If you want to protect your credit score and ensure it stays as high as possible, then it’s important to know how different credit inquiries can change your credit score. Find out the difference between a soft inquiry and a hard inquiry, and how long credit inquiries stay on your credit report. Inquiries remain on your credit report for two years, or 24 months, so be sure you’re not exhausting your credit score with hefty credit applications.
Hard Queries vs. Soft Queries: What’s the Difference?
A credit inquiry occurs when a business runs a credit check in order to consider lending you money or offering you a line of credit. An inquiry can take place with your knowledge — such as when a car dealership runs your credit to check your rate, or without your knowledge — like when a credit card company checks your score to see if you’re eligible for a promotional card.
Credit reporting agencies classify inquiries as either soft or hard, and both are recorded on your credit report. But, only hard inquiries can affect your score.
Soft inquiries are credit inquiries that don’t involve your credit being reviewed by a potential lender. Examples of soft credit inquiries include:
- Checking your own credit score
- Credit checks done by businesses in order to offer consumers special rates, such as a promotional credit account
- Inquiries by businesses that you have an existing credit account with, such as when you apply for new credit cards
Hard inquiries occur when a potential lender reviews your credit history to determine whether they’ll let you open a new account. Hard inquiries occur when you apply for credit, such as in the following examples:
- Auto loan
- Personal loan or student loan
- Mortgage loan
- Credit card
Transferring a balance of credit card debt might also incur a hard inquiry on your file.
How Long Do Credit Inquiries Stay on Your Credit Report?
Because hard inquiries impact your credit score, it’s critical to know how long they stay on your credit report. Typically, no inquiry should count toward your FICO score, according to credit bureau Experian. Hard inquiries remain on an Experian credit report for about two years, for example, but only impact your credit score for one year.
Lenders don’t see soft inquiries when they order your credit report, according to Experian.
How Do Hard Queries Affect Your Credit Report?
Inquiries can vary in their impact on your credit report. For example, if you’re shopping for the best rate on a mortgage or car loan, the credit bureau will consider all inquiries made within a 45-day period for a mortgage, an auto loan or student loan as a single inquiry. Credit bureaus understand that you are trying to shop for the best rate, not open up several new lines of credit.
If you find hard inquiries on your report that you didn’t authorize, dispute the error by calling or writing to the creditor to have it removed from your report. An inquiry can have a greater impact on an individual who has few credit accounts or a shorter credit history than it does on someone with a longer credit history.