It’s important to understand the negative effects a hard inquiry can have on your credit report, especially if you plan to make a financial decision or apply for a loan or credit card soon. Hard inquiries are documented on your credit report for two years. However, the hard inquiry will only negatively affect your credit score for one year.
Not only is your credit score a huge factor for determining if you qualify for a loan, it can also influence the likelihood of whether you’ll be approved for a rental home or credit card. The main components that agencies use to determine your credit score include your debts, open accounts, and debt payment history.
However, in addition to these components, you should also consider when people will check, or inquire upon, your credit. Your credit report can be affected by the number of hard inquiries on it.
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Hard Inquiry vs. Soft Inquiry
There are two types of credit inquiries; a hard inquiry and a soft inquiry. A soft inquiry has no negative effect on your credit score. A soft inquiry occurs when:
- You check your own credit score;
- A lender runs your score to provide you with a pre-approval letter;
- Your current credit card company runs an inquiry to perform account maintenance.
A hard inquiry is made when a credit card company or loan officer formally orders your credit report with your permission. Typically, they’ll do this when you’re attempting to obtain a new line of credit.
The hard inquiry indicates to future lenders that you’ve recently applied for a new line of credit. Credit reporting agencies still file and note hard inquiries, even if you aren’t approved.
How Much Does a Hard Inquiry Affect a Credit Score?
A hard credit inquiry can lower your credit score by as much as 10 points. If you don’t have a lot of credit history, then the damage done by a hard inquiry can seem a lot bigger than it is for more established borrowers. While the negative effect is usually negligible, the specific ramifications may vary and aren’t easily predicted.
This is why it’s important to space out your hard inquiries, so you aren’t incurring a lot of damage at once. It also bears to keep in mind, the decrease in your credit score due to the inquiry is temporary and will only affect your score for one year.
One exception where you don’t need to space out your credit inquiries is rate shopping. Rate shopping is when you visit multiple lenders to find the best interest rate and loan terms for something like an auto loan, home mortgage, or student loan. The FICO scoring system that’s used to report your credit score counts multiple hard inquiries within a 45-day period as a single inquiry, meaning you’re able to shop for the best rates without worrying.
Rate shopping is considered a positive and responsible financial exercise for consumers to take part in. Therefore, FICO made sure that consumers weren’t overly penalized on their credit report for attempting to obtain the best terms and rates for their loans. As long as you do all your rate shopping within the 14- to 45-day period, only one hard inquiry will show up on your report and potentially affect your score.
Why Does a Hard Inquiry Affect a Credit Score?
A hard inquiry lowers your score because it signals that you may be a great financial risk. A lender might feel less confident in your ability to pay off a loan if you have a substantial amount of outstanding debt.
Lenders could also feel less sure about your repayment ability if you’re in the process of applying for additional loans or credit cards, which hard inquiries indicate.
Even if you don’t end up accepting the loans or using the credit cards, you can’t remove authorized credit inquiries from your credit report. Since you gave permission for these businesses to pull your credit, these hard inquiries will remain documented for two years.
How To Remove a Hard Inquiry From Your Credit Report
There is no way to remove authorized hard inquiries from your report. However, if you didn’t consent to these credit inquiries, you can use a credit inquiry removal letter to file a dispute. If your dispute goes through, these inquiries can be removed and the negative effects on your score reversed.
Once you send your dispute letter to one of the three bureaus, you can expect to hear back in about 30 days. This dispute process could be one of the services provided by a credit repair company, as it may improve your credit without having to change any of your current financial habits.
Hard inquiries can be unavoidable at times, but this doesn’t mean you’re stuck with irreparable damage to your credit score. If you know the limits of rate shopping, check your credit score for any unauthorized checks, and simply be patient then you can completely recover from hard inquiries on your account.
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