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How to get your free annual credit report

After one of my recent Moneyville posts – How a 1% rule can help you save – I suggested that now would be a good time to order a free credit report from both Equifax and Transunion. From that post, I received quite a few e-mails from readers who were confused as to how to actually obtain their free credit report.

When you go onto these credit bureau websites, it isn’t clear how to obtain your free credit report. Instead, most links direct you to options where you can pay either a one-time or monthly recurring fee in order to access your information online immediately. That’s how they make money off of you. But if you’re okay waiting for your report to come through the mail, you will be able to access your free credit reports once every year.

Equifax (Canada)
You will need to fill out this PDF document, provide photocopies of 2 pieces of government-issued identification, as well as an additional document that shows your address – like a recent telephone or utility bill. You should receive your credit report in the mail in 5-10 days.

Transunion (Canada)
Download and complete their Consumer Request form. Note that Quebec residents have a different form to complete. You will need to photocopy two pieces of identification – and combined, they must include your name, current address, date of birth and signature.

USA
The three credit bureaus in the USA are Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, consumers are eligible to get one free comprehensive disclosure of all the information in their credit file from all three credit bureaus once every 12 months through www.annualcreditreport.com.

Why you need to order your credit report

A credit report is a “snapshot” of your credit history. Lenders rely on credit reports and credit scores to help them determine your credit application approval. This affects all aspects of your life that require a judgement of your credit worthiness – such as a bank loan application, applying for a mortgage, buying a car, getting a credit card, and even when you try to rent an apartment.

Remember that a credit score and a credit report are two different things. Your credit score is a number between 300 and 900, and is constantly changing as new financial information is collected about you, and old or inaccurate information is deleted. Meanwhile, a credit report will allow you to see whether you’ve paid your bills on time, the credit limit for each of your creditors, how much you owe, and how many accounts you have open.

Be aware that you will not be able to obtain your credit score for free – you will almost always have to pay for that. Likewise, if you need immediate access to your credit reports online, you will have to pay for that privilege as well. For example, if you wanted your Equifax credit score (Canada) immediately, you would pay $15.50 for it.

Even those who are debt-free and make all their payments on time should still check their credit report and score at least once a year to monitor for inaccuracies. While you are allowed to correct mistakes and misinformation that you find in your report, the process is very slow and that lost time could cost you your dream house or might result in a personal loan being denied. Catching errors ahead of time will ensure that when you do need to apply for credit in the future, you can be confident about your credit history. Plus, ordering your credit report is free, so there’s really no excuse not to be checking every year.

I personally check my credit report and credit scores in October around my birthday. When do you check yours?

Author: Krystal Yee

I’m a personal finance blogger and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I’m a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I’m not working, you can usually find me running, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.


Comments

  1. Vicky says:

    I check my credit report on an annual basis as well. Do you know if Transunion offers the choice of requesting the free report over the phone? I do this with Equifax as it saves me time from filling out the paperwork and postage!

  2. We usually check ours annually too. We have used Transunion in the past which has seemed to work well. It is really important to stay on top of it and get an update.

  3. Neil Jain says:

    Hi Krystal,

    Good post. I’d also add (and partially to answer Vicky’s question above) that you can call either Equifax or TransUnion and use their automated system to order a copy of your credit report by mail.

    You follow the questions to identify yourself and it takes about five minutes. This avoids having to mail or fax in a form and identification.

    Equifax 1-800-465-7166
    TransUnion 1-800-663-9980

    Regards,
    Neil

  4. Vanessa says:

    This is really informative, thanks!

  5. Bluehost says:

    This is a great guide, thanks for the advice!

  6. Daisy says:

    I used Equifax to get mine – it didn’t even take that long, maybe a week. Easy and free, what more can you want?!

  7. If you happen to be talking to a mortgage broker (if you’re in house buying mode) you can also double check with them that the credit score you have received is the same as what they see. Both times we needed a mortgage broken they let us know our score.

  8. Ellie says:

    Thanks for the quick, easy guide on credit reports. It’s time I took a look at mine again :)

    Ellie

  9. Heather says:

    I had never thought to do this before your post Krystal…thanks again for the info! I submitted mine by fax to Equifax yesterday.

  10. Sabrina says:

    Krystal,

    Great post, as always.

    You should be aware that your link to Equifax’s credit score page is actually directed to their credit REPORT page.

    For your credit score, go here: https://www.econsumer.equifax.ca/canadaotc/order.ehtml?prod_cd=CAECS&locale_code=en_CA.

    It’s an extra $8 or so to obtain your credit score, but it’s certainly better than having to pay the cost twice.

    Thanks, and keep up the great content!

  11. pimpbob says:

    Even better,

    If you sign up for the Equifax Credit Monitoring, you get a 30 day free trial. Just check/print your credit report AND your credit score! Phone the 1-800 # and cancel the trial before you forget. Total process took me 10 minutes.

    Free Trial Link:
    https://www.econsumer.equifax.ca/trial_en.html

  12. Holly says:

    I got my credit score report from Equifax (Canada) in the mail a month or so ago but cannot figure out how to interpret it!

    Is there any website or do you know how to figure out my credit score. The document I received lists all my credit checks, loans, etc. but no official credit score?

    Maybe I’m just blind? lol

    http://www.karmacopia.wordpress.com

  13. I’m flattened for your blogs writings and blogs as well.

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