Loans > How Long Do Hard Inquiries Stay On Your Credit Report?

How Long Do Hard Inquiries Stay On Your Credit Report?

Hard inquiries don’t linger on your credit report for long, but you can avoid their bad influence—here’s how.

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Updated January 10, 2022

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Have you ever asked a dumb question in front of other people?

The type of question that you immediately regret as soon as you finish the sentence. 🤦‍♂️ You get some strange looks from your peers—and realize that you now have to live with the effects of that one dumb question for the immediate future. 

Dumb questions that leave these short-term impacts are sort of like hard inquiries on credit reports. With both, you have to live with the consequences of just merely inquiring. Just as your dumb question becomes the butt of recent office jokes, the reminder that you applied for credit is present when you check your credit report for months to come.

And just like how the impact of words fades over time (or as another colleague moves in the dumb question spotlight), hard credit inquiries do too. 

But, hard inquiries also have implications. And even if the impact on your credit score is minor, it’s important to understand the impact to help keep your credit score polished. This is especially important in a COVID-19 world, as your credit score measures more than just your ability to just borrow money—but also your ability to endure financial hardship.

So don’t be stressed—there are no dumb questions here, and we’ve got everything you need to know about hard credit inquiries. 🙌

What you’ll learn
  • What's a Hard Inquiry?
  • How Hard Inquiries Affect Credit Scores
  • Impact of Multiple Inquiries
  • How Long Does a Hard Inquiry Last?
  • Exceptions to the Impact on Your Credit
  • What's a Soft Inquiry?
  • Hard vs. Soft Inquiries
  • Disputing or Removing Hard Inquiries

What is a Hard Inquiry? 💡

When you decide to apply for a loan or credit card, you give your blessing to the lender or creditor to examine your creditworthiness. After all, if they are going to lend money to you they have to make sure you will repay that debt, right?

If you have a good track record with payment history and account health, it makes a creditor far more comfortable to lend money to you. To gauge your borrowing ability, the creditor will review the magical credit report card that reflects all of your credit-related activity, past and present. The lender then pulls and reads your credit report to aid in their decision-making process. 

This whole process of obtaining and then looking over your credit report resorts to what is called a “hard inquiry” on your credit file. A hard inquiry, also known as a “hard pull” or “hard credit check,” is a mark on your credit report that reflects a review.

To allow the creditor, lender, or issuer to sneak a peek at your credit and perform a hard inquiry, you, as the borrower, must authorize this. The authorization can come in many forms, though usually in the form of signing a loan application. ✍️

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires the credit bureaus to disclose to you anytime a company or creditor pulls your credit. And marking the hard inquiry in your credit file is their way of upholding their end of the bargain.

How Hard Inquiries Impact Your Credit Score 📉

Believe it or not, hard inquiries can and usually do impact your credit score. Admittedly, this impact isn’t as major as other credit factors. According to the popular credit model FICO, hard inquiries only account for 10% of your total score.

All the components of a FICO credit score.

Plus, the effect on your credit score upon a hard pull is minimal. In most cases, recent hard inquiries (within 12 months) will only drop your credit score a few points. Inquiries from over a year typically won’t impact your credit score at all.

Hard inquiries also have a tendency to have a greater impact on consumers who have a less established credit history. This means that if you are in the beginning phases of building your credit, 3 to 4 recent inquiries are going to cost you more points than someone with years of established credit.

FICO also says that a single inquiry will temporarily drop the average credit-established consumer’s score by five points or less. Don’t let the illusion of minimal credit damage fool you though. Masses of inquiries in a short time window can be slightly credit-damaging as well as have other consequences if you aren’t careful.

How Multiple Inquiries Affect Your Borrowing Odds 🚩

Even though hard pulls may minimally affect your credit score, they are oftentimes used to gauge and assess risk by many creditors. A short span of multiple hard inquiries can be a red flag to credit card issuers or lenders. This in turn hurts your chance for approval.

Numerous inquiries can cause creditors to generate assumptions about your borrowing abilities. Also, hard inquiries create a sense of mystery in your credit filea mystery as to why. Why exactly are you applying for more credit? Is your existing credit not enough? Do you have intentions to fully max out the new credit line?

Several hard pulls can send the message that you are quick to make credit decisions on a whim. They also can suggest that you are preparing to rack up a lot of debt or that you may be struggling to repay previous debt. 

For example, let’s say you want to take out a credit card for a one-time expense such as a vacation or a fancy new appliance. While not at all a wise idea, it is not uncommon for not-as-disciplined consumers to apply to multiple credit cards until they get approved.

This practice is no good in terms of credit inquiries. Always think it over before deciding to apply for many credit cards or loans at one time, or within the span of weeks or months.

Also, there is a statistically higher risk associated with consumers who have many credit inquiries and lenders know this. In fact, according to FICO, people with six or more hard pulls are up to eight times more likely to declare bankruptcy than someone with little to no inquiries. 😱

🛠 Could your credit score use some help? Check out the top companies for credit repair.

