TORONTO, ON, October 26, 2021 – The pandemic continues to weigh on the financial outlook of Canadians with two-thirds (64 per cent) checking their credit reports in the past year and 26 per cent within the past month according to a recent consumer survey conducted by Equifax Canada in advance of Financial Literacy Month. This is a major shift considering 78 per cent of survey* respondents indicated they have now checked their credit reports at least once versus a similar Equifax survey conducted five years ago when 67 per cent said they ‘rarely or never checked their credit reports’.
When asked to reflect on COVID-19 and their current financial situation, 61 per cent of Canadians said they are concerned about being able to live comfortably in retirement. More than half (54 per cent) admit they are concerned about their investments, while 42 per cent are concerned about paying off debt and about one-third are concerned with paying monthly bills (37 per cent), job security (34 per cent), credit scores/reports (33 per cent), and are worried about the federal support programs ending (32 per cent).
“While there are still a lot of worried people, it’s encouraging that consumers are taking the time to better understand their relationship with credit,” said Julie Kuzmic, Equifax Canada’s Senior Compliance Officer, Consumer Advocacy. “We’re certainly seeing more people checking their credit reports and scores now compared to a few years ago, but there’s still a lot of misunderstanding about how credit scores are calculated and what information goes into a credit report.”
Younger adults (between the ages of 18-34) are more likely to check their credit reports versus those over the age of 35. Of those who have checked, the top reason for doing so is to ensure that their information is correct (56 per cent). Despite checking these reports and scores more frequently, younger adults are less likely to have a full understanding of how credit reports and scores work. They are also less likely to correctly identify false statements related to a credit report and scores compared to those over the age of 35.
When presented with a series of false statements about credit scores and reports, a significant number of survey respondents of all ages agreed with the following false statements:
% Agree it’s a False Statement
If you have a good credit score, you always get approved for a loan
Credit bureaus decide whether or not you qualify for a loan
You have one credit score
Higher salaries result in better credit scores
Checking your own credit reports hurts your credit scores
People who avoid using credit have higher credit scores
Married people have a joint credit report
Credit reports contain RRSP balances
Younger adults, however, did score better when presented with true statements about credit scores and reports, correctly agreeing:
% Agree it’s a True Statement
Credit reports do not contain credit scores
Missing a credit card payment can stay on a credit report for up to 7 years
It is good news that Canadians are checking their credit scores more. For people with credit scores less than about 750 out of 900, the next step should be to understand how to improve those scores over time. Lenders generally consider anyone above 750 to be a lower risk to default on their payments. Small behaviour changes like paying bills on-time every month can have a positive impact on credit scores and improve an individual’s likelihood for better loan terms, including lower interest rates..
“Our credit counsellors talk to people every day who are unaware of the impact of their behaviour on their credit scores,” said Bruce Sellery, CEO of Credit Canada. “Sometimes late payments are unavoidable due to job loss, illness or family difficulties. But sometimes more knowledge about the consequences of late payments, frequent credit applications, or maxing credit cards to the limit can help improve the day-to-day choices people make. We need to pull together during these difficult times. Working with Equifax Canada, we’re eager to help more people understand their credit scores and how to improve them.”
To learn more about how credit works, consumers are encouraged to visit Equifax Canada’s education hub. The site offers insights on how different actions may affect credit scores and provides resources to help them improve their financial wellness.
*An online survey of 1,500 Canadians was completed between September 16-24, 2021, using Leger’s online panel. The margin of error for this study was +/-2.5%, 19 times out of 20.