Chris Bridges, Founder and CEO, VITAL Card Inc
Hard inquiries are a special kind of check that a lender runs to determine your creditworthiness. Usually, lenders run a hard inquiry when you apply for a new credit line like a credit card or a loan.
Confused about how hard inquiries work and why they affect you? Read on to find answers to commonly asked questions about hard inquiries.
How Does a Hard Inquiry Hurt Your Credit Score?
When you apply for a new credit line or a loan, the lender requests a copy of your credit report to check how creditworthy you are and how safe it is to loan you money. This is called a hard pull, and it can temporarily affect your credit score.
This reduction in credit score indicates to future lenders that you have recently applied for credit and might be at a higher risk of defaulting in paying back loans.
However, it’s good to note that several hard inquiries during a specific period count as one hard inquiry. This period duration varies based on the credit scoring model, but it’s usually around 15 to 45 days. This makes it easier for you to look around for the best rates for your loan without worrying about lowering your credit score.
For example, if you want to take an auto loan, you might go to 3 different lenders in the same month and have three hard inquiries. Yet, these can be considered one hard inquiry on your credit report because it’s assumed that you’re shopping for the best rate, said the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
So, the next time you are looking for a loan, don’t be afraid to explore your loan options to find the best deal.
How Much Does a Hard Inquiry Hurt Your Credit Score?
How much a hard inquiry hurts your credit score depends on various factors, like your current credit score and your lender’s terms.
The overall impact of a hard inquiry on your credit score can change based on your unique credit history, but in most cases, a hard inquiry will take less than five points from your FICO score.
Usually, the longer and healthier your credit history is, the less a hard inquiry will affect your score.
What Does a Lender Think When They See a Hard Inquiry on Your Credit Report?
Hard inquiries account for only 10% of your FICO score calculations. However, although they may not significantly affect your score, they play a role in whether you are granted the new credit or loan you applied for.
Lenders factor in your recent hard inquiries to assess your creditworthiness. A number of hard inquiries on your report make you appear confused and unreliable and make you look like a risky customer to loan money to. According to FICO, people with more than six inquiries on their report are eight times more likely to declare bankruptcy than someone with no inquiries.
However, these hard inquiries are only one factor amongst the many that determine your loan’s approval. For example, lenders also consider your income and payment history to assess your creditworthiness.
How Long Does a Hard Inquiry Stay On Your Credit Report For?
A hard inquiry can stay on your credit report for two years. However, FICO only considers hard inquiries from the last 12 months when calculating your credit score. So, although your hard inquiry may still show on your credit report, it will not influence your credit score if it’s more than a year old.
In fact, in most cases, hard inquiries cease to significantly impact your score after a few months.
What Is the Difference Between Hard and Soft Inquiries?
Different types of inquiries can appear on your credit report, affecting your score differently. Broadly, these are of two types: hard inquiries and soft inquiries.
A hard inquiry causes your credit score to drop. This kind of inquiry occurs when a lender or a bank tries to assess your creditworthiness after you apply for a loan or any other type of credit.
On the other hand, a soft inquiry has no impact on your credit score. For example, this can occur when you check your credit reports, when your employer reviews your accounts, or if you were pre-approved for a loan or credit offer.
A soft inquiry doesn’t affect your score because this is usually just a random check, not triggered by any application for new credit.
What if You Get Two Hard Inquiries in a Short Period?
Getting two separate hard inquiries in a short period can be a sign of potential trouble.
If you have multiple hard inquiries, this could signal to the lender that you are trying to take on too much too fast. While technically, it is possible to get a new credit card after you just got one, it is risky to apply for multiple cards at once.
This is because you are taking several new credit lines in a short period, and you may not be able to keep up with paying back the credit, which increases the lender’s risk of giving you money.
How Can You Minimize the Number of Hard Inquiries?
Having multiple hard inquiries can cause your score to drop a significant amount more than if you just had one hard inquiry. Even though this dip in credit scores is temporary, it’s good to practice safe financial habits and know how you can keep the number of hard inquiries to a minimum.
Here are some tips that will help you keep track of your hard inquiries:
- Don’t apply for multiple credit cards within a short period. We recommend applying for new credit no more than once every six months.
- Only apply for new credit when you genuinely need it. Make sure you’re applying for cards you can benefit from rather than just stacking up on new credit.
- Check your credit score and credit reports before applying for new credit or loans. This way, you can dispute and rectify any incorrect information on your credit reports that may be hurting your credit score. In addition, a better credit score will improve your chances of getting approved for a new credit card, so you don’t have to waste a hard inquiry on a denied credit application.
- Before applying for a credit card, use prequalification tools to see your chances of qualifying for a credit card without running a hard inquiry. This is another way to make sure you’re approved for the credit you apply for.
Experts recommend that you shop around to see which lender offers the best deal. You want to ensure that your credit/loan request gets approved in the first application and that you get the best possible loan terms.
If a lender takes a long time to process your application, it could be a red flag, and that hard inquiry could hurt your credit score more than a quick approval would. That’s why it’s a good idea to find a lender who can approve your loan faster.
Can a Hard Inquiry Be Removed?
A legitimate hard inquiry on your credit report can’t be removed until the two-year period is over.
If you see a hard inquiry on your credit report that you don’t recognize, you can find the company details and contact the company to find out if the hard inquiry was a mistake. Sometimes, a lender will run a hard inquiry through a third-party site that you might not recognize. It can’t be removed from your report if it was a legitimate inquiry.
However, if the hard inquiry was run on your account by mistake, you can contact the company and have them call the bureau to have the hard inquiry removed. In this case, you can’t contact the bureau yourself. Instead, the company that ran the hard inquiry must contact the bureau to resolve the error.
If it is a fraudulent hard inquiry, for example, someone is trying to apply for a loan using your account, you can dispute the hard inquiry with the credit bureau and ask them to take it off your credit report.
What To Do if There’s an Unauthorized Hard Inquiry?
If you notice that someone has made an unauthorized hard inquiry on your credit report, you’ll want to act before it becomes permanent. Make sure you report any credit card fraud to the credit reporting agencies and try to get the report corrected as soon as possible.
Hard inquiries might be annoying when you are trying to get new credit, but they aren’t as damaging to your credit score as you may think.
If you are looking for a new credit card, stay tuned for the launch of VITAL’s metal cards, which come with fantastic cash back benefits at no annual fee.
“What Effect Will Shopping for an Auto Loan Have on My Credit?,” Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
“Credit Checks: What Are Credit Inquiries…?“,” myFICO.com
“How To Remove Hard Inquiries…” Forbes Advisor Council