TORONTO -- At the height of the pandemic, Canada’s financial institutions stepped up with deferral programs to give Canadians a break and millions took advantage of them.

Equifax Canada said over three million Canadians used some kind of deferral program, including 900,000 deferred mortgages and 1.2 million deferred credit card payments.

“There was a lot of uncertainty and job losses that occurred so individuals have really leveraged the support mechanisms to help them through this period," said Rebecca Oakes of Equifax Canada.

Equifax, TransUnion and other reporting agencies worked with lenders to make sure that deferred payments would not negatively impact credit scores.

So if you did defer a payment it should not impact your credit score or credit rating.

“In the short term while you are on a deferred payment plan there should be wherever possible a neutral impact on your credit score,” Oakes said.

But as deferral programs come to an end it will be important for consumers to make sure they're making their payments on time. 

The survey also found Canadians are paying closer attention to their finances during the pandemic. 

Seventy per cent have checked their credit report within the last year while 83 per cent consistently review their credit card statements for fraudulent activity.

A person can get their credit report for free, but they have to pay a fee to get their credit score although some lenders may give it to them at no charge. 

Oakes said the most important thing during the pandemic is to try and stay on top of one’s finances, use credit responsibly and ask for help if needed. 

“I think it's really important if you are facing financial difficulties right now, if you are struggling to make your payments, get in touch with your lender because they do have programs in place that can help you through this period,” Oakes said.

Equifax says on average those who did take part in a deferral program for mortgages deferred four months worth of payments while those who deferred credit card payments did it for one to two months.