What is a credit rating and why does it matter?
Your credit rating is based on a “credit report” kept by a credit-reporting company. These credit-reporting companies collect information about the way you handle your debts. They get this information from other companies you deal with. For example, whenever you get a loan, a credit card or an account for utilities, the contract you signed for those things says the company can share information about you with the credit-reporting companies. The credit-reporting companies use this information to write a credit report about you.
Your credit report includes information about how much debt you have, how you pay your bills (on time, late or not at all), where you live and work, whether you've filed for bankruptcy, and whether you've had a home foreclosed or vehicle repossessed. It also contains detailed information about your credit cards and loans.
Many businesses check your credit report to make decisions about you. A business must have your permission to check your credit report, but usually you must give your consent as part of the application. So, for example, when you apply for a credit card or loan, the credit card company or bank will check your credit report to decide whether to give you the card or loan. Some landlords will ask to see your credit report before renting to you.
Your “credit score” is a number that is like an overall grade representing your credit report. It is on a scale between 300 and 900. Some credit-reporting agencies also use a “credit rating”, which is a number between 1 and 9 that rates how you pay your bills. A rating of 1 means you pay your bills within 30 days of the due date. A rating of "9" means that you never pay your bills. If your credit score is low or your credit rating is high, you may have trouble obtaining loans, credit cards, rental housing or other services.
This is one reason it is important to pay your bills and loan payments on time.
Checking your credit rating
There are two credit-reporting companies in Canada: Equifax Canada and TransUnion. You can ask for a copy of your credit report by mail (for free) or online (for a fee). For more information about how to check your credit rating, see the website of the Office of Consumer Affairs. This website also has information about what to do if you want to correct information you find in your credit report.