A number of credit repair companies in Canada are trying to sell expensive services that often saddle people with more debt and don't provide many with the value they'd expect to receive. On top of this, when some people aren't able to make the payments on their new credit repair loan, the credit repair company can send the loan to collections which puts these people in jeopardy of having worse credit than when they signed up for the program. While this may be unsettling, there is some good news. In Canada you can repair and improve your credit for free – and often get better advice and more one-on-one help than a lot of credit fixing companies provide. Keep reading and we’ll show you how to do this.
How Credit Repair Companies, Services, & Agencies Often Help People Fix & Repair Bad Credit
The goal of credit repair companies is to help people improve their credit score – often claiming to be able to improve it quickly. The way many of them appear to do this in Canada is by offering credit building loans. The idea is that this loan will create some new good credit on your credit report and show the credit scoring system that credit is available to you and that you are using it responsibly.
While this approach no doubt helps a fair number of people improve their credit score, in our opinion, these companies don’t offer it because it’s the best way to fix or repair bad credit. They offer the loan because it's the most lucrative for them. A credit building loan ensures they can charge you interest and fees over several years. But there is a better, cheaper, and more effective way to improve your credit.
The Best & Cheapest Way to Fix, Improve, or Restore Your Credit Score in Canada
In Canada, a cash secured credit card is a much better and faster way to fix, improve, or restore your credit score compared to a credit rebuilding loan. A cash secured card requires you to put up some money as security for the credit card. The cash security required can be as little as $200 or $300. This credit card then functions as a completely normal credit card.
Here are the advantages of a cash secured credit card compared to a credit rebuilding loan:
- The cash secured credit card can provide a much quicker and greater boost to your credit than a loan.
- It is far cheaper than most credit repair loans because it only has one annual fee, and you don’t have to pay any interest costs or fees if you pay off your balance in full every month.
- It’s way more affordable because you don’t have to make room in your budget for a monthly loan payment and/or a credit repair company service fee. Instead you just use your card to pay for something that is already in your budget – like gas or your transit pass – and then pay off the card balance in full at the end of the month. This doesn’t cost you anything extra if you were going to buy the gas or transit pass anyway.
- If your income drops and you can’t afford to make your loan payments, your loan would be sent to collections, your credit score would be further damaged, and you would have more stress in your life. With a cash secured credit card, if you don’t use it, then you don’t have to pay anything. If you get laid off, you work less hours, you get injured or you become sick, your credit won’t be impacted right away, and there won’t be any additional problems that missing loan payments could cause.
In short, a cash secured credit card is a far better way to rebuild your credit or give your score a boost. Just make sure that when you use it you always make at least your minimum monthly payments. If you miss a payment, the credit card company won’t take the monthly payment from your cash secured balance. You will still need to make it and not making the payment will hurt your credit. If you miss a number of payments, the credit card company will close your card and give you your cash security back after deducting any money you owe them.
Another great advantage of a cash secured credit card is that you don’t have to use it much. All you need to do is use it once every few months or so to keep the card active and never use more than 50% of your credit limit (doing this will negatively impact your credit). We would also recommend that you always pay off the card balance in full every month and never carry a balance.
The credit limit on your secured card should be something reasonable in line with your income level. If your income is very low, a limit of a few hundred dollars is reasonable. If your income is not low and you can offer security of $1,000 to $2,500, that will help your score more.
Here is a government list of all secured credit cards in Canada. Just select your province and then you can compare the cards.
What You Need to Watch Out For
To make more money off of you, some credit repair companies and agencies also promote certain debt relief programs and services. If you are struggling to pay your bills and debt payments each month or have some bad debts you need to deal with, then some sort of debt relief option may be very helpful for you. Just be aware of these three things:
- Every debt relief option (there are 5 of them in Canada) has as many disadvantages as it has advantages. If they didn’t, then everyone would be signing up for one of these programs. The key is to find the debt relief option with the right advantages for you and disadvantages that you can live with. Beware of anyone who pitches a debt relief program to you and focuses too much on the positives and doesn’t spend much time making you aware of the negative aspects of the program.
