Have you heard other newcomers talking about how difficult it can be to get a credit score in Canada? A credit score is like a financial report card. Creditors (creditors provide short-term loans and mortgages to purchase a home) use this report when calculating your credit-worthiness. If you have a positive credit rating you will be able to obtain a loan, mortgage and other financial products.
How can you build and protect your credit score?
Get familiar with your credit score
Know your credit history and your credit score.
A credit score is a calculation of your reliability with credit. If you use credit responsibly and pay your bills on time then you should have a good credit score. The companies that send you monthly bills will record how promptly you pay your bills. This will affect your credit score. You can also increase your credit score by getting a small loan, line of credit or credit card, even if you don’t require one. Many immigrants do not borrow because they do not want to have debt, but it can be helpful to have one credit card and to use it for small purchases. Just remember to pay the full balance of the credit card bill on time each month.
There are some banks in Canada that provide a service which transfers your credit score from your home country to the bank in Canada. Check with banks in your area to see if they provide this convenient service.
Review your credit report regularly
Your credit report in Canada is available to look at when you want to. It is also a good idea to read your bank statements carefully. This can help ensure that there isn’t any incorrect information and that no one else is (fraudulently) using your credit. You can check your credit report for free at Equifax.ca. Your credit history matters, someday you may need money to buy a car, a home or start a business, so starting to build a good credit score when you arrive to Canada is a helpful idea.
Top tips for healthy credit habits
- Apply for a credit card. Credit cards can be helpful if you decide
to stay at a hotel in Canada, shop online (some purchases may be protected using your credit card) or rent a car.
- Keep only one or two credit cards. It will be easier to keep track of spending and also remove some of the risk by fraudulent users. Be aware that different credit cards have different interest rates. If you pay your credit card bill late, you could incur interest which will be added to your monthly bill.
- Be careful of cash advances or cheques the credit card companies may provide to you, these can be costly and the credit card company can start charging you interest from the moment you withdraw or advance the cash from your credit card.
- Pay your credit card, household bills and loans by the due date stated on the monthly bill. This will help improve your credit score and help you with future banking in Canada.
Remember to be aware and cautious of who you give your credit card numbers to and who has access to your credit card. Credit card companies may provide some protection if your card is lost or stolen, but you are responsible for who has access to your credit.
Speak with a bank or credit union in Canada and they can provide you with more information about credit cards and your credit score in Canada.
Written by Sacha DeVoretz, blog contributor to Bell Alliance Global Immigration Services Inc.