How to Conduct a Credit Check in Canada

29 October 2015

In Canada, there are two credit bureaus that collect and organize consumer borrowing information into credit reports, TransUnion and Equifax. Every Canadian who has ever applied for a loan or line of credit, no matter how small, has a credit report on file with these two companies. Over time, a credit file grows, including information such as payment tendencies and total borrowing amount on any lines of credit a person owns.

While lenders use the information housed in these reports to determine what loan rates they should offer to a potential borrower, consumers can use their credit reports for their own benefit. By regularly reviewing their file, consumers can spot certain activity that could indicate identity theft or credit fraud.

To this end, as well as to allow people a chance to review their reports for errors, each credit bureau allows Canadians one credit check every 12 months free of charge. By staggering the offers from the two bureaus, consumers can get a free glimpse of their credit standing every six months. If you want to look more often you'll have to pay.

To conduct a credit check of your own, you must first request a copy of your credit report from either TransUnion or Equifax. Your free credit report is called a “credit file disclosure” by Equifax Canada and a “consumer disclosure” by TransUnion Canada. To get your credit report free of charge you may order it by mail, fax, telephone or in person to be collected either by mail or in person. For online access you must pay a fee.

To do your own credit check in Canada by mail or fax, make your request in writing using the forms provided by Equifax Canada and TransUnion Canada. Be prepared to provide copies of two pieces of acceptable identification. To request by telephone, call the credit reporting agency and follow the automated prompts. You will need to confirm your identity by answering a series of personal and financial questions and providing your Social Insurance Number and/or a credit card number. To order in person, simply visit the office of the credit reporting agency. Be prepared to show two pieces of acceptable identification in order to access your credit file.

By signing up for a credit monitoring service, consumers can have an external company keep an eye trained on their credit files, who send notifications if certain activity appears that may be indicative of fraud. These more frequent credit checks give Canadians a chance to freeze their accounts or alert their banks as soon as they suspect fraud, rather than having to wait months until the next scheduled credit check to discover the breach.