Numerous factors impact your credit score. One variable that commonly pops up on credit repair sites is what’s known as a “hard inquiry.” These hard inquiries, also known as “hard pulls”, can impact your credit score and make you seem less appealing to potential lenders. But what are hard inquiries, and how do they work? Can you remove a hard inquiry from your credit report? And how long do they stay there? Never fear, here’s everything you need to know about hard inquiries.
What is a Hard Inquiry?
A hard inquiry is part of the process when applying for new credit. It happens when you apply for a credit card, mortgage, or auto loan, or other type of installment loan. The process involves the bank or lender checking one (or more) of your credit reports to review your financial history and determine your ability to repay a new line of credit.
Examples of Hard Inquiries:
- Applying for an installment loan
- Credit card applications
- Collection agency tracing of late payments and collections (skip tracing)
- Applying for a mortgage
Hard vs. Soft Inquiries
Lenders or companies may also perform soft inquiries, or soft pulls, on your credit report. Hard inquiries differ from soft inquiries in a very basic way. The former occur when you apply for new credit. It’s important to note that to conduct a hard credit check, a lender needs your approval beforehand.
Soft inquiries, on the other hand, don’t require your approval. These inquiries occur all the time, such as when banks send your pre-approval letters for credit cards. When you check your credit score through apps like Experian, Credit Karma, or others, that process also involves a soft pull.
Examples of Soft Inquiries:
- Checking credit scores with free apps
- Employment credit checks
- Insurance credit checks
- Credit card pre-approval offers
How Long Do Hard Inquiries Stay on Your Credit Report?
Because a hard inquiry indicates that you are applying for new credit, these credit checks impact your credit score. Soft inquiries, on the other hand, won’t hurt your score.
A hard inquiry will normally stay on your credit report for two years. After 24 months, hard inquiries naturally fall off your credit reports. Fortunately, the negative impact of these inquiries isn’t too harsh. In fact, new credit applications are the smallest factor in calculating a FICO credit score, accounting for just 10% of your overall score.
While hard pulls impact your credit score, their impact dissipates after a few months. Still, credit experts agree that it is best to limit the number of new applications you make each year to reduce the harm to your credit score.
Not All Hard Pulls Hurt Your Credit Score
Not every hard inquiry is the same. Applying for auto loans or mortgages, for example, isn’t as impactful as credit card applications. Additionally, if you rate shop for mortgages or car loans, you might have multiple hard inquiries in a short period of time. If you apply for a loan within approximately two weeks (14 days), most reporting agencies and scoring models count all those inquiries as a single hard pull.
The same happens with some banks and credit cards. Banks, such as Barclays, may count multiple card applications on the same day as one pull. This practice can help you obtain multiple credit cards without numerous hits to your credit score.
Always check with online forums, such as the MyFICO.com forum, ahead of time, as users often have the most up-to-date information on these policies.
Can You Get Hard Inquiries Removed from Your Credit Report?
The simple answer is yes; you can remove hard inquiries from your credit reports. If your report shows an inquiry you did not consent to, you can dispute the item through one of the three credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
The credit bureaus, however, won’t remove a legitimate hard inquiry from your credit report, no matter how nicely you ask. That’s because federal law mandates that these inquiries appear on your credit report to alert consumers as to who is accessing their personal credit files.
How to Tell a Legitimate Inquiry from an Unauthorized One
While determining a legitimate hard pull vs. an unauthorized one might seem straightforward, that’s not always the case.
Those buying a new car, for example, might have several credit checks because of the dealership shopping for the best loan rates. Additionally, a roofer might use your Social Security number (SSN) to check your credit to ensure you qualify for financing for repairs.
These scenarios may appear like fraud on a credit report at first glance, but on closer inspection they are legitimate. The easiest way to find out the reason for a hard inquiry is to contact the vendor that ordered the pull on your credit report.
How to Dispute Hard Inquiries
So, how do you go about disputing an incorrect inquiry on your credit report?
The first two steps are obtaining copies of your credit reports and identifying unfamiliar hard inquiries. To access your free credit report, visit www.annualcreditreport.com. Federal law mandates that Americans have access to one free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus every year.
Once you have your reports, check them for errors. As previously stated, if you see something unfamiliar, the easiest thing to do is call the company listed to ask for clarification.
Dispute with the Appropriate Credit Bureau
Once you identify unauthorized inquiries, your next step should be to contact the credit bureau on which you found the error. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) provides recourse for consumers to dispute errors on their credit reports.
The best way to remove inquiries from your credit report fast is by contacting either Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion directly with your concerns. All three bureaus have multiple methods of contact, including via mail, phone, or through an online dispute center portal.
File your dispute through one of the following methods:
- By Mail:O. Box 740256 Atlanta, GA 30374-0256
- By Phone: 866-349-5191
- Online: Equifax Dispute Center
- By Mail:O. Box 4500 Allen, TX 75013
- By Phone: 866-200-6020
- Online: Experian Dispute Center
- By Mail:O. Box 2000 Chester, PA 19016-2000
- By Phone: 800-916-8800
- Online: TransUnion Dispute Center
How Long Does It Take for a Dispute to Be Removed from Your Credit Report?
Once you dispute your fraudulent hard inquiries, how long do you have to wait? Most credit agencies resolve disputes in around 30 days, though in some circumstances they may extend that period to 45 days. To expedite the dispute process, be sure to have written evidence and provide all the information you have right away.
Should your dispute fail, there are still more actions you can take. Resubmitting a dispute can be done either by yourself or through a reputable law firm that specializes in debt or consumer finance protection. Once you resubmit a dispute, the 30-day window for resolution begins again.
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