Accessing your credit report

Many people ask the best and easiest way to access a copy of their personal credit report. They are often surprised to find there are many different ways to do so. There are three things to consider. How fast can I get it? How much will it cost me? Will I understand what I am reading?

Another consideration is how often do you plan to do this – is it a once in a lifetime thing driven by curiosity, or is it something you have decided to take seriously and manage on an ongoing basis?

First I will share my personal favorite approach

You create an online user profile at Equifax Canada. Assuming you can identify yourself properly, you will then have immediate access to the easiest to read format available to you.

If you are a first timer, spend $23.95 and order an instant version of your current credit report, which will also include your score and an assessment of where you stand, relative to other Canadians. The report will also provide you with factors affecting your personal score.

This report will remain available online for thirty days. Thereafter at ANY time in the future, you can go back and login and access a new report within seconds.

Feel free (this is optional) to do the same exercise at TransUnion Canada. Including your score, it will cost a total of $22.90.

Having done this once, you decide whose format you like best, and how often you wish to access a new report.

[important]In this era of identity fraud, both credit bureaus will try to upsell you a monthly credit monitoring service at $16.95 per month for Trans Union Canada and $19.95 per month for Equifax. In fact when you go to their websites, it’s the first thing you see – you actually have to navigate and dig around a bit just to figure out how to order a one time version of your report.

I don’t think a monthly report  is necessary (and it’ll cost you around $200 per year). Once or twice a year should suffice, but suit yourself.[/important]

Other ways to get your credit report

Yes, if you follow my approach above, you have spent some money, but I like immediate results in a format which I find easiest to work with. There are cheaper ways open to you.

Free reports -> by mail

Use snail mail and send a request                  Equifax address                    TransUnion Canada address

You must provide two, ideally three pieces of identification which clearly demonstrate who you are and where you live. Copy the front AND back. At least one should be photo ID (but not OHIP). Your SIN card is the best second piece. The third can be a credit card, a statement or a utility bill.

Make sure the copies are clear and legible – copying and faxing can often degrade the legibility of what you are sending.

Or, you can call Equifax (1-800-465-7166) and TransUnion (1-800-663-9980) directly. They both have an automated system where you answer identifying questions. The process takes less than five minutes and they will send you a copy of the credit report in the mail.

Free reports ->  in person

For Equifax – if you live in or around the GTA, you can go to their office at Yonge and Finch (beneath the Xerox Tower) between 9 AM and 4PM and request an instant free copy – take two pieces of ID.

For TransUnion – There are several offices around the country – pick the nearest one, take two pieces of ID, and request a copy.

Cheaper reports

For $10, the Equifax office at Yonge and Finch will give you a copy of your current report, including your score. You can only pay using a credit card issued in your name – no cash. Again – bring proper ID. I suspect you can do something similar at TransUnion’s various offices.

For $14.95 you can create an online user profile at Equifax Canada, and just order the simple report with no score.

You can do the same exercise for $14.95 at TransUnion Canada, and order the simple report with no score.

Finally

The reports they send you in the mail are not so easy to read . The reports ordered online at Equifax Canada and Trans Union Canada are by far the best and worth the money – I suggest you order online at least once (especially if your report is ‘busy’) and thereafter you can refer back to it in the future when you look at other, cheaper versions of your report.

Oh, and by the way, don’t worry you can access your report as often as you like and it will have zero impact on your credit score. These are called ‘soft inquiries.’