At a Glance

Whether you’re trying to improve your credit score or preparing to apply for some type of credit, you’re likely paying attention to factors that will affect your score such as payment history, credit utilization rate, and credit mix. Another factor includes credit inquiries, which make up 10% of your FICO score.

Lenders, financial institutions, and others may need to investigate your credit history to help determine your risk as a borrower. These checks are called credit inquiries, and they can affect your credit score (and therefore interest rates and terms) if you’re not careful. It’s important to understand information like:

What is a credit inquiry?

A credit inquiry is a record of someone checking your credit report, including lenders, banks, landlords, potential employers, or even yourself. There are two types of inquiries: a hard inquiry, and a soft inquiry. In some cases, an institution may request access to your credit file, and the inquiry gives them an overview of your credit history and whether you may be a responsible borrower.

Inquiries can decrease your credit score if you have too many within a certain period, which can lead to higher interest rates and less-than-favorable terms.

Why do credit inquiries matter?

When you apply for a credit card or loan or prepare to take on another type of financial responsibility, lenders and financial institutions want to know how much risk they are taking on by approving your application. The three main credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – monitor and track credit inquiries because they can help determine the risk you pose to lenders.

While soft inquiries don’t impact your credit score, too many hard inquiries can mean you’re taking on more debt than you can handle. This means you’re more likely to miss payments or default on a loan.

On the other hand, fewer hard inquiries signal to lenders you may be more responsible with your borrowing and may make them more likely to approve your application.

Hard vs soft credit inquiry

Hard and soft credit inquiries are treated and handled differently, and signal different things to lenders:

Hard Credit Inquiry Soft Credit Inquiry
Lowers your credit score temporarily. Does not impact your credit score.
Usually indicates you’re applying for new debt, such as a mortgage, personal loan, credit card, etc. Can also be a result of other circumstances such as:

  • Applying for a job
  • Setting up new utilities
  • Applying for insurance
  • Completing a background check
  • Requesting a credit line increase on a credit card
  • Applying for a new apartment or rental
Occurs when you check your credit report, get a free credit score update, or when getting a preapproval for a new credit card or loan. Can also include employer credit checks, quotes for insurance, and credit monitoring services.
Visible to anyone who checks your credit report. Not visible to those who check your credit report.

How do credit inquiries affect your credit score?

Credit inquiries are responsible for 10% of your credit score, so compared to other credit factors, they don’t have as significant of an impact. Most of the time, a hard credit inquiry will only drop your credit score by between one and five points.

However, if you have multiple hard inquiries within a short period of time, your score may decrease by 10 or more points.

Each inquiry will stay on your credit report for two years, but only impacts your score for one year (12 months).

Related: Hard Credit Inquiry

How do multiple credit inquiries affect your credit score?

Multiple credit inquiries can affect your score in a few ways:

  • If you’re rate shopping and trying to find the best interest rate and terms for a loan or mortgage, you’ll likely have multiple inquiries on your account in a short period of time. New FICO scoring models consider multiple inquiries that happen within a 45-day period as one single inquiry, giving borrowers flexibility to find the best product.
  • If you apply for multiple credit cards in a short time period, each application triggers a new hard inquiry. Experts recommend waiting at least 90 days between credit card applications.

While a single hard inquiry will only decrease your score by no more than five points, multiple hard inquiries can lower your score by as much as 10 points per inquiry. Most credit scores are not impacted by multiple inquiries from auto, mortgage, or student loan lenders if pulled within a 45-day period

Does checking your credit score have a negative impact?

If you use a free credit score service or credit monitoring app, or if your bank, credit card, or lender offers the ability to check your credit for free, this triggers a soft inquiry and does not affect your credit. Additionally, you can get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months and this does not affect your score.

Your score is also not affected by checking your credit report from Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion to view your credit history or dispute errors.

In fact, you should review your credit score, report, and history regularly to ensure there are no errors, signs of identity theft, or other concerns.

Minimizing the impact of hard credit inquiries

The best way to minimize the impact of hard credit inquiries is to avoid applying for multiple types of credit (like credit cards or loans). If you are shopping for the best rates and terms, such as for a car loan or mortgage, get prequalified first (which doesn’t affect your score). Also ensure all hard inquiries happen within a 45-day period so that they are viewed as one single inquiry.

How to dispute or remove credit inquiries

If you initiated a hard inquiry, such as applying for new credit, you cannot dispute or remove it from your report. However, if the inquiry is a result of fraud, such as identity theft, or some other error, you can file a dispute with the credit bureaus and request a hard inquiry remove it:


Yes – credit inquiries stay on your credit report for two years, though they only impact your credit score for one year (12 months).

Generally, six or more hard inquiries are often seen as too many. In fact, the data shows having six inquiries on your report corresponds to a significantly increased likelihood of filing for bankruptcy. However, ultimately, it’s up to the lender as each lender has a limit on how many inquiries are considered acceptable.

There is no charge to remove credit inquiries from your credit report. Simply submit a dispute request online with each of the three credit bureaus. Note that disputes will not always be approved, and the inquiry may remain on your report.