Maintaining a healthy credit score is crucial for securing loans, credit cards, and favorable interest rates. One factor that can negatively impact your credit score is the presence of hard inquiries on your credit report. These inquiries typically occur when lenders or creditors check your credit as part of their decision-making process.
In this article, we’ll guide you through the steps to effectively remove inquiries from your credit report, helping you improve your credit score and boost your chances of securing better financial opportunities in the future.
Understanding Hard Inquiries
Types of Credit Inquiries
Credit inquiries come in two forms: hard inquiries and soft inquiries. Hard inquiries occur when financial institutions, such as credit card companies or lenders, review your credit report to determine your creditworthiness. Soft inquiries, on the other hand, are not initiated by lenders and do not impact your credit score.
What is a hard inquiry?
A hard credit inquiry, sometimes referred to as a “hard pull”, occurs when you apply for new credit, such as a mortgage, car loan, or credit card. Hard inquiries can also be triggered by requests for new insurance policies, jobs, or cell phones.
Whenever this happens, a hard inquiry is listed on your credit reports, along with the date it was requested.
What is a soft inquiry?
A soft inquiry occurs when a creditor checks your credit without your permission. It could be a lender you’ve gotten a pre-approval quote from but haven’t actually applied with.
A soft credit pull can give you an idea of what your rate will be without actually conducting a hard inquiry. Sometimes a soft inquiry might even be pulled by an existing creditor just checking on your current credit situation. Soft inquiries can also come from credit card issuers who want to offer you credit cards.
How Hard Inquiries Affect Credit Scores
Hard credit inquiries can negatively affect your credit score, typically by just a few points. However, multiple hard inquiries within a short period can signal that you may be a higher risk borrower, which can result in a more significant drop in your credit score.
How long do hard inquiries stay on your credit report?
Hard inquiries stay on your credit report for up to two years. When a hard inquiry is made, it’s typically recorded by the three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. And each time a hard inquiry is logged, it can potentially impact your credit score.
Identifying Hard Inquiries on Your Credit Report
Obtaining a Free Credit Report
As a consumer, you are entitled to access a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) every 12 months. To obtain your free credit reports, visit AnnualCreditReport.com, the only website authorized by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for this purpose.
By obtaining your free credit report, you can review your credit history, check for inaccuracies, and identify any unauthorized or inaccurate hard inquiries. Regularly monitoring your credit report helps you stay informed about your financial health and address potential issues promptly. You can also use various online services and apps that offer free credit reports and monitoring, giving you more opportunities to stay on top of your credit throughout the year.
Reviewing Hard Inquiries on Your Report
After accessing your credit report, carefully review the inquiries section to identify any hard inquiries. Take note of the dates and the names of the financial institutions that initiated the inquiries.
Identifying Potentially Unauthorized Inquiries
If you find any hard inquiries that you did not authorize or do not recognize, they could be unauthorized, and result from identity theft or errors in the credit reporting process.
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Removing Unauthorized Hard Inquiries from Your Credit Report
When and Why to Dispute Unauthorized Inquiries
If you find unauthorized or inaccurate hard inquiries on your credit report, it’s crucial to dispute them as soon as possible to minimize their impact on your credit score and protect yourself from potential identity theft.
According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you can dispute any questionable items on your credit reports. By law, the credit bureaus have 30 days to investigate your dispute. If the hard inquiry can’t be verified, the credit bureau must remove it.
Steps to File a Dispute with Credit Bureaus
- Gather necessary documentation: Collect any documents that can support your dispute, such as correspondence with financial institutions or proof of identity theft.
- Write a dispute letter: Craft a dispute letter that clearly explains the unauthorized hard inquiry, includes your personal information, and requests the removal of the credit inquiry from your credit report.
- Send the dispute via certified mail: Mail your credit dispute letter and supporting documents to each of the three credit bureaus—Equifax Information Services, Experian, and TransUnion—using certified mail to ensure receipt.
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.
Follow-up and Resolution Process
After submitting your dispute, the credit bureau typically has 30 days to investigate your claim and respond. If the investigation confirms the unauthorized nature of the hard inquiry, the credit bureau will remove it from your credit report and notify you of the result. Keep a close eye on your credit report to ensure the credit inquiry has been removed.
Monitoring Your Credit Report After the Dispute
Once the unauthorized hard inquiry has been removed, continue to monitor your credit report regularly to catch any future errors or unauthorized inquiries promptly.
Removing Hard Inquiries from Your Credit Report
When It’s Possible to Remove Legitimate Inquiries
In some cases, it may be possible to remove a legitimate hard inquiry from your credit report, especially if you can demonstrate that the credit inquiry was not necessary or was made in error.
