How to Remove Hard Inquiries from Your Credit Report

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What is a hard inquiry?

On your credit report, at the end of the report, you will notice a section called “Credit Inquiries.” Each credit inquiry listed in this section is made by a company that has checked your credit history, usually to judge your creditworthiness for a loan or credit card.

A hard inquiry occurs when you apply for new credit, such as a mortgage, car loan, or credit card. But other requests can trigger a hard inquiry, including those pertaining to a new insurance policy, job application, or cell phone.

Whenever this happens, a hard inquiry is listed on your credit reports, along with the date it was requested.

How long do hard inquiries stay on your credit report?

Hard inquiries stay on your credit report for two years. Each time a hard inquiry is made, it is recorded by each of the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. And each time a hard inquiry is logged, it can potentially impact your credit score.

What is a soft inquiry?

Soft inquiries, on the other hand, occur when a creditor checks your credit without your permission. This could be a lender with whom you’ve talked to for a pre-approval quote but haven’t actually applied for a loan.

By doing a soft credit pull, they can give you an idea of what your rate will be without actually having to do a hard inquiry.

Sometimes a soft inquiry might even be pulled by an existing creditor just checking on your current credit situation. Another example of a soft inquiry is from a credit card issuer that would like to send you credit card offers.

How long do credit inquiries affect your credit score?

Each hard inquiry on your credit report can hurt your credit score by up to 5 points each. Soft inquiries don’t affect your credit at all. Having too many hard inquiries on your credit report at once can indicate to a creditor that you are desperate for money and may be in trouble financially.

Lenders may also assume that you’ve recently opened up multiple new credit accounts and could deny you credit because new lines of credit often take time to show up on your credit report.

Plus, while 5 points may not seem like a lot, it can quickly add up if you have applied for many loans or credit cards over the last two years.

Inquiries Affect Your Credit Score Less Over Time

Even though the impact on your credit scores lessens over time, lenders will still be able to see the full list of hard inquiries at the bottom of your credit report for a full 2 years.

Also, remember that the difference between being approved or denied for credit, or getting a lower or higher interest rate, is typically decided based on preset credit score ranges.

If your credit score is on the cusp between “poor” and “fair,” 5-10 points might make all the difference in getting better loan terms.

One or two hard inquiries could be all that is standing between you and better interest rates or access to a loan at all. So while hard inquiries may not have a huge impact on some people’s credit scores, they can leave a lasting imprint on the financial lives of many.

How important is it to remove inquiries from your credit report?

Inquiries are the least important items to remove from your credit reports, compared to other negative items like missed payments and delinquent debts.

They have a relatively low effect on your credit scores and cause less and less damage over time. Because they only affect your credit score for 12 months and drop off entirely after two years, hard inquiries are by no means the worst thing you can have on your credit report.

Many negative items stay on there for anywhere between seven and ten years. So if your credit history is riddled with several derogatory marks, removing hard inquiries should be your last priority as you work on increasing your overall scores.

It often helps to talk to a professional credit repair company to help you analyze your credit reports and prioritize issues that need to be addressed. They have the legal know-how of what your rights are with your different creditors and how likely you are to get certain items removed.

Does checking your credit hurt your credit score?

If you check your credit, whether you check your credit report or your credit score, it’s considered a soft inquiry and does not hurt your credit score.

Combining Multiple Hard Inquiries

It’s important not to apply for too many types of credit at one time.

However, the credit scoring models understand that people make multiple hard inquiries to compare terms and rates. So, if you’re shopping around for one type of credit, like a mortgage, and make multiple inquiries in a short period of time, they only count as a single hard inquiry.

Lenders have become increasingly lenient in this regard because they know that today’s consumers are more likely to perform their due diligence before making a major financial decision. This is true for credit cards or an auto loan as well. They do not impact your credit scores as long as they occur within a 30-45 day period.

Carefully Plan Your Hard Inquiries

Don’t start applying for credit until you’re serious about it, then you can stick to this time frame.

If you are shopping around, you’ll start to have separate hard inquiries stack up on your credit reports when they are spread out over time. It always helps to have a financial goal with a deadline so you can plan your inquiries in advance.

If you’re not applying for too many types of credit at the same time, you probably won’t have to worry about disputing inquiries. You can just leave them alone.

However, if you have several types of inquiries, you may want to consider disputing them because they can add up as lost points. And if your credit score is borderline between two scoring categories, then every few points can make a difference.

How to Remove Hard Inquiries from Your Credit Report

Because you often don’t control who checks your credit, your first step is to request a copy of your credit reports to review all the items listing in the Credit Inquiries section.

Check each hard inquiry on your credit report carefully. If you didn’t authorize it, you can dispute it with the credit bureaus. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) says that by law, you can dispute any questionable items on your credit reports, and they must be investigated within 30 days. If the hard inquiry can’t be verified, the credit bureau must remove it. There are two ways to remove inquiries.

Do-It-Yourself Inquiry Removal

The first way to remove a hard inquiry from your credit report is to tackle the dispute process on your own. Get the address of each creditor whom you did not authorize to perform a hard inquiry.

Send them a certified letter in the mail (make sure you keep a copy for your records) stating that the hard inquiry was unauthorized and should be removed immediately.

You can also dispute a hard inquiry with the credit bureaus. You will need to file a separate dispute for each credit bureau reporting it. Here’s a complete list of instructions on our Credit Inquiry Removal Letter page.

Hire a Professional

If you have other negative marks on your credit reports that need to be dealt with, you may consider hiring a credit repair company.

You probably don’t need to hire a credit repair company if you’re just working on removing a few hard inquiries. However, if there are other issues, or you have many hard inquiries, a professional can help expedite the process and save you tons of time dealing with your creditors on the phone and through letters.

Preventing Unauthorized Hard Inquiries

To prevent future unauthorized hard inquiries, consider placing a freeze on your credit report. This option prevents any lenders or creditors from accessing your credit information.

It’s great for preventing identity theft because no one can open a new credit account using your financial information since they won’t get approved without a credit check. However, it also helps prevent unwanted inquiries if you find this to be an ongoing headache.

Placing a freeze on your credit report and having it removed incur separate fees in most states. So, don’t do this if you intend to apply for a new credit card or loan in the near future. But if you anticipate your financials to remain the same for the time being, this can be a convenient option to keep your credit nice and clean.

List of Hard Credit Inquiries Found on Credit Reports