For the most part, I think Canadians have the advantage over Americans. Our housing economy didn't crash (completely), our banks don't appear to be failing, and medical care is downright affordable. One place where our southern friends do have the advantage, however, is when it comes to credit reports.
Everyone knows that they should be checking their credit report. A credit report is very, very important when it comes to maintaining your financial health.
Checking your credit report will allow you to quickly and efficiently challenge incorrect reports, find potential identity theft, and ensure that financial institutions give you the best deal possible when doing business. Not checking your credit report is like never going to the dentist. You may not feel like you have a problem, but if you wake up one day with a tooth ache you'll wish you did some basic maintenance rather than a massive root canal.
In America, at least, you can get 3 free “checkups” every single year from the 3 major reporting agencies. In Canada, however, there are only 2 agencies you can get credit reports from. Luckily, they are both free and relatively easy to request.
How to get a free credit report in Canada
The two reporting agencies are Equifax and TransUnion Canada. You can get a free credit report from Equifax by filling out the form found here. You must print this report, fill it out, photocopy the necessary identification, and mail/fax it all off to Quebec. Once it is received, they will mail it back to you in a couple of weeks. TransUnion Canada is similar. A mailable form is found here.
TransUnion Canada does offer another way of getting your free credit report – and that is by phone. I just did this, and I would highly suggest it to anyone that wants to get their credit report but is too lazy to print out a form and fill it out. It took me 5 minutes and 56 seconds to follow the phone prompts, and I believe I passed because one of the many robotic automated voices told me that I should receive a credit report within 3 to 5 business days. As long as you know your SIN #, Credit Card #, and some basic financial information about yourself (last place you applied for credit, current credit cards/loans/bank accounts, how old you are) then you should be able to quickly and easily obtain a credit report.
I wasn't able to find any timeline restrictions on the fine print on either website or through the automated system, but in the States you can only get one free credit report per agency per year. Hopefully that restriction does not apply in Canada, but if it does I would suggest getting one report every 6 months. That spreads it out enough so that you should be able to catch anything major before you apply for a mortgage or a credit increase.
When was the last time you checked your credit report?