Comparing Credit Score Averages in Canada and the United States

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It is next to impossible to get financing for a home mortgage, automobile loan, or credit card without a credit inquiry. The higher the score, the better the outcome for the applicant. Yet, a “perfect” credit score is elusive at best, even for the most responsible consumer. On average, do most people have a flawless credit score? 

 

Maintaining a healthy, if not perfect, credit score should be a top financial priority.  What are the average credit scores for people in Canada and the United States? Are there differences in how scores are calculated in these countries? The impact of this three-digit number will be explored under these topics:

  • What’s in a Credit Report?
  • What Should Not Be Factored into a Credit Score
  • Credit Score Calculations: Canada vs U.S.
  • Average Credit Scores
  • Credit Scores by Province and State

What’s in a Credit Report?

The basic definition of a credit report is summarization of the history of a person’s credit, which is comprised of information supplied by creditors and lenders. This is used to calculate the credit score. The report includes the amount of debt, payment history, and credit limits. A credit report also has a good amount of personal data which may include:

 

1. Addresses and names used over a certain period of time.

2. Public financial records like bankruptcies, lawsuits and charge-offs.

3. Year of birth and other identifiers.

4. Past and current employers.

 

Credit card companies and other lenders are not the only businesses that check credit reports. When consumers apply for utilities like phone or electric service, a credit check is performed. Insurance companies, employers, and landlords also get copies of credit reports before approval. 

 

For these and other reasons it’s a good idea to regularly check the credit report to see who’s been taking a peek. A good rule of thumb is that whenever a social security number is required, expect that the credit report will be accessed. The equivalent of this number in Canada is a Social Insurance Number (SIN).

What Should Not Be Factored into a Credit Score

Even though a credit score is based on what’s in the credit report, not everything related to a borrower can be used to calculate a credit score. Privacy laws, consumer protection, as well as civil and other rights prevent basing a credit score upon:

 

  • History from a credit report in a different country.
  • Race, ethnicity or religion.
  • Marital status or age.
  • Past or current use of credit counseling services.
  • Occupation and employment history.

 

Although the credit report itself may reveal some of this information, any score assigned to the borrower must not be calculated based upon these and other factors.

Credit Score Calculations: Canada vs U.S.

Calculating credit scores in Canada and the United States is pretty similar with a few differences. One is that there are two major credit bureaus in Canada (Equifax Canada and TransUnion Canada) versus three in the U.S. (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). Credit bureaus report these five credit areas:

 

1. Whether payments are made consistently on time.

2. The amount of debt compared to credit limits (less than 30% is good).

3. How long the consumer has had credit accounts.

4. The mixture and usage of credit (mortgages, auto loans, credit cards, etc.).

5. If there are a high number of hard inquiries which show the consumer is applying for a lot of credit in a short time, which is not good.

 

A credit report in the United States will display the name of each account, the type and the balance. It will show the payment status (current, late, etc.) and the date the account was opened. It is also possible to expand each account to show the history of payments going back 24 months.  

 

Canadian credit reports have a notation by each account with a letter and number. For instance, an “R” means a revolving credit account such as a credit card. The letter “T” stands for installment loan. The number represents the payment rating from 0 (too new to provide rating) to 9 (aka bad news). A nine means the account has either been sent to collections or a bankruptcy. For example, an R1 next to an account means the credit card has been paid on time as agreed.

Average Credit Scores

The credit rating or credit score is determined using a mathematical formula based upon the five credit factors noted above. In Canada, the credit score range is 300 to 900; the United States scores credit between 300 to 850. 

 

Credit score statistics in Canada: 

 

  • 27% of Canadians have a score from 750-799. Only two percent of consumers in this range default or declare bankruptcy. The majority of borrowers in this group are over age 65.
  • Borrowers with a credit score of 520 and under are mostly age 25 or younger.
  • A large number of mortgage lenders will deny loans for applicants with a score less than 680. Of those approved, interest rates will be higher than for people with scores of 680+.
  • 17% of adults checked their credit reports over a 3-year period. 18 percent of them found errors in the report.

 

Credit Score Statistics in the United States:

 

  • Most lenders in the U.S. rate a score of above 704 as good. Borrowers with this score or above are more likely to get approval with decent interest rates and terms.
  • Payment history and credit utilization represent 65% of American credit scores.
  • The average VantageScore went up by 11 points between 2007 and 2015 due to the rebound from the U.S. recession.
  • Only 1% of Americans have a so-called perfect score of 850.

 

 ↓   Did you know the U.S. has a higher credit score than Canada?   ↓

Credit Scores by Province and State

Credit scores fluctuate in both countries for several reasons. The area size, age, and debt load of the population in a given territory does affect the credit scores of its citizens. Credit score variations by area include:

 

  • Quebec has the highest number of consumers with credit scores of 750 and over.
  • The most people with credit scores below 520 live in Nunavut.
  • The average debt load in Alberta is over $27,000, compared with $18,000 in Manitoba.
  • Residents in the Southern region of the United States have the lowest credit overall.
  • A prominent upscale retirement community in Florida has the highest credit score in America.
  • People who live in state capitals in the U.S. tend to have higher credit scores.

 

In the big financial picture, Canada and the United States have much in common with regard to the credit scores of its citizens. Each country has living costs and employment statistics that are in direct relation to the credit score averages of the consumers in a region. Also, the potential to improve credit rating is open to anyone, regardless of the province or state. 

 

Although good credit has definite advantages, experts caution borrowers against becoming obsessed with obtaining the highest credit score possible. As near impossible as it is to achieve, maintaining a perfect score is even more improbable to maintain. A more realistic goal is to make steady progress toward better credit habits. 

 

Consistently paying bills on time and watching spending habits go a long way toward improving credit. In recent years, creditors have conceded that it is unrealistic to expect the average consumer to have perfect credit. Lenders are looking at other financial practices of their applicants. On-time utility payments, current rent, and money in savings accounts are, on average, indicators that an applicant may be a decent credit risk in the long run.

If improving your credit score is important to you then continue educating yourself on how to increase it by clicking HERE!

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Sheila Kay

Sheila Kay is an author, ghostwriter and editor residing in the Atlanta, GA area. Among her favorite writing genres are creative nonfiction, self-improvement, and finances. Her first published book, PTSD and the Undefeated Me, is a memoir which has been a stepping stone to her involvement with mental health advocacy for military and civilian men and women. She is currently working on the first fiction novel to be published under her name. For more information or to purchase her books, visit Sheila’s Author Page on Amazon.com.

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