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One of the most positive personal-finance developments of the past couple of years is how easy it’s getting to check your credit score, which is what lenders look at when assessing you as a borrower.

Maintaining a decent credit score – you don’t need to hit it out of the park – ensures you’ll get competitive interest rates when borrowing to buy a house, a car and more. But what, exactly, goes into a good credit score? A non-profit credit counselling agency has provided some useful answers based on information from the credit-monitoring company Equifax.

There are five factors affecting your credit score. About 35 per cent of the overall tally is your payment history, or your record in paying what you owe on time. Another 30 per cent is credit utilization, or the percentage of your available credit that you’re actually using. Fifteen per cent of your score is influenced by how long a credit history you have, and 10 per cent is tied to the types of borrowing you’re doing. More weight is given to credit cards than, say, a car loan or cellphone bill. A final 10 per cent is tied to hard inquiries, where lenders size you up when requesting new credit (checking your own credit details does not affect your score).

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Credit scores range from 300 to 900. Here’s Equifax on what your credit score says about you: “Credit scores from 580 to 669 are generally considered fair; 700 to 749 is considered good; and 750 and up is considered excellent.”

Banks that offer their clients no-cost access to their credit scores include Bank of Nova Scotia, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Royal Bank of Canada and Capital One, which is a credit-card issuer. You can also use services like Credit Kharma (they suggest financial products that might of interest) and Borrowell (online lending).

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Rob’s personal finance reading list…

Yes, the right restaurant tip is 20 per cent

I mentioned this in a recent newsletter and got some pushback from readers. I’m not making this stuff up, people. In the Definitive Guide to Tipping at Any Restaurant in America, it says that in 2018, “the precise amount you tip is widely understood to be a round 20 per cent.” I can’t see why Canada is different. This just in: Another argument for generous tipping.

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Read this if you want to use a financial planner

An overview of key points to consider in finding a planner who can address your money issues. Here’s a list of planners across the country who work on a fee-for-service basis, which means they charge a flat or hourly rate and don’t sell investments.

Planning a winter getaway?

Here’s a detailed budget for a trip to Hawaii for a week. Cheaper for people who live in Western Canada because the air fares are lower.

Fit, healthy seniors want to keep working

An age-positive look at what it means to the workforce that seniors are staying healthy and active longer. “The question is whether society will adapt to make the most of this new labor pool,” says the author, an active 67-year-old.

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Today’s financial tool/app

Do you have multiple registered and non-registered accounts holding guaranteed investment certificates that are covered by Canada Deposit Insurance Corp.? This list from CDIC will help you find out which of your accounts get their own coverage to $100,000 in principal and interest.

Ask Rob

Q: How do you tip your newspaper carriers? I never see the guy and figure if I leave an envelope outside, it will either be stolen or he won’t see it since he throws the paper from afar.

A: Note – I mentioned that my wife and I tip our newspaper carriers in a newsletter earlier this month. We put the money in an envelope with a greeting card and tape it to the front door. A few times over the years, we have had to try leaving the tip on the door a few times. The carriers who toss the paper from afar can miss important details.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can’t answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length and clarity.

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Featured Video

A financial planner cleverly riffs on ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” to deliver an anti-debt message. “No one was upset with the lack of excess.”

In case you missed these Globe and Mail personal finance-related stories

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