How Long Does a Hard Inquiry Stay on Your Credit Report?

Hard inquiries stay on your credit report for two years. After two years, the hard pull will naturally and automatically fall off your credit report with no required effort on your end.

The two-year lifespan for hard inquiries is pretty forgiving considering most other credit factors linger around for longer. If you miss a payment, have an account go to collections, or face a charge-off, you’ll be stuck with the consequences for up to seven years. Even worse is that some forms of Bankruptcy can stain your credit report for up to 10 whole years.

You can always take the necessary steps to get these items removed from your credit report. But, compared to seven or ten, two years for a hard pull doesn’t seem so bad, huh? 🤷‍♂️

Exceptions to the Credit Impact from Hard Inquiries

Like we mentioned earlier, lenders do not like to see multiple inquiries to various creditors in a short time span. However, there is an exception to the standard hard inquiry rules when it comes to loan or rate shopping. And fortunately, modern credit models are intuitive enough to differentiate the difference in shopping vs. genuine inquiries.

Multiple inquiries occurring in a set time frame may only be grouped into one inquiry. This is especially true on certain types of accounts such as mortgage loans, auto loans, and utilities.

If you are in the home buying market and are checking with various mortgage lenders, the many inquiries can be considered “loan shopping”. So long as the inquiries are within a certain time frame, typically 14 – 45 days, you are only dinged for one inquiry. 

What is a Soft Inquiry? ☁️

A hard inquiry’s counterpart is the more frequently occurring soft inquiry, or a “soft pull” or “soft credit check.” As the name suggests, a soft inquiry has a lesser or “softer” impact on your credit score. Soft pulls won’t affect your credit score and typically occur for pre-qualifications or background checks.

Do you receive heaps of credit card or low-interest personal loan offers in the mail? Well, if so, all of that annoying junk mail you receive results from a soft inquiry from the creditor. Lenders and issuers use soft pull methods to determine your eligibility for their product—and to try to sucker you in of course. 😂

Even though a preapproved offer is a result of a soft check, if you take the issuer up on the offer it will then result in a hard pull. Remember, anytime you submit an application for credit you are authorizing the lender to pull your credit report. 

Soft inquiries also transpire when you view your own credit report or when an issuer/creditor receives updates and provides them to you. Therefore, soft pulls are far more common—most of the top loans for great credit you can find online don’t require a hard inquiry. Soft checks usually aren’t connected to a specific application for credit which is why they don’t impact your score.

Hard vs. Soft Credit Inquiries ⚖️

At times it can be kind of difficult to know what type of credit check will occur. Different types of credit actions result in different types of inquiries. As an indebted consumer, it’s super important to understand those variances in inquiries.

There’s also a gray area where the type of inquiry is dependent on the actual creditor/issuer themself. For example, apartment rentals, utility connections, and phone contracts can be either a hard or soft pull depending on the type of check initiated by the creditor.

Knowing the differences can leave you scratching your head for sure. We’ve got a basic outline of the standards for hard vs. soft inquiries in the credit world to help you.

Hard InquiriesCan be Either Hard or SoftSoft Inquiries
Mortgage applicationsApartment rental applicationsEmployer background checks
Auto loan applicationsUtility connection contracts (though most have a tendency to be soft)Accessing your credit report
Private student loan applicationsCell phone/internet contractsPre approved offers from credit card/loan companies
Credit card applicationsOpening a bank account (varies from bank to bank)Insurance quotes
Personal loan applicationsAn existing creditor runs a credit review
Credit limit increase requests

Disputing or Removing Hard Inquiries 📝

Just like anything that appears on your credit report, you have the right to challenge or dispute a hard inquiry. Credit acts and laws give consumers this right, and credit bureaus have to take you seriously and prove the legitimacy of the mark. 

You first need to regularly review your credit report. If upon review you see a hard inquiry that looks a little fishy, you may need to do some mental digging. Do you remember applying for some type of credit around the date of inquiry? What type of account is it for…does that ring any bells?

We’re not going to lie, it’s pretty easy to forget applying for credit, especially if the application resulted in rejection. As human beings, it’s natural for us to try to forget about moments of rejection anyways.

That said, it’s very possible you won’t always recognize the name of the company that performed the hard pull. Here are some instances in which you may have a lapse in memory:

  • If you went through the process to purchase a vehicle at a dealer. Dealers will oftentimes “shop” for you and submit your application to multiple lenders. This results in multiple inquiries. 🚗
  • If you went through the process of buying a house and submitted to receive “the best rate” online. Oftentimes your application is sent to multiple lenders to find the best rate. 🏠
  • If you applied for a store card. It is common for major banks to provide these credit cards on behalf of a store. For example, Comenity and Synchrony both are leading providers. The inquiry will show up with the bank’s name listed first, followed by the store. 🏬

If you don’t recognize an inquiry on your credit report, you can always contact the company for more information. Most credit reports will list the contact information of the company and that’s a good place to start. 

