Rebuilding Your Credit

Rebuilding your Credit

Rebuilding your credit is not an easy task. The first and most obvious step is to get out of debt first.

Get Out of Debt Before Rebuilding Credit

First things first: if you want to rebuild your credit, you first need to get out of debt.

Beware of using debt settlement companies – they will make empty promises and leave you in a worse position than before.

You can make a settlement with your creditors through a Consumer Proposal, or if you can’t afford to settle, you can file for Personal Bankruptcy.

Getting out of debt using the Consumer Proposal or Personal Bankruptcy process is relatively straightforward. However, what often isn’t discussed is how one goes about rebuilding their credit afterwards.

This topic will be discussed on a step by step basis. First, we’ll provide information about how credit bureaus operate and how they determine your credit score or credit rating. Next, we’ll provide an overview of secured credit cards and how they can be used to rebuild your credit score or rating

Finally, we recognize that while you are rebuilding your credit, you don’t want to fall into the trap of getting back into debt. We’ll provide you with a tool called a “Paycheque Planner” which you’ll find very useful for managing your cash-flow.

Credit Scores and Credit Ratings

When a business gives you credit, it may send information about the history of your debt payments to a credit-reporting agency. Credit-reporting agencies, also known as credit bureaus, are businesses that collect information about your debt repayment history. This information is called your “credit history”. When you want to borrow money in the future, the lender will check with a credit-reporting agency to see if you have a good credit history.

If your credit history is poor, a lender can refuse to give you a loan. If the lender does decide to give you the loan, it may charge a higher rate of interest due to a poor credit history

A credit-reporting agency provides information about credit history in two ways, as a credit report and as a credit score or credit rating.

What is a credit report?

Your credit history is recorded in files maintained by at least one of Canada’s two major credit-reporting agencies: Equifax and Trans Union Canada. These files are called credit reports.

A credit report is a “snapshot” of your credit history. It is one of the main tools lenders use to decide whether or not to give you credit.

You have the right to see your credit report. Here are links to the two major credit bureaus’ websites which allow you to request your credit report:


Trans Union Canada:

The contents of your credit report are confidential and not accessible by anyone but you. However, whenever you submit a credit application, the prospective lender will usually require you to provide them with consent for a credit check, which will allow it to check your credit history.

What Is A Credit Rating?

A credit score or credit rating is a judgment about your financial health, at a specific point in time. It indicates the risk you represent for lenders, compared with other consumers.

Credit Rating – Equifax

Here is an excerpt from Equifax’s website:

Every piece of credit history information in your credit file is assigned a rating by the credit grantor. The most common ratings are “R” ratings. These are known as North American Standard Account Ratings and are the most frequently used. The “R” indicates that the item being described involves revolving credit. If you always pay on time, it will be coded an R1. If an amount was written off because you never paid it back, it is coded R9. The R ratings are a coding system that translates “on time”, “one month late”, “two months late”, etc., into two-digit codes.

Rating What it Means

  • R0 Too new to rate; approved but not used
  • R1 Pays (or paid) within 30 days of payment due date or not over one payment past due
  • R2 Pays (or paid) in more than 30 days from payment due date, but not more than 60 days, or not more than two payments past due
  • R3 Pays (or paid) in more than 60 days from payment due date, but not more than 90 days, or not more than three payments past due
  • R4 Pays (or paid) in more than 90 days from payment due date, but not more than 120 days, or four payments past due
  • R5 Account is at least 120 days overdue, but is not yet rated “9”
  • R7 Making regular payments through a special arrangement to settle your debts
  • R8 Repossession (voluntary or involuntary return of merchandise)
  • R9 Bad debt; placed for collection; moved without giving a new address

Credit Score – Trans Union Canada

Your credit score is a judgment about your financial health, at a specific point in time. It indicates the risk you represent for lenders, compared with other consumers.

There are many different ways to work out credit scores. Trans Union Canada uses a scale from 300 to 900. High scores on this scale are desirable – the higher your score, the lower the risk for the lender.

