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Q: I’ve recently come to Canada and I’ve been trying to obtain credit, but I’m finding it’s difficult as a newcomer. What advice do you have?

A: As a new immigrant, there are some basic steps you can take to begin the process of building your credit history.

First, and most obviously, you need to open a savings and chequing account at your local bank or credit union. This shows that you have money and are starting to establish roots.

Another step you can take is to apply for a secured credit card (a card you put your own money on). MasterCard and other major credit card companies offer this option. Depending on your income, you can start with a small amount and you can use it like a regular credit card. By making payments on time, you begin building a good credit rating.

If you have a larger sum of money to work with, the bank can hold a certain amount as security (a fixed deposit) and give you a credit card against that amount. For example, I negotiated with my bank and they eventually agreed to a $2,000 deposit (at first they wanted $3,000) and gave me a $1,000 credit card limit.

As you begin to establish your credit by paying your bills on time, you can apply for credit cards at major department stores such as the Bay, Sears or Canadian Tire. If you use the card wisely, by paying it off each month, for example, you should be able to obtain more cards before too long.

Q: I’ve been living in Toronto now for several years (I’m originally from Argentina) and I’ve been trying to build my credit, but I keep having problems. I have a couple of credit cards but I’m getting turned down when I apply for loans or other credit. What am I doing wrong?

A:  The most obvious thing in building credit is paying all your bills on time –— this includes not just credit card bills, but phone and cable bills. But even if you pay your bills on time, this doesn’t guarantee that you are building good credit.

For instance, if you have department store credit cards and are making large purchases regularly, this can affect the way potential lenders view you.

Also, make sure your bank reports any credit transactions you have with them to the credit agency because some companies don’t — and that is one of the ways to boost your credit rating.

Another thing to be aware of is getting credit cards through your spouse.  When I first came to Canada I made that mistake. Despite having leased a car in my name and having made all my payments on time, it did nothing to build my own credit history, because our credit card was under my wife’s name. The moral of this story is for you and your spouse to get separate credit cards.

Finally, check your credit report on a regular basis and contact the credit bureaus immediately if you see any errors. There can be a number of reasons for errors showing up on your credit report, such as bill payments not being recorded. Another more serious problem, however, could be fraudulent use of your credit cards or personal identification to access your assets and income, which unfortunately is a growing problem everywhere these days.

Q: I will be moving with my wife and child from the Czech Republic this year. How much money will I need to tide me over?

A: As per Citizenship and Immigration Canada, unless you have pre-arranged employment in Canada, you must prove you have settlement funds of at least $10,000 CDN per person, plus an additional $2,000 for each dependant who will immigrate with you. Note that the minimum amount of settlement funds may vary according to where you want to move to Canada and is determined by family size.

While every family’s needs are different, and every region of Canada has a different cost of living, I suggest the following basic guidelines for a newcomer’s budget (excluding moving costs and airfares):

  • One adult moving alone: $25,000 CDN
  • A couple moving together: $30,000
  • A couple with one child under 10 years: $33,000
  • A couple with a child over 10: $35,000
  • For each additional child under 10: add $1,000
  • For each child additional child over 10: add $2,000

Basically, this sum of money will provide you with enough breathing room to settle in to a new country before you find a job and start making an income. Depending on how well you budget, it should cover basic living expenses for four to six months. Anything less than this will make it extremely difficult.

Q: My husband, my two children and I are coming to B.C. and we’d like to plan our monthly budget in advance.  As a family of four, what can we expect?

Expenses will vary depending on your lifestyle and the province you choose to live in. Keep in mind that rent and food costs vary widely across Canada. Even within one city, rent varies greatly from one neighborhood to another. The following is a suggested budget for a family of four: Expenses Accommodation rental (two bedroom) $900 Heating (if extra) $75 Electricity $65 Laundry $35 Basic telephone $40 Medical insurance (in some provinces) $100 Television $40 Transportation (bus passes) $100 Entertainment $200 Food $600 Miscellaneous $200 Total: $2,355

If you eat out regularly, then expect to pay more than if you eat at home.  Here are some typical prices you can expect to pay:

Fast foods: $5- $8 per person (per dish or for a combo meal of burger, fries and drink, for example)

Restaurant: $10 – $20 per person (depending on food and restaurant)

Groceries: $200 -$300 per month for a single person (depending on the individual needs)

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Q: I’ve recently come to Canada and I’ve been trying to obtain credit, but I’m finding it’s difficult as a newcomer. What advice do you have?

