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Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Over Half of Canadians Have Never Checked Their Credit Score

- Over half are unaware of what is considered a good credit score

- Almost one third lack knowledge on how to build a good credit rating

- Credit score can affect getting a loan, a credit card, or renting an apartment

- BMO offers advice on how Canadians can achieve and maintain good credit

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Feb. 27, 2015) - According to a BMO Bank of Montreal report released today, many Canadians are unaware how their behaviour may be affecting their overall credit standing and the impact that can have on securing a loan, getting approved for a mortgage or getting qualified for a lease to rent an apartment.

A credit report is a record of how you've paid your debt. It shows how much debt you have and whether you've made payments on time.

The survey, conducted by Pollara, was designed to reveal the overall knowledge among Canadians on credit and how it is rated in Canada. It found:

  • More than half of Canadians (56 per cent) say they have never checked their credit score and only 14 per cent check at least once a year
  • Almost one third (31 per cent) lack knowledge about how to achieve a good credit rating
  • One fifth believe that checking their credit score can decrease their score
  • While Millennials (18 - 34 year olds) are more aware of their credit standing with 20 per cent checking at least once a year, over one-third (35 per cent) say they lack knowledge about how to attain a good credit score

The study also revealed that over half (52 per cent) of Canadians do not know what would be considered a good credit score, with one fifth (21 per cent) believing it to be below 600.

"A good credit score is generally considered in the range of 680 – 720," said Tony Tintinalli, Regional Vice President, BMO Bank of Montreal. "A poor credit rating results in significant financial limitations – everything from being approved for a loan to renting an apartment. A financial advisor can help advise you on the factors and behaviours that can build or maintain a good credit score."

Regional Statistics
Have never checked credit score 56% 57% 63% 54% 52% 46% 62%
Check credit score annually 14% 9% 13% 16% 15% 19% 13%
Unsure what's considered a good score 52% 53% 59% 48% 48% 49% 57%

BMO offers the following tips to help Canadians improve or maintain their credit score:

Pay bills on time. One of the best ways to improve your credit score is to pay your bills within the grace period. If you have past-due bills now, get current as soon as you can. If possible, set up an automatic bill payment schedule to help you stay on track. In the event you miss a payment, a call to your credit card or mortgage company to work out a plan can help save you unnecessary dings on your credit score.

Manage your credit cards; don't cancel them. A popular myth is that closing old accounts will increase your credit score; this is not necessarily true. Credit bureaus look at a combination of factors, including the total length of your credit history, which means it may be better to keep your credit cards but manage them responsibly.

Check your credit report. A credit report is a record of how you've paid your debt. It shows how much debt you have and whether you've made payments on time. You can order your own credit reports free from the three major credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian® and TransUnion®) annually and check to see if there are any errors or problems.

The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada provides further information on understanding and improving your credit score and credit report.

The survey results cited in the Credit Card Study conducted by Pollara are compiled from a random sample of 1200 Canadians 18 years of age and over, of whom 1077 had at least one credit Card. The study between January 12th and 15th, 2015. A probability sample of 1,077 would yield results accurate to ± 3.0 per cent, 19 times out of 20. Results have been weighted using the latest census data to be representative of Canadians as a whole.

About BMO Financial Group

Established in 1817 as Bank of Montreal, BMO Financial Group is a highly diversified financial services organization based in North America. The bank offers a broad range of retail banking, wealth management and investment banking products and services to more than 12 million customers. BMO Financial Group had total assets of approximately $672 billion and more than 47,000 employees at January 31, 2015.

For further information:
Media Contacts:
Kathleen Savage, Toronto
(416) 867-3996

Valerie Doucet, Montreal
(514) 877-8224

Twitter: @BMOmedia