Last updated on August 13, 2015
Did you know that you are able to use your privacy rights to request a copy of your credit report absolutely free?
Whether you live in Canada or the United States, you are able to conveniently request a copy of your credit report by phone, fax, mail, or by submitting an online form.
Why is it free? What’s the catch?
There usually is a catch if you try to obtain your credit report through a majority of websites on the Internet. Many websites claim to offer you a free credit report, but do so by forcing you to subscribe to additional “free” trial-based services. When the trial period expires, chances are you will have already forgotten to unsubscribe and will have already paid for the next month of service.
The proper way to obtain your credit report for free is by exercising your privacy rights.
Because credit bureaus possess your personal information, Canadian privacy legislation enables you to access your information and make sure it is accurate. If you find any inaccuracies, you are able to request that the credit bureaus update their records.
The Benefits of Requesting Your Credit Report
The most important reason to request your credit report is to verify its accuracy.
Think of your credit report as a snapshot of your financial health — a way for creditors and credit card companies to determine if you are able to pay back debt and receive loans with intentions of paying back on time.
If your credit report contains errors, you risk the possibility of being denied a loan, a credit card, or even employment.
Many companies conduct credit history checks on new employees before they hire. If your credit report falsely states that you cannot pay back small payments on time, such as your cell phone bill, it may suggest that you are not responsible enough to be entrusted with a company’s finances.
All of this can cause undue stress and worry. The sooner you receive your credit report, the sooner you can verify its accuracy and be assured that your credit accurately represents your financial history.
How to Request Your Free Credit Report
Depending on whether you live in Canada or the United States, that are different methods to request your credit report.
Canadian citizens can request their free credit report from Equifax or Transunion.
There are three ways to order from Equifax:
- By calling 1-800-465-7166.
- By fax: Fill out the request form and fax to 1-514-355-8502.
- By mail: Fill out the request form.
Equifax provides additional details on their process here.
There are two ways to order from Transunion:
- In person: If you live in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland, Novia Scotia, or Prince Edward Island, you can visit a Transunion office. Make sure you bring the required identification.
- By mail
Transunion provides additional details on their process here.
Understanding your credit report
The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada provides a fantastic guide called Understanding Your Credit Report and Credit score which will help you understand your credit report once you receive it from Equifax or Transunion.
All three American credit bureaus have chosen to centralize their process under one website: https://www.annualcreditreport.com.
As the title suggests, one of the major differences between American and Canadian privacy legislation is that Americans are only entitled to receive a free credit report once a year, whereas there is no limit to the amount of times a credit report can be requested under Canadian legislation.
Reviewing Your Credit Report
Once you receive your free credit report, inspect it thoroughly. Verify that your personal information has been spelled correctly and your payment history is consistent with your own records.
If you find any errors or if you need to update your credit history, call the credit bureau you received your report from or visit their website to learn how to dispute your findings. Since this process may take some time, it is important to do this as soon as possible. Don’t wait until you need to apply for a loan or interview for new jobs before you do so.
If you want a quick way to obtain your free credit score or report, there are plenty of websites that will automate it for you online and do the heavy lifting. If you go this route, pay attention to the fine print and any subscriptions that you may need to sign up and pay for before registering.