There are several important things to understand about hard credit inquiries and how they affect your credit.
The following topics should help you better understand how credit inquiries work, how they can lower your credit score, and what you can do about inaccurate hard inquiries.
Table of Contents:
- What Are Hard Inquiries?
- How Long Do Hard Inquiries Stay On Your Credit?
- How Does A Hard Inquiry Affect Your Credit Score?
- How To Remove Hard Inquiries From Your Credit Report
What Are Hard Inquiries?
There are two types of credit inquiries:
- Hard Inquiry: Also called a hard pull, this kind of credit check occurs when you apply for a loan. For example, when you apply for a credit card, a mortgage, or an auto loan, the lender will ask to pull your credit report. This will show up as a hard inquiry and could possibly lower your credit score.
- Soft inquiry: This occurs when you pull your own credit or when a creditor pulls your credit without your direct authorization. These unauthorized checks happen when you get a preapproval for a mortgage or a car loan. These types of inquiries will not hurt your credit score.
Learn More: Soft vs. Hard Inquiry
Why Do Hard Inquiries Hurt Your Credit?
Soft inquiries do not lower your credit score, but hard inquiries can negatively affect your credit score, especially when you have multiple hard pulls in a 12-month period of time.
A series of hard inquiries in your credit history tells lenders you’re actively and frequently seeking credit, a sign your financial life isn’t as stable as it could be.
As we’ll discuss below, hard inquiries won’t hurt your credit as much as some other negative marks like late payments, missed payments, high credit use, and collection accounts.
How Long Do Hard Inquiries Stay On Your Credit Report?
Hard inquiries stay on your credit for two years. This doesn’t mean a hard pull will hurt your credit score for two years.
A hard pull will more likely affect your credit for up to 12 months. Even then, hard inquiries hurt your credit only if you have several hard credit checks spread over a few months.
While hard pulls can remain on your credit report for up to two years, I’ve seen them fall off after only 12 months.
But What If I’m Rate Shopping?
So does all this mean you shouldn’t get multiple quotes when you’re rate shopping for the best mortgage or car loan? Each time you get a rate quote your credit score goes down, right?
No, not if the hard credit checks happen within a 30-day period. All of them should count as one hard inquiry.
Plus, a soft inquiry will usually be enough to get an accurate rate quote while you’re comparing lenders.
When you ask for a quote, be sure to find out whether the lender will do a hard check.
How Does A Hard Inquiry Affect Your Credit Score?
A single inquiry isn’t going to hurt your credit score. In fact, even a couple hard checks probably won’t have a measurable impact on your credit score.
So, how many hard inquiries are too many? Well, once you hit three hard pulls within 12 months, you’ll start to see a small hit on your credit score. After that, additional hard credit checks will have an even bigger impact.
Your score with each of the credit bureaus — and your overall FICO score — could decrease by enough to notice; enough to affect the interest rates you’d get on some loans.
But, normally, hard pulls don’t have a huge impact on your credit score, and you really shouldn’t worry too much about them — as long as you authorized the hard checks. (Unauthorized hard inquiries could result from identity theft.)
If you’re trying to improve your credit score, you’re better off disputing inaccurate entries, removing collections and late payments, and getting into the habit of paying all your bills on time.
Also, paying down your debt with credit card companies, student loans, and car loans will help bolster your credit file a lot more than worrying too much about hard credit pulls. That’s just the way credit scoring works.
And — if you do pay down a line of credit or credit card — consider keeping the account open; having “available credit” that you aren’t using will improve your good credit with most scoring models.
Can You Remove Hard Inquiries From Your Credit?
If you see a hard inquiry on your credit report that you do not recognize you should work to get it removed from your credit history.
And, you should make sure you haven’t been a victim of identity theft.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires the three major credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — to notify you about hard inquiries. That’s why inquiries appear on your credit report, to begin with.
So if you’re seeing hard inquiries you didn’t authorize, it’s very possible someone has been trying to apply for credit using your Social Security number. These types of inquiries could be the tip of the iceberg.
Your entire financial health could be at risk.
How to Check for Hard Pulls on Your Credit File
Start by getting a copy of your credit report from annualcreditreport.com. Each year you’re entitled to a free credit report from each of the three bureaus.
Once you have your report on the screen, find the section for credit inquiries. It’s possible you may have forgotten about a loan application you or your spouse originated in the past few months.
It’s also possible a credit card company or car dealership checked your credit using a business name you don’t recognize at first.
Just Google the name of the lender to see if it’s connected to an inquiry you remember. Find a phone number and give the company a call to confirm you applied for a loan.
If you remember the credit check, it was probably a legitimate hard inquiry and you’ll just need to wait a couple years for it to go away.
Fraud Alert: Unauthorized Hard Inquiries Mean Trouble
But if you don’t recognize the credit pull, someone could be applying for new credit on your behalf, using your personal information, without your knowledge. (It’s also possible a lender reported the new credit check in error.)
If you didn’t initiate the credit check, write a letter to the lender who checked your credit. Insist that it removes the unauthorized inquiries from your credit report with all three credit reporting agencies right away.
Make sure you submit this request in writing, and send the dispute letter via registered mail to make sure it arrives.
Meanwhile, you’ll also want to dig deeper to search for proof of identity theft. If you’ve been a victim of this kind of fraud, call the police, notify the credit bureaus, and start changing passwords on your bank account and other sensitive accounts.
Know Your Rights When Dealing With Credit Bureaus
The Federal Trade Commission enforces several laws that give you important consumer rights when you deal with creditors and the three credit reporting agencies.
One of the most important pieces of legislation is the Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1990 which requires creditors and the credit bureaus to report accurate information in your credit file.
So if a hard credit inquiry is not accurate, you have the right to have it removed within 30 days. Inaccuracies happen more often than most consumers think. All too often, consumers just accept the information in their credit report as true.
When it’s not true, you could be paying a lot more in interest rates than you should be. Your credit applications could also be denied when they shouldn’t be. Or you could get low-balled on your new credit limits.
Credit card issuers and other personal lenders tend to go by your FICO score when you apply for a new credit account. They don’t look into your report to question inaccuracies.
That’s your job as a consumer. To keep the best credit, check your credit file at least once a year for inaccuracies.
You can also sign up for a free service like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame which will send you a text message when someone authorizes a hard credit check.
Some of your existing creditors such as Discover may offer this service, too.
Hard Inquiries Could Be the Least of Your Worries
Quite honestly, you shouldn’t worry too much about hard inquiries. Unlike other entries on your credit report they remain for two years rather than seven years.
Also, they can hurt your credit score for up to 12 months.
That said, if you have other negative items on your credit report such as collection agency accounts, charge offs, or late payments, I would recommend getting these removed from your credit report.
You can either do this yourself or hire a professional to remove the negative items.
If you’d like a professional credit repair company to help you get the best rates on future loans, I suggest you check out Lexington Law Credit Repair.
They’ll take care of you. Give them a call at 1-844-764-9809 or Check out their website.
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