At one point, I was getting my credit reports from Equifax and TransUnion Canada once a month. Depending where you are along the road to credit recovery, you may be paying closer attention to it that others. Even if you don’t check it frequently, you should at least check it a couple of times per year. More often than that if you were just discharged and are clearing up errors on your credit report and re-establishing credit, if you’re planning a major purchase, or you are just about to be, or just were at the point where the bankruptcy has fallen off your credit report (about 6 years after discharge for first time bankrupts in Canada).
The screen shot shown here is one of my old Equifax Canada credit reports showing a FICO credit score of 641. This was when I was obtaining my credit reports monthly, sometimes even a few times per month as I was only two and a half years past my bankruptcy discharge and I was applying for my first major purchase with unsecured credit, after bankruptcy (a car).
Credit Reports and Scores from Equifax Canada
When I was getting ready to finance my first major purchase with unsecured credit after bankruptcy (the new car), I was paying $23.95 a month to Equifax Canada for my credit report and my FICO credit score, which I obtain instantly online. I was doing so about once or twice a month. It’s only $15.50 if you just want the credit report. You cannot buy the credit score by itself. Let’s face it, you need to know both, since your FICO credit score is based on your credit report. And the only way to track your progress is to see if your credit score goes up or down. And when it does, you need to look at your credit report to see what caused the score to change, be it for the better or for the worse.
Monthly Credit Monitoring from TransUnion Canada
TransUnion Canada has a monthly, unlimited credit monitoring plan for $14.95 per month, automatically renewed each month until you cancel and viewable online as well. I like the concept of this, and the lower price. It’s too bad Equifax Canada didn’t offer a plan like this. Some people may not bother with TransUnion, because it’s a distant second behind the industry leader Equifax. There are now only two credit reporting agencies in Canada, and the vast majority of companies report to, and obtain credit reports from Equifax. But some also use TransUnion. On the consumer side, they only show you their own proprietary credit score. Though similar to FICO (that you can get from Equifax Canada), it’s not the same. The scores can be different and I’m not aware of any lender who uses TransUnion’s proprietary credit scoring system.
Depending on circumstances, you may monitor your Equifax Canada credit report and FICO credit score, and TransUnion credit report more frequently
Back in 2009 and 2010, I was getting these reports from both Equifax and TransUnion Canada on a monthly basis. I was in the process of clearing up incorrect and unverifiable information (there wasn’t much). And watching my credit score improve as I was planning to finance a major purchase. Early on, I was planning to get a mortgage, but I was unsure about where I would be living in the near future. Not wanting to be saddled down with a house when I needed to move out of province, but still wanting to go ahead with a major purchase, I opted to finance a car. By doing so, I accomplished several things: I had a new line of credit (an installement loan) reporting to my credit reports, I wanted to prove to myself that I could obtain mainstream credit two years after being discharged from bankruptcy, and it was a nice gift to myself.
But once I got the car, I did not plan on applying for any new credit in the near future. So, I canceled my TransUnion monthly credit monitoring program. And I stopped buying the Equifax credit report and score each month. I still get them every few months just to keep tabs on my credit reports and scores, but since I’m not planning a major purchase on credit anytime soon, I didn’t feel it was necessary to keep paying for those reports each month. If I wanted to really stay on top of things, I would, and probably should, but it got to the point where the was little to no change from one month to the next. However, it is nice to look back at snapshots of your credit situation from each month. And to keep a watchful eye on it each month as time goes on.
Keep informed of your credit situation on a regular basis, even if just once or twice a year
It never hurts to be well informed, so you can certainly subscribe to TransUnions monthly credit monitoring and buy the Equifax credit report and score once a month, or even more often (at $23.95 each time). But if you’re not very active in the credit world, you may be better off saving your money. Just buy these reports every few months. Some experts suggest once every six months, or even once a year. And if you’re checking it that infrequently, it’s likely you’ll see a big change in your credit score and report since more time will have passed. More than if you looked at it once a month. If you’re working hard at rebuilding your credit, that score should keep going up!
When you’re recovering from bankruptcy, you might want to check on it a bit more frequently, so every 6 months is good. Or every 3 or 4 months. You know where you stand, you know you pay your bills on time each month, so it’s not likely much will change from month to month. But if you’re planning a major purchase like a car or a house, you should definitely monitor your credit report and score more frequently.
Sometimes just having a FICO credit score just a few points higher could make the difference between being approved or denied, or even what interest rate you will pay. Having a bankruptcy showing up on your credit report will likely put you in a category of higher interest, from a much more limited pool of potential lenders. You will also need to show re-established credit. Most places want to see at least one year of newly established credit, since your bankruptcy was discharged. But other places will want to see at least two years worth. And having more than one source of credit helps, even if it’s two secured credit cards from two different places, like the trusty fallback for us ex-bankrupt folks: Home Trust Visa and Peoples Trust MasterCard.
Keep print outs and/or save electronic copies (a PDF) of each report. It’s great to look back on them for a longer period of time and see how your FICO credit score keeps going up, monthly payments are reported, and old bad debts, accounts in collections and old credit inquiries eventually drop off your credit reports.