Here is an excerpt from Trans Union Canada’s website:

The basic credit scoring formula takes into account several factors from your credit profile. The impact of each element fluctuates based your own credit profile:

  • Payment history – A good record of on-time payments will help boost your credit score.
  • Outstanding debt – Balances above 50 percent of your credit limits will harm your credit. Aim for balances under 30 percent.
  • Credit account history – An established credit history makes you a less risky borrower. Think twice before closing old accounts before a loan application.
  • Recent inquiries – When a lender or business checks your credit, it causes a hard inquiry to your credit file. Apply for new credit in moderation.
  • Types of credit – A healthy credit profile has a balanced mix of credit accounts and loans.

If your credit score is above 650 you will probably qualify for a standard loan. Under 650, you may have trouble receiving new credit.

How long do these factors affect your credit score or rating?

Information that affects your credit score is usually removed from your credit report after a certain period of time. The length of time that information must stay in your report depends on the province or territory where you live and the type of information.

The following charts show how long it takes before information is removed from Trans Union Canada and Equifax credit reports if your reside in Ontario:

Event TypeTrans UnionEquifax
Credit transactions (from the first date of delinquency)6 years6 years
Judgments (from the reporting date) 7 years6 years
Collections (from the first date of delinquency) 6 years6 years
Secured loans (from the date opened) 5 years6 years
Bankruptcy (from date of discharge) 7 years6 years
Consumer Proposal (from date of completion)3 years3 years
Credit counselling (from date of completion)2 years3 years

How do I rebuild my credit rating after a bankruptcy or a proposal?

    • If you’ve just been discharged from bankruptcy or if your consumer proposal has just been approved by your creditors, start rebuilding your credit right away. If your goal is to eventually apply for a mortgage to purchase a home, lenders generally use a 2/2/2 rule: 2 years discharged, 2 new credit accounts, $2,000 minimum credit limits with good repayment history. The easiest way to start is to obtain a secured credit card. Because your credit utilization rate is a major factor in your credit score, try to get card with a moderately higher credit limit (e.g. $2,000) – using a card with too low a credit limit will be of limited use in rebuilding your credit score.
    • Use your credit card consistently – use it for everyday purchases and pay off the balance in full at the end of the billing cycle. By doing this, you’re reestablishing your payment history. Doing this over a long period of time will gradually increase your credit score since the length of your credit history contributes to your credit score.
    • Once you’ve established a track record with your secured credit card, you’ll be getting offers from credit card and loan companies. Don’t accept too many offers in too short a period of time, since data related to new credit applications contributes to credit score.

Paycheque Planner

Many individuals get into financial trouble even though they earn a good income. On paper at least, it appears that they’re earning enough to cover their living expenses.

However, more often that not, expenses come due between pay periods and when it’s time to pay the bills, there isn’t enough money left over from the last paycheque to cover them. Many resort to borrowing money from credit card cash advances or payday loan outlets. Because these forms of borrowing are so convenient but expensive, it’s not too long before someone can find herself (again, if she was previously bankrupt) with a lot of debt due to poor cash-flow management.

Here is a tool called the Paycheque Planner. It’s essentially a monthly budget broken down into pay periods. Its objective is to allow individuals to budget their spending so they don’t run out of money before the next pay date:

Here’s how to use it:

  1. Click and save the spreadsheet to your computer and then open it. You will need to have Microsoft Excel to use this tool.
  2. The spreadsheet automatically calculates the subtotals and totals. You just need to input the data. Use the appropriate worksheet depending on whether you’re paid bi-weekly, twice-monthly, or monthly.
  3. For each pay period, input the date you’ll be paid (in the Yellow cells) and the amount you’ll be paid
  4. Input your estimated monthly expenses, paying particular attention to which pay period the expense becomes due
  5. After inputting this information, you’ll be able to see on the bottom of the form whether you will have a cash surplus or deficit for a particular pay period. You should adjust your expenses accordingly.