Anytime you apply for new credit, like a credit card or a loan, the lender will ask for a hard inquiry to review your credit report. The purpose is to see how risky it is to lend to you. Each hard inquiry can lower your score by a few points and stay on your credit report for up to two years. Having multiple hard inquiries on your credit report in a short period of time can negatively impact your score.
Find out more on how to remove a hard inquiry from your credit report.
Steps for removing a hard inquiry
While hard inquiry removal is possible, it can only happen if the inquiry is on your credit report in error. There is no way to remove a legitimate hard inquiry. If you applied for a new credit card or a loan and gave the lender permission to perform a hard pull, it will stay on your credit report for up to two years.
If you find an inaccurate hard inquiry, there are steps you can take to achieve credit inquiry removal, including:
Frequently check your credit report
At least once a year, you should request your credit report from all three national credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) and review them for accuracy. You can access a free copy of your credit report from each of the bureaus every 12 months by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.
Look for errors
By regularly checking your report, you can become familiar with how to read your credit report and what information is on it. You can also identify any inaccuracies, like:
- Unauthorized inquiry: You notice a hard inquiry you are unfamiliar with and did not authorize. This could be a sign of identity theft.
- Identification errors: Some of your personal information is wrong, like your name, address, or phone number.
- Incorrect accounts: An account you closed is reported as open.
- Incorrect payment information: An account might have an incorrect late or delinquent payment.
- Balance errors: One of your account balances is incorrect.
- Credit limit errors: The credit limit on your credit card is wrong.
Dispute errors with credit bureaus
If you discover a hard inquiry that you think is the result of fraud, you can file a dispute with the three reporting companies and the business that reported the information. You can outline in writing what information you think is wrong and include any documents that support your claim.
You can report the inquiry to the Federal Trade Commission if you believe you are the victim of identity theft.
Understand credit score factors
If you want to improve your credit score, it helps to understand what factors impact your score. FICO®,† the credit score used by lenders in 90% of crediting decisions, considers five key factors:1
- Payment history (35% of score): Paying your bills on time, every time will help to improve your score. Late or missed payments will reduce your score.
- Amounts owed (30% of score): How much of your available credit are you using? If your credit cards are always maxed out, this will lower your score. Aim to use less than 30% of your available credit.
- Length of credit history (15% of score): A longer history of responsible credit use can help to improve your credit score.
- Credit mix (10% of score): Lenders like to see that you can handle a mix of different types of credit, including revolving (line of credit) and installment credit (mortgage, personal loan).
- New credit (10% of score): Applying for new credit with multiple lenders quickly can cause your score to drop. Try to only apply for new credit when you need it.
Boost your score with smart strategies
Checking your credit report and disputing errors is one way to boost your credit score potentially. Other strategies include:
- Pay your bills on time: Since your payment history accounts for the most significant portion of your credit score, paying your bills on time is one of the most proactive steps you can take to increase your credit.
- Raise your credit limit: To keep your amounts owed (also known as your credit utilization ratio) low, consider raising your credit limit. If you don’t increase the amount of credit you use, this can help lower your credit usage rate.
- Keep old credit open: If you’ve paid off a credit card, you might feel inclined to close it to prevent yourself from using it. A better plan is to keep the card open and put it out of sight so you’re not tempted to spend. The length of your credit history can impact your credit score. A lengthier credit history is typically associated with a higher score. Closing an account can reduce your credit history, especially if it was one of your first accounts.
- Get a secured credit card: A secured credit card functions similarly to a regular credit card, except you have to make a security deposit before using it. The cash deposit typically equals your spending limit and acts as collateral. If you don’t make your payment, the lender will keep your cash. If you make your payments on time, this is usually reported to the credit bureaus and can help to increase your credit score.
Explore credit counseling and debt management
A credit counselor can provide financial education and tools to help you create a debt repayment plan or work on any money issues you might have. For instance, they can work with you to create a monthly budget or teach you how to review your credit report. Some credit counselors also offer debt management plans.
Consider a debt management plan
In a debt management plan (DMP), your counselor will negotiate with your creditors to reduce your interest rate or some associated fees.
This is a voluntary program, and your creditors are not obligated to participate. If your creditors accept your offer, you must pay your counselor monthly, who will then pay your creditors on your behalf.
- Benefits of a DMP: A debt management plan can simplify the debt repayment process. It can also help to improve your credit score if you make your payments on time.
- Risks of a DMP: In a DMP, you have to agree to close your credit accounts as you pay them off. This can reduce the length of your credit history and increase your credit utilization ratio. Before entering into a debt management plan, also understand what fees the credit counseling company charges.
Know how long hard inquiries stay on your record
A hard inquiry can stay on your credit record for up to two years but will usually only affect your score for one year.2 How much the inquiry impacts your score depends on your credit history.
If a lender sees multiple recent hard inquiries on your report, this can signal greater risk and impact a lender’s decision to extend you money. Research has found that people with six or more inquiries on their credit report can be up to eight times more likely to declare bankruptcy than those without inquiries on their account.3
Hard vs. soft inquires: Know the difference
There are two types of credit inquiries -hard and soft. Both inquiries provide information about your credit history, but only a hard inquiry can affect your credit score.
Some of the main differences between a hard and soft inquiry include:
Any time you apply for new credit, like a credit card or loan, you can expect the lender to request a hard credit inquiry.
- Requestor: A lender will typically request a hard credit check before approving your credit application or approving an account setup.
- Consent: Before a lender can perform a hard inquiry, they should request your consent. If you see an inquiry on your credit report you didn’t authorize, you can ask to remove it.
- Credit score: A hard inquiry can negatively impact your credit score, usually by less than five points.4 Having multiple hard pulls in a short period can have a greater negative effect on your score.
Soft inquiries are typically for non-lending purposes like background checks or to scan for pre-approval offers.
- Requestor: You can request a soft inquiry, as can a current creditor or a company that wants to pre-approve you for an offer.
- Consent: Your consent is not required for a soft inquiry.
- Credit score: A soft inquiry does not affect your credit score since it is only used for information verification and not to make a credit decision. Soft inquiries also won’t appear on your credit report when a lender performs a hard pull. However, soft inquiries are visible when you request a copy of your credit report.
Reasons for having hard inquiries
A hard inquiry allows a lender to assess your credit report before deciding if they want to offer you credit. By reviewing your credit history, the lender can determine your risk as a borrower.
Some common reasons for a hard inquiry include:
Focus on building your credit score
Unfortunately, there are no secret ways to remove hard inquiries from your credit report unless they are there in error. If you see a hard inquiry that you did not authorize, you can file a dispute with the three reporting credit bureaus and the business that reported the information.
The good news is new credit inquiries only account for 10% of your credit score. There are other high-impact ways to improve your credit score. Focus on paying your bills on time, every time. Keep your credit utilization low, and only request new credit when you really need it.
Curious about how long it will take you to build your credit? Learn practical tips and timelines for improving your credit score.