Understanding the Key Factors of a Good Credit Score and Its Importance
By Alterna Team
March 18, 2024

In the realm of personal finance, few metrics wield as much influence as the credit score. It’s not just a number; it’s a reflection of your financial behaviour and responsibility. Whether you’re applying for a mortgage, car loan, or credit card, your credit score plays a pivotal role in determining your eligibility and the terms you’re offered. Understanding the factors that contribute to a good credit score and why it is essential is paramount for financial well-being.

What is a Credit Score?

In Canada, credit scores typically range from 300 to 900, with higher scores indicating better creditworthiness. This score is generated based on various factors related to your credit history and financial behaviour. It serves as a measure of how likely you are to repay borrowed money responsibly. Lenders, landlords, and even employers may use your credit score to assess your reliability and trustworthiness.

Determining Factors of a Good Credit Score

  1. Payment History
    The most crucial factor in determining your credit score is the timely payment of bills and debts. Lenders want to see a consistent record of on-time payments, including credit card bills, loans, and utilities. Even a single missed payment can have a detrimental impact on your score.


  1. Credit Utilization Ratio
    This ratio reflects the amount of credit you’re using compared to your total available credit limit. Ideally, you should aim to keep this ratio below 30%. High utilization suggests financial strain and may lower your credit score.


  1. Length of Credit History
    The length of time you’ve been using credit also could influence your score. A longer credit history could provide lenders with more data to assess your reliability. It’s essential to establish credit early and maintain accounts responsibly over time.


  1. Types of Credit
    Having a mix of credit types, such as installment loans*, credit cards, and a mortgage, demonstrates your ability to manage different financial obligations. However, avoid opening multiple accounts within a short period of time, as this can raise concerns about your financial stability.


  1. New Credit Inquiries
    Every time you apply for new credit, a hard inquiry** is made on your credit report. Multiple inquiries within a short timeframe can signal financial distress and lower your score. Be strategic about applying for new credit and only do so when necessary. However, credit bureau companies will lump inquiries into groups to help offset the impact of multiple entries in a short span of time. For example, if you’re looking to finance the purchase of a car and are shopping for the best deal, credit bureau inquiries made by dealerships and financial institutions/auto lenders will be lumped together to lessen the overall impact of multiple inquiries on your credit score.


Why do you need a good credit score?

  1. To Access Better Loan Terms
    Whether you’re buying a home, financing a car, or seeking a personal loan, a good credit score can lead to lower interest rates and more favourable terms. This can translate into significant savings over the life of the loan.


  1. Rental Accommodations
    Landlords often review credit scores as part of the tenant screening process. A good credit score can enhance your chances of securing desirable rental accommodations.


  1. Employment Opportunities
    Some employers may review credit reports as part of the hiring process, especially for positions involving financial responsibility or access to sensitive information. A good credit score can bolster your credibility as a candidate.


  1. Utility Services
    Providers may check your credit score when setting up utility services such as electricity, gas, or internet. A higher score may lead to better terms. Cell phone companies may also use credit bureau inquiries to determine if you are eligible for monthly billing or restrict you to pay-as-you-go plans.


  1. Building Financial Security
    Ultimately, a good credit score is an asset that opens doors to financial opportunities and stability. It allows you to qualify for better financial products and confidently navigate life’s milestones.

Why can I have different credit scores when I check my credit report vs. when my bank checks it?

In Canada, there are two credit bureau companies, Equifax and Transunion, that each have their own proprietary scoring formulas along with a third scoring system, FICO. Each score is independently calculated, and there is no correlation between each company, hence allowing for different overall credit scores.

Credit bureau companies also have multiple algorithms to determine your score.  The algorithm used by the credit bureau to calculate your score may vary depending on the institution and the specific product you’ve applied for.


In conclusion, cultivating a good credit score is essential to achieving your financial goals and securing your future. Understanding the factors that influence credit scores and practicing good financial habits can pave the way for greater financial freedom and success. Remember, your credit score is not just a number; it’s a reflection of your financial health and habits.

If you have questions about your credit score, how to improve it, and how it impacts the interest rates you pay, you can always reach out to your Alterna Branch or call our Contact Centre at 1.877.560.0100 or chat with us online during Contact Centre hours by opening the chat box on our website. We are happy to help.

*Installment loan – A lump sum of money that you borrow and repay in regular payments, or installments, over a set period of time, usually months or years. Installment loans can be secured with collateral (like a car) or unsecured.

**Hard inquiry – When a lender or company requests to review your credit reports as part of the loan application process. This type of inquiry is recorded on your credit report and usually impacts your credit score. By contrast, a ‘soft inquiry’ can result when you check your own credit score or when promotional credit card offers are sent to you. These do not impact your credit score.


Credit report and score basics - Canada.ca

How Are Credit Scores Calculated? | Equifax Canada