At a Glance

If you’ve been adulting for any amount of time, you understand that establishing a solid credit score is pretty important. You probably also know certain factors can cause your score to fluctuate, whether up or down. Some actions help your score go up, like paying your balance on time or keeping lines of credit open for many years. In contrast, missed payments and high credit utilization can bring your credit score down.

But what is the impact when someone checks your credit? Credit checks are run frequently behind the scenes, whether you’re checking the score yourself, applying for a loan, or companies are pre-qualifying you for the latest travel credit card. Do those inquiries impact your credit score for better or worse?


Hard credit inquiries vs. soft inquiries

There are two types of credit inquiries: a soft inquiry and a hard inquiry, also referred to as a soft pull and hard pull.

Soft inquiries happen more frequently than you may think and do not directly impact your score. A soft inquiry might occur before a company sends you a credit card offer, a review of your credit by a prospective employer, or when you check your own credit score.1

A hard inquiry is a credit check that you’ve knowingly consented to and generally occurs when you apply for credit or a loan. Hard inquiries are flagged since part of your credit score calculation considers how frequently you apply for credit.

But if a soft inquiry has no impact, what is the effect of hard inquiries that you knowingly initiate, like when you’re applying for a mortgage or new auto loan?

How many points does a hard inquiry affect credit score?

Since your credit score calculation takes into consideration the frequency at which you apply for new credit, many hard inquiries on your record can negatively impact your score. Generally, each ding from a hard inquiry will cause your score to decline by a few points. Frequent credit applications may signal to lenders that you are risky or financially unstable.

Can you remove hard inquiries from your credit report?

Say you went through a period of applying for many loans, and your credit score was dinged several times. You’re probably wondering, “Is there a way to file for a hard inquiry removal?”

If you’ve been a victim of identity theft or did not authorize the hard pull, you can dispute with the creditor to try and have it removed. If you approved the hard pull, there is no way to remove it from your credit report. However, hard inquiries will naturally fall off your credit report after two years.

The good news is that if multiple hard inquiries happen in the same span, they may only count as one. Loan applications for a mortgage or auto loan that occur within a 14-day window—or sometimes up to a 45-day window—will only count as one inquiry. This is intentional, so you can shop around to get the best deal.

Given the impact of hard inquiries on your credit score, you must be diligent about checking your credit report every year. Flag any derogatory marks you don’t recognize and dispute them with the three major credit reporting bureaus: Transunion, Experian, and Equifax.

A tip about hard inquiries

Knowing what we know about hard inquiries, there’s one way to limit a hard pull’s impact on your credit score. Credit reporting agencies may lump together multiple hard pulls in a short span of time.

So, if you’re planning on applying for multiple lines of credit or loans, it’s best to do so simultaneously. Your credit score will thank you.

Learn more ways to build and repair credit score.