Should You Review Your Credit Report From Both Bureaus at Once?

11 January 2016

In Canada, two credit bureaus, TransUnion and Equifax, keep track of borrowing information for every consumer who has ever applied for a loan, whether as small as a retail charge card or as large as a mortgage. Aggregated and assembled into organized credit reports, lenders use this data to determine consumers’ creditworthiness, helping them determine which loan terms they should offer potential borrowers.

In an effort to limit errors by increasing transparency, the law requires that credit bureaus make individuals’ credit reports available free of charge once every 12 months. While this is no doubt an important way for consumers to keep an eye out for errors that could damage their borrowing reputations, it also serves to benefit borrowers in a few other ways. Before applying for a loan, consumers can review their credit reports to see precisely what picture their lenders will get of their borrowing behaviour. Additionally, by regularly reviewing the information contained in their credit reports, consumers may be able to detect activity that may indicate they have become a victim of identity theft or credit fraud.

With two credit reports available to all consumers annually, there are two ways they could go about monitoring their credit: simultaneously or staggered. Both have advantages and disadvantages, which we outline below:

Simultaneous

With each report available at no cost once every 12 months, some consumers choose to request both reports at the same time every year. This way, they have a method of comparison with which to spot errors. If the two reports deviate greatly from one another, there is a possibility that one is built on inaccurate information, which may be difficult to spot when only reviewing one bureau’s report at a time.

However, the two credit bureaus do not base their credit reports off of identical sets of data, so there will always be some deviation. Therefore, comparing reports side-by-side can cause consumers to worry about a number of red herrings each time they look over their reports. Likewise, just because certain activity shows up on the reports from both bureaus does not mean it is accurate. Errors, even fraudulent activity, can appear on both reports. However, consumers who review their reports simultaneously may mistake consistency for accuracy.

Staggered

Consumers hoping to collect a copy of their credit report more than once a year may choose to schedule their requests a few months away from one another. By staggering their requests like this, people are able to review their credit histories more often, giving them a chance to catch errors sooner and allowing them to keep their fingers on the pulse of their credit files more regularly.

One drawback to the staggered schedule is that it can be difficult to know what to make of a credit report without another there for comparison. However, the staggered schedule lets consumers check their credit twice as frequently, meaning they will be able to build context relatively quickly. If borrowers notice a serious error or indication of fraud when reviewing their report, they should request both copies immediately. In this case, those on an alternating schedule would have to pay to request their other report for the second time in the 12-month window, while those reviewing both reports simultaneously wouldn’t need to.

While either method stands as a better alternative to not checking your credit at all, reviewing your credit reports one at a time on a staggered schedule is typically more helpful. Not only does it put you in a better position to detect fraud earlier, but staying more up-to-date with the contents of your credit file can help you improve your overall financial literacy.

To make sure someone is there to keep an eye on your credit even more frequently, sign up for a credit monitoring service. Backed by its identity protection measures, you can receive notifications when it detects certain activity on your account that may indicate fraud, giving you the opportunity to act sooner and request a credit freeze or place a fraud alert on your account. To learn more, contact us today.

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