To make it easier to find and send in these forms once a year, I’ve combined both with some directions on what identification to include and where to send them. You can download the pdf below!