Strategies to Request Removal of Legitimate Inquiries
- Contacting the lender: Reach out to the financial institution responsible for the hard inquiry and request that they remove it from your credit report if it was made in error or without your consent.
- Goodwill letters: Write a goodwill letter to the credit card issuer or lender explaining your situation and politely request the removal of the hard inquiry.
- Negotiating with the lender: In some cases, you may be able to negotiate with the lender to remove the hard inquiry in exchange for paying off an outstanding balance or opening a new credit account.
Tips for Success and Potential Outcomes
When attempting to remove legitimate hard inquiries, it’s essential to be polite and persistent. Keep in mind that lenders and credit card companies are not obligated to remove legitimate inquiries, so success is not guaranteed.
Working With 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. This will reduce your time spent dealing with your creditors on the phone and through letters.
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How important is it to remove inquiries from your credit report?
Inquiries are less significant items to eliminate from your credit reports compared to other negative aspects like missed payments and overdue debts.
Their impact on your credit scores is relatively minor, and their effect diminishes over time. Credit inquiries influence your credit score for only twelve months and disappear entirely after two years. Thus, they are not the most detrimental items on your credit report.
Several negative items can remain on your credit report for seven to ten years. While working to improve your credit scores, addressing credit inquiries should be a lower priority if your credit history has numerous negative marks.
Does checking your credit hurt your credit score?
When you check your own credit, whether it involves reviewing your credit report or assessing your credit score, it is classified as a soft inquiry. As mentioned, soft inquiries have no adverse effects on your credit score. You can feel confident about regularly monitoring your credit history without any negative consequences, as it is an essential part of maintaining your financial health and addressing potential issues promptly.
Combining Multiple Credit 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 inquiries to compare terms and rates. If you make multiple inquiries in a short period of time while shopping around for one type of credit, like a mortgage, they only count as one 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.
How many hard inquiries is too many?
Having an excessive number of hard inquiries can negatively affect your credit score, impacting your ability to open new credit accounts in the future. Generally, it’s advisable to keep the number of inquiries on your credit report to three or fewer at any given time.
Applying for a substantial amount of credit may signal to lenders that you’re taking on too much debt. Thus, it’s essential to limit the number of credit applications you submit. If you need to apply for multiple credit cards or loans, consider spreading the applications out over time instead of submitting them all at once.
Although there isn’t a precise number, maintaining three or fewer hard inquiries on your credit report will help preserve your credit score and make it easier to obtain credit in the future.
Carefully Plan Your 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 see separate 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 inquiries, you may want to consider disputing them because they can add up. And if your credit score is borderline between two scoring categories, then every few points can make a difference.
Preventing Unauthorized Hard Inquiries
To prevent future unauthorized inquiries, consider placing a freeze on your credit report. This option prevents any lenders or creditors from accessing your credit information.
A credit freeze can also help you prevent identity theft. No one can open a new credit account using your financial information because they won’t be 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 file 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. However, if you don’t intend to apply for credit, it can be a convenient option to keep your credit history safe.
List of Hard Credit Inquiries Found on Credit Reports
- AAOA Credit
- Abt Synchrony
- ALLY FNCL
- Avantus LLC
- Banana Republic/SYNCB
- Belk/Synchrony Bank
- BK OF AMER
- CB INDIGO
- CBNA Best Buy
- CBNA Sioux Falls
- Citicards CBNA
- Clarity Services
- Comenity Bank/ATYLRLMC
- Comenity Bank/Vctrssec
- CoreLogic Credco
- CRDT First
- Credit Information Systems
- Credit Plus
- Data Facts
- DSNB Bloom
- eBay Mastercard/SYNCB
- eBay MC SYNCB
- Elan Financial Services
- EMS LACS
- Equifax Mortgage Services
- EXETER FIN
- Factual Data
- FIA CSNA
- FLAGSHIP CRE
- FNB Omaha
- GECRB/Care Credit
- Home Depot CBNA
- HSN Card/SYNCB
- JPMCB Card Services
- MABT CONTFIN
- R Us Credit Card SYNCB
- SYNCB AEVISA
- SYNCB Belk
- SYNCB CCA
- SYNCB DKDC
- SYNCB Hdnahf
- SYNCB MEGAGR
- SYNCB Old Navy
- SYNCB/Amazon PLCC
- SYNCB/Ameg D
- SYNCB/Chevron PLCC
- SYNCB/Home Dsgn Ce Appl
- SYNCB/Mega Group Usa Inc
- SYNCB/TJX CO DC
- SYW MC/CBNA
- TD Bank Target
- TU Interactive
- Universal CD CBNA
- Webbank Fingerhut
- WF Bank NA
- WF CRD SVC
- WF PLL