At one point – when I was getting ready to apply for my first unsecured credit after bankruptcy (a car loan), I was checking my credit reports on a monthly basis. And even for a little while afterward, I kept checking. But there was little to no change from month to month and it was costing me $23.95 each time I checked my Equifax Canada credit report and FICO score. So, I decided to just continue maintaining my good credit and check my credit report and score once or twice a year.
The Redesigned Equifax Website
Today I decided to take a look. I immediately noticed the Equifax Canada consumer credit website was different. After logging in with my existing username and password, I had to accept their new Terms of Service and reconfirm my identity before I could go any further into their website. The previous setup was good. I was used to it. Now, it’s set up with a more modern “Dashboard” and improved graphics as well as navigation. Some information is easy to find, other information – like the old style credit report which summarizes everything – is still there, you just have to look for it. I discovered that some links might have the same or similar name, but take you to different pages.
Once I logged in, I was immediately presented with my FICO score, for free it seemed! I later discovered that it was showing my old FICO score and credit report information from the last time I paid for it – despite the fact it had today’s date on it. To display your current credit report and score, you will need to pay for it first. After being baffled with painfully out-of-date information, and a lower-than-expected FICO credit score, I decided to buy my most recent credit report and score. Only I could not find the option to buy it for $23.95 like we used to be able to do. I searched and searched for a phone number. If you want to experience extreme frustration, try looking for the Equifax Canada phone number on their website! Or if you would rather just have it, it’s 1-877-493-8785. I was able to reach an agent on that number – even on a Sunday afternoon, but if you need further assistance, you can also try 1-866-204-9044. The first phone number is displayed on a few (but not all of) the pages, so write it down in case you need it later and can’t find it!
Important Information At A Glance
After speaking to the agent, I found out the website redesign happened 2 to 3 months ago, so near the end of summer 2012. The aforementioned Dashboard has several useful tabs at the top. By clicking on “Scores” you get to once again, see your most current FICO score that you paid for, and it tells you that your score is better than X% of Canadians. You can even set your “target score” by dragging a slider to the score you would like to have in the next 12, 6, or 3 months. No doubt this is to encourage consumers to come back frequently, and potentially to spend money on Equifax products. Although it seems now that you get some things for free that used to cost money, like your FICO score.
More Ways To Spend Money With Equifax Canada
But speaking of ways to spend money with Equifax, the right column of the page shows icons to “Upgrade Your Options” to include Alerts and Monitoring (much like TransUnion has been offering for ages). Or, with the “Equifax Complete™ Premier plan” ($199.95), you can add “Score Trend,” “Lost Wallet” and “Web Detect.” Most of those are fairly self-explanatory, but some aren’t. According to Equifax,
With Lost Wallet Assist you receive one-stop assistance in canceling and reissuing payment cards, licenses, Social Security and insurance cards, passports, and travelers’ cheques when you lose your wallet.
and for Web Detect:
“Consumer data is traded online everyday. With Web Detect you can receive alerts when your social insurance number or credit card numbers are found being traded on the Internet.”
The Complete Advantage Plan is $149.50 for 12 months, or $14.95 per month. And depending where you click to log in, this is the page you will be taken to, possibly leading you to believe that these are your only options. I went back to the home page and noticed some smaller, more subtle links at the bottom of page, in a box called “Equifax Credit Report and Score” – there’s a button with the words “Get Started” and a little text link that says “See my Equifax credit report only.” Clicking either of these will take you exactly where it says it will. If you click on “Sign In” at the top right, where it says “Member Centre, New & Enhanced” it takes you to the page where you only get the choice of signing up for the Complete Advantage Plan for $149.50 for a year, or $14.95 a month. At least, for me, at the time of this writing, that’s what it did. The agent I spoke to on the phone told me you receive an updated credit report and FICO score every 3 months. I know the monitoring is a nice feature, but for that price, I would expect to get an updated credit report and score EVERY month.
But what if you just want a “snapshot” of your credit report and FICO credit score, current at the time of purchase – like we used to be able to buy. It’s still possible, but not easy to find. In fact, I had to search and search for that phone number to call Equifax, which was no easy task. Then I had to ask the agent how to get to the page when I could still buy my credit report and FICO score for $23.95. At first, she wanted to do it for me and asked for my credit card number, but I wanted to do it myself. She told me a series of links to click, but I honestly don’t recall the sequence.
New Information Previously Not Available
Getting back to the Dashboard, if you click on “Credit Inquiries” you get to see the number of open accounts for Mortgage, Installment, Revolving and Other. It also tells you the balance, total credit limit and utilization – all very useful pieces of information. Some of this information was previously available, but not in such a nice, graphical way. And some of it, as far as I can recall, was not shown before in the old version of the Equifax Canada website.
Also in the Dashboard, you can see how many Inquiries (Request for credit) have been made in the last two years, and which one was the most recent. This would be credit you applied for. In my case, it’s been almost two years since the last inquiry was made – when I applied for and received my Home Trust Visa secured credit card.
The next section shows “Potentially Negative Information” (late payments, collections and public records). You will see the number of public records or collections, etc, but no more details. On mine, I saw one public record, which would be my bankruptcy (only another 18 months before it falls off my credit reports). I was really happy to see that a collection has finally aged enough to have dropped off my credit report. No doubt that helped boost my credit score!
The last section in the Reports section shows “Account Age.” Just in case you don’t know, the older or more established an account is, the better. That’s why it’s so important to establish new credit as soon as you are discharged from your bankruptcy. In Canada, you have to surrender all credit cards when you file for bankruptcy. And even if you were able to keep a leased car or a home with no equity, that helps the account age, but you should still strive to establish NEW credit AFTER your bankruptcy is discharged, since that’s what really counts when you apply for major credit – like a car loan, mortgage or apartment lease.
The Equifax website highlights this often forgotten aspect of credit report and scoring. One box shows the length of credit history in years. Mine shows 16 years, with a Bank of Montreal MasterCard from 1996 being the oldest. It’s true that’s the date I got the Bank of Montreal MasterCard, but I had to give it up when I declared bankruptcy in 2007. And I recall having a Petro Canada credit card when I was 18, so if they really want to look back to my oldest credit, it’s 21 years old. So I’m not sure if they’re indicating the amount of time that a consumer has used credit, or the amount of time for the oldest, but still active account. In my case, neither one was correct. However, my newest credit (my Home Trust secured Visa card), was correctly displayed, along with the month and year I opened that account. In this section, the website indicates your average account age.
Getting Used To The New Equifax Website
In general, people do not like change, especially when it’s a website. However, usually when a website is changed, it’s for the better. This is true with the new Equifax website. It’s easier to read and see some of the important information at a glance. Maybe it will just take some getting used to, but the process for buying some of the lower priced products, like your credit report and FICO credit score for a one-time charge of $23.95 is NOT easy to find. However, it’s easy to find the more expensive products like the subscription to monthly monitoring (that apparently can only be cancelled by phoning Equifax). These are the ones you can prepay for 12 months, or pay monthly. If only it were easier to see a list of ALL products on one page, and have that page easy to find, I would like the new website even more.
Every Canadian consumer should strive to have as high as credit score as possible. It’s even more important for us folks who have a recent bankruptcy showing on our credit reports. And I can’t begin to tell you the rush I get when I see old, bad credit start to fall off my credit report and see my FICO score go up!