- If the person trying to sell you a program earns commission off of you signing up for the program, then they may have their financial best interests at heart and not yours. The fewer options their company offers, the more often this will be true.
- There is always more than one way to fix, improve, or restore your credit, and when it comes to debt relief options, there are five of them in Canada (debt management program, orderly payment of debts program, debt settlement, consumer proposal, and bankruptcy). So if you get the sense that the person or company you are dealing with isn’t exploring all your options with you or is favoring one over the others (or isn’t even mentioning the others), then you may want to look for a second opinion with someone who will more objectively discuss the pros and cons of all your options with you.
How to Fix, Improve or Restore Your Credit Score on Your Own for Free
You don’t need to pay anyone on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis to help you improve or restore your credit score. We have all of the essential credit score tips that work right here – for free. Take a look. We’ll show you the ways you can fix your credit quickly along with the most effective methods which do, however, take more time. After you’ve done all this, we can then show you how to get an extremely high credit score. If all this isn’t enough for you, if your situation is complex, or if you’d like some specific help and guidance, there are financial experts near you who have expertise in helping people with bad debt – and they’ll typically help you for free!
Where to Get Free One-On-One Credit Help Anywhere in Canada to Fix Your Credit Rating
Free Help and Guidance from Local Non-Profits
A lot of people don’t know this, but some of Canada’s most helpful experts on fixing bad credit situations and completely repairing credit ratings are non-profit Credit Counsellors who offer free appointments (either over the phone or in person) in communities across Canada. If you have debts you are struggling to pay or are struggling in some way with your finances, they are the best people to sit down with and go over your financial situation. Anything you discuss with them is completely confidential, and don’t worry if your situation is really bad. They’ve likely seen far worse. They're not going to make you feel bad or judge you. They are simply there to help people. Click here to find a local non-profit credit counselling service near you.
How to Get Free Credit Repair Advice from Your Bank or Credit Union
Even if you’re not struggling financially and don’t have a debt problem, you can ask your banker to help you understand your credit rating, credit report and credit score. If they’re really reluctant to explain things in detail, they may not fully understand it themselves. That’s why we’ve created this very popular comprehensive credit scoring explanation.
The lender at your bank or credit union is a good person to ask about your credit rating. You might have applied for a loan and been turned down. Don’t be embarrassed, but use it as an opportunity to learn what you can do to get your finances back on track. When a lender declines you for a loan, line of credit, overdraft, or something else you applied for, they can tell you why. Ask them to explain anything you don’t understand. Then ask them what you can do, very specifically, to improve your credit score and credit rating. If you’ve applied for a mortgage, ask your mortgage broker these same questions.
How to Get a Free Copy of Your Credit Report
If you haven’t yet seen a copy of your credit report and are wondering how bad things really are, you can follow these steps to get a free copy of your credit report. If you want to know what your credit score is, you'll have to pay for that, but either Equifax or TransUnion, the two credit reporting agencies in Canada, would be happy to sell you that information (for $24 and $17). You can also use this tool to estimate your credit score for free. The added value of this tool is that you can play with the questions they ask to get an idea of how changing certain things can improve your credit score. You’re unlikely to get this kind of specific feedback from anywhere else – not even from paid credit repair agencies – and it’s available to you for free.
To Sum It Up - Save Your Money, Repair & Improve Your Credit Yourself
So if you live in Canada and are seriously thinking about finding a credit repair company to help you repair or improve your credit, we think you’d be far better off doing it yourself. Get a free copy of your credit report (and your score if that’s important to you right now). Speak with your banker or a credit counsellor for guidance. Consider getting a cash secured credit card if your banker or credit counsellor recommends it. And follow the suggestions we’ve laid out here as well as the guidance provided in the resources we link to from this page. Credit repair ultimately takes time and patience, but by taking advantage of the resources we point out here, your credit should be re-established and improved as quickly as is possible and you’ll save a lot of money in the process.