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When and how to use credit responsibly and avoid debt traps.

How to Get Your Own Free Credit Reports from Equifax and TransUnion

by Kevin Sun

A lot of people wonder what’s on their credit report and whether getting one is worth it. However, whether you’re just curious or need to fix your credit, a credit report will give you much more and much better info than a credit score can. Instead of a mysterious 3-digit number, your report will specifically tell you what you’ve borrowed, what you’ve repaid, what you still haven’t repaid, how well you’ve made payments on time, and more. You should check your credit report at least once a year. And you can do it for free.

How to Get a Free Credit Report

In Canada, Equifax and TransUnion are the two national bureaus who creditors report your activities to. Creditors, in turn, can look at reports from one or both of them when evaluating your credit rating. Chances are that you know about other companies who offer to show you your credit score, which is different from a credit report, or give you some kind of monitoring service – usually at a cost. They also get their info from Equifax and/or TransUnion.

That’s not to say that Equifax and TransUnion will give you your score or provide credit monitoring for free, because they won’t. However, they will both give you at least one free credit report a year if you ask for it.

The asking part isn’t as complicated as you might expect, and there are options for getting free credit reports. Both bureaus have options that let you get your report by phone, mail, in person, or online. A good trick for the long term is to order from one bureau only every six months, meaning you’ll get a report every half-year. Just keep in mind that Equifax and TransUnion’s reports won’t be exactly the same, even if you ordered them at the same time.

Okay, I Got My Free Credit Report. Now What?

There are 2 things you should do with every credit report you get: check that you are not missing any debts and check that the report doesn’t have any wrong info about your debts. Before you start, make a list of all your past and present loans and credit accounts that you know about, including any car loans, student loans, mortgages, credit cards, lines of credit, etc. Then compare that list with your credit report. If something isn’t on your list but is on your report, then add it to your list.

How to Read Your Credit Report

Keep in mind comparing your own personal list to your official credit report may not be as easy as matching names and numbers, especially for loans that have gone to collections. Your goal is to make sure that every line of your credit report is accounted for by something on your own list. If you do discover a loan or account that you just forgot about, but you still owe money on it, then our page on dealing with creditors will help you figure out your next steps.

I Have No Idea Why That’s on (or Not on) My Credit Report!

Many people get confused when they see something on their Equifax credit report that isn’t on their TransUnion one and vice versa. This happens because no creditor actually needs to report their info to either bureau. Some will report to both, some to just Equifax, some to just TransUnion, and some to neither one. That’s why it’s fine if not everything is on your report. However, it’s not fine if you see something incorrect on either of your reports.

Before assuming that something on your credit report is incorrect, check that it’s not just outdated. It could show old addresses, former spouses, and previous employers. Records that have bigger consequences if outdated are the list of who has inquired about your credit and anything in the public records part of your report, which includes information about bankruptcy, collections, third-party payment arrangements, and judgements against you. Equifax and TransUnion both provide you with information about how to fix any true errors that you spot, so be sure to follow through and get things cleaned up as quickly as possible.

7 Things That Are Not On Your Credit Report

It’s also possible that a debt you already paid off will still be listed as owing. If that’s the case, contact your creditor to update the information they’ve sent to the credit bureau(s) who are reporting the mistake. Creditors make their reports monthly, so you may just have to wait for the update to be processed.

However, if it’s been over a month or two, and the correct info still isn’t being reported, submit your proof and file a dispute with Equifax and/or TransUnion. If you’re applying for new credit like a car loan and can’t wait for your credit report to be updated, explain your situation to your new creditor and show them proof that you’ve already fully paid off the debt.

If you find credit cards, lines of credit, mortgages, or other loans on your credit report that simply don’t belong to you, then you may have been a victim of fraud. You may want to file a police report and provide the file number to both of the credit bureau companies. Try to stay calm and report what happened to the creditor. Also review all of your accounts and change any passwords that might be compromised. It may also be a good idea at this time to pay for a credit monitoring service that can alert you to any further attacks. If your information was compromised as part of a corporate security breach, that merchant might be willing to cover the cost of credit monitoring for a period of time.

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Need to Get Back on Track With Your Credit and Debt? We’re Here to Help

If your credit report has shown you that your debt and finances are not where you want them to be, but you’re not sure how to get back on track, then one of our credit counsellors would be happy to help you find the solutions you need. Your credit will also never be affected by just talking to us because our appointments are free and confidential. Give us a call at 1-888-527-8999, send us an email, or chat with us anonymously online.

Worried about your credit? 

Get answers from an expert.

Whether it’s about keeping, building, or rebuilding your credit, we can help if you’re feeling overwhelmed or have questions. One of our professional credit counsellors would be happy to review your financial situation with you and help you find the right solution to overcome your financial challenges. Speaking with our certified counsellors is always free, confidential and without obligation.

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