Because inquiries on your credit report can cause your credit score to drop a bit, you might be inclined to remove them. However, hard inquiries—those that are made because you applied for more credit—can not be removed unless they are inaccurate or fraudulent.
Since hard inquiries have only a small effect on your credit score and they go away after two years, you shouldn't waste your time trying to get them taken off your report. The wiser action is to limit the number of credit applications you make over a short period of time.
Credit Inquiries or Credit Pulls
Businesses that extend credit—including credit card issuers and mortgage lenders—check your credit when you make an application for services with them. Reviewing your credit enables these businesses to determine whether you qualify for the type of account or service you're applying for.
The major credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—keep a record of all the businesses that have requested your credit report or your credit score. This record is listed in a separate section of your credit report for inquiries. All the credit inquiries—which are also referred to as credit pulls—made to your credit report within the last 24 months are listed on your credit report.
Hard vs. Soft Credit Inquiries
Hard inquiries are the only type of credit pull that can affect your credit score, and they're the only ones that businesses will see on your credit report. Credit inquiries that don't affect your score and don't appear on your report are called soft pulls. Examples of soft inquiries include you checking your own report and a potential employer accessing it during a background check. And credit card issuers may do soft inquiries when they are preparing promotional card offers.
Credit inquiries carried out by insurance companies when you're seeking quotes for various kinds of policies are considered soft inquiries and do not show up on your credit report.
Effect on Scores
A hard credit inquiry typically deducts less than five points from your FICO credit score, according to FICO, which is one of the two main companies that calculate credit scores. (The other is VantageScore.) FICO's range of possible credit scores goes from 300 to 850.
While they are taken into consideration, hard inquiries aren't all that important in generating a FICO Score. FICO says the number of hard inquiries in a person's report accounts for only 10% of the score.
Although a hard inquiry remains on your credit report for two years, FICO considers only hard inquiries from the past 12 months when determining your credit score.
FICO also recognizes periods when you might be shopping around for the best rate on a particular type of loan and so combines all inquiries for that same type of loan into one inquiry—as long as they occur within fairly close proximity. The number of days in the shopping period actually depends on the request made by the potential lender; it could be 14 or 45. FICO also disregards shopping periods that occur 30 or fewer days prior to the generation of a score.
If you're rate shopping, do it within as tight of a time frame as possible to enable the multiple inquiries to be combined.
Why Lenders Use Hard Inquiries
Since inquiries can reveal whether you've been shopping for credit recently, potential creditors can attempt to predict whether you've recently taken on other debt that will make it harder for you to pay off the credit card or loan you're applying for.
According to FICO, consumers with six or more inquiries on their credit report can be up to eight times more likely to declare bankruptcy than people with no inquiries. That is why the company considers hard inquiries made within the past year in its credit scoring calculation—and why lenders consider them in making decisions about extending credit.
Verifying Unfamiliar Inquiries
It's important to check your credit reports periodically to ensure they are free of errors. If there are unfamiliar credit inquiries on a report, you should first try to verify them. Contact the business in question and ask them to explain the nature of their inquiry.
Experian offers four scenarios in which a legitimate hard inquiry can appear to be fraudulent :
- Someone who did a home repair for you may have checked your credit report to see whether you could be trusted to pay the bill.
- If you looked for the best mortgage rate online or otherwise worked with a mortgage service provider, your request could have been sent to more potential lenders than you realized.
- Similarly, a car dealership may have sent your auto loan application to multiple banks to find you the most favorable interest rate.
- If you applied for a credit card for use at a particular store, the inquiry may not clearly identify the store but may instead name the bank that runs the store's credit card program.
Removing Inaccurate Inquiries
If there are inaccuracies, you can have them removed by filing a dispute with the credit bureau. You can do that online, by phone, or in writing, according to the instructions on the credit bureau's website.
You should also ask the credit bureau about the possibility any inaccurate inquiries were the result of identity theft. Consider placing a fraud alert or security freeze on your credit report to prevent further unauthorized inquiries and potentially the opening of fraudulent accounts.
The credit bureau is required to do an investigation with the company whose inquiry you're disputing. If the investigation shows the inquiry was indeed included on your report in error, the inquiry will be removed.
Removing Legitimate Inquiries
Trying to remove an inquiry that resulted from an application you actually made is next to impossible. Credit bureaus have a right to report accurate information within the proper credit reporting time limit. You can't remove inquiries from your credit report simply because you decided against a new line of credit or you don't like having the inquiry there.
Fortunately, hard inquiries are not a big cause for concern. They can affect your credit score only slightly—and only for one year. And you have the power to limit the number of hard inquiries on your report by minimizing the number of credit applications you make over a 12-month time frame.