If you find that you didn’t authorize the inquiry or that it is there as a result of potential identity theft, you can dispute it with the reporting credit bureau. You can check out our sample removal letter here to see how to go about removing this stain from your credit report.

Removing a Legit Inquiry—Is it Worth it? 🤔

We value transparency. That said, in all honesty, it is usually not worth it to try to remove a legitimate hard inquiry from your credit report. This is mainly because disputing a hard inquiry is a lot of work for very little payoff. 

The removal of a legit hard inquiry is unlikely to result in a drastic change to your score because hard inquiries usually only drop your score by a few points temporarily. The 2-year window in which you are stuck with the inquiry is definitely one you can always wait out. And not to mention that with time, usually 12 months or so, the impact of the inquiry will slowly start to fade.

Plan Before Shopping 📅

With interest rates being at a historic low it’s super tempting to consider buying a new home or car. However, before giving in to the temptation, make sure to plan. Planning is of the essence when it comes to managing your debt and finances.

Evaluate your personal financial situation and make sure that taking out new debt is right for you. If you decide that now’s the time, then do shopping in a short, set time frame. This eliminates the chances of lingering inquiries. 

Also, know where your credit score currently sits to help determine your approval odds. This helps lessen the blow of rejection but also the impact of credit inquiries. In most cases, you are entitled to one free credit report annually. However, one good thing to come from the COVID-19 pandemic is that you can currently get your weekly credit report for free.

Tips for Managing the Impact of Credit Inquiries 

Avoid Applying For Unnecessary Credit 💳

Assess your needs and save applying for only when you absolutely need new credit. Because credit card applications are down 40% amidst the pandemic, it’s evident a lot of consumers are thinking twice about taking on new debt.

Look Into Pre Qualifying 📋

Before submitting an application, look into prequalifying. This can be done for specific types of loans but a great example of this is auto loans. Car dealers have a tendency to submit your credit to multiple lenders to look for the best deal.

While more advanced credit models will recognize this as one inquiry, it never hurts to go into it knowing your options. Also, pre-qual with a specific lender and ask the dealer to submit your credit to that lender to prevent unnecessary inquiries.

Regularly Monitor Your Credit Report 🔍

Check your credit report often to ensure any hard inquiries are actually ones you initiated. Very often, identity theft and fraud are not fun to deal with and you can detect those issues by studying up. Alternatively, if you want to relinquish a bit of cash for peace of mind, you can hire a top-tier credit monitoring agency to protect and insure you from all fraudulent activity.

Manage Other Factors of Your Credit 💼

Remember how we said a hard inquiry only accounts for 10% of your credit score? It’s important to continue to monitor the higher impacting factors. If you keep those factors in tip-top-shape, your inquiries will truly matter less and less.

Your payment history is the most important followed by credit utilization—simply paying everything on time and using under 30% of your credit instead of maxing out your credit cards will do wonders for your score.

Also, age/number of accounts and account variety are more minor factors, but are not to be neglected. Focus on increasing your credit score in all aspects to get the quickest results.

Hard Inquiries FAQs

  • How Many Inquiries Are Too Many?

    While there is no concrete answer to how many inquiries are too many, the general consensus is the fewer the better. The reasoning behind this is the more established and better your credit is, the more give your score will have with inquiries. That said, most credit modeling systems follow a chart similar to the one below.

    Excellent

    Good

    Fair

    Poor

    Very Poor

    0

    1 - 2

    3 - 4

    5 - 8

    9+

  • Can Someone Check My Credit Without My Permission?

    In almost every instance you, the consumer, must authorize any hard inquiry to your credit file. However, there are cases in which entities can hard check your credit without needing your permission. According to the credit bible, the FCRA, some of those instances are:

    • When a court or grand jury subpoena orders it
    • The establishment of child support payment systems (in some cases)
    • If you apply for a license or government benefit where financial consideration is a legal requirement
    • Certain types of investments can require it to assess the risk of a commitment
    • In relation to specific credit or insurance transactions that aren’t originally initiated by you, but when they are an extension of a firm offer of credit.
  • Does Your Credit Score Go Up When a Hard Inquiry Drops Off?

    Usually, your credit score will not go up when a hard inquiry drops off at the two-year expiration. This is because your credit score will have already made its recovery around the 12-month period of the mark’s presence on your credit report. 

    However, if you have several inquiries, you may see a slight change upon expiration. It all depends on your credit tier and current score.

All reviews, research, news and assessments of any kind on The Tokenist are compiled using a strict editorial review process by our editorial team. Neither our writers nor our editors receive direct compensation of any kind to publish information on tokenist.com. Our company, Tokenist Media LLC, is community supported and may receive a small commission when you purchase products or services through links on our website. Click here for a full list of our partners and an in-depth explanation on how we get paid.

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