A: As a new immigrant, there are some basic steps you can take to begin the process of building your credit history.

First, and most obviously, you need to open a savings and chequing account at your local bank or credit union. This shows that you have money and are starting to establish roots.

Another step you can take is to apply for a secured credit card (a card you put your own money on). MasterCard and other major credit card companies offer this option. Depending on your income, you can start with a small amount and you can use it like a regular credit card. By making payments on time, you begin building a good credit rating.

If you have a larger sum of money to work with, the bank can hold a certain amount as security (a fixed deposit) and give you a credit card against that amount. For example, I negotiated with my bank and they eventually agreed to a $2,000 deposit (at first they wanted $3,000) and gave me a $1,000 credit card limit.

As you begin to establish your credit by paying your bills on time, you can apply for credit cards at major department stores such as the Bay, Sears or Canadian Tire. If you use the card wisely, by paying it off each month, for example, you should be able to obtain more cards before too long.

Q: I’ve been living in Toronto now for several years (I’m originally from Argentina) and I’ve been trying to build my credit, but I keep having problems. I have a couple of credit cards but I’m getting turned down when I apply for loans or other credit. What am I doing wrong?

A:The most obvious thing in building credit is paying all your bills on time –— this includes not just credit card bills, but phone and cable bills. But even if you pay your bills on time, this doesn’t guarantee that you are building good credit.

For instance, if you have department store credit cards and are making large purchases regularly, this can affect the way potential lenders view you.

Also, make sure your bank reports any credit transactions you have with them to the credit agency because some companies don’t — and that is one of the ways to boost your credit rating.

Another thing to be aware of is getting credit cards through your spouse.When I first came to Canada I made that mistake. Despite having leased a car in my name and having made all my payments on time, it did nothing to build my own credit history, because our credit card was under my wife’s name. The moral of this story is for you and your spouse to get separate credit cards.

Finally, check your credit report on a regular basis and contact the credit bureaus immediately if you see any errors. There can be a number of reasons for errors showing up on your credit report, such as bill payments not being recorded. Another more serious problem, however, could be fraudulent use of your credit cards or personal identification to access your assets and income, which unfortunately is a growing problem everywhere these days.

Q: I will be moving with my wife and child from the Czech Republic this year. How much money will I need to tide me over?

A: As per Citizenship and Immigration Canada, unless you have pre-arranged employment in Canada, you must prove you have settlement funds of at least $10,000 CDN per person, plus an additional $2,000 for each dependant who will immigrate with you. Note that the minimum amount of settlement funds may vary according to where you want to move to Canada and is determined by family size.

While every family’s needs are different, and every region of Canada has a different cost of living, I suggest the following basic guidelines for a newcomer’s budget (excluding moving costs and airfares):

  • One adult moving alone: $25,000 CDN
  • A couple moving together: $30,000
  • A couple with one child under 10 years: $33,000
  • A couple with a child over 10: $35,000
  • For each additional child under 10: add $1,000
  • For each additional child over 10: add $2,000

Basically, this sum of money will provide you with enough breathing room to settle in to a new country before you find a job and start making an income. Depending on how well you budget, it should cover basic living expenses for four to six months. Anything less than this will make it extremely difficult.

Q: My husband, my two children and I are coming to B.C. and we’d like to plan our monthly budget in advance.As a family of four, what can we expect?

Expenses will vary depending on your lifestyle and the province you choose to live in. Keep in mind that rent and food costs vary widely across Canada. Even within one city, rent varies greatly from one neighborhood to another. The following is a suggested budget for a family of four:

Expenses

Accommodation rental (two bedroom) $900

Heating (if extra) $75

Electricity $65

Laundry $35

Basic telephone $40

Medical insurance (in some provinces) $100

Television $40

Transportation (bus passes) $100

Entertainment $200

Food $600

Miscellaneous $200

Total: $2,355

If you eat out regularly, then expect to pay more than if you eat at home.  Here are some typical prices you can expect to pay:

Fast foods: $5- $8 per person (per dish or for a combo meal of burger, fries and drink, for example)

Restaurant: $10 – $20 per person (depending on food and restaurant)

Groceries: $200 -$300 per month for a single person (depending on the individual needs)