How Long Do Hard Inquiries Stay On Your Credit Report?
All credit inquiries, whether hard or soft, stay on your credit report for two years.
But only hard inquiries can impact your credit score, and that's only for one year after they are done.
After that point, lenders may still be able to see them, but they are not affecting your score.
What is a hard inquiry?
A hard inquiry is an inquiry you gave permission to someone to pull. For example, if you fill out a loan application, you're usually signing a document giving them permission to check your credit.
A soft inquiry, on the other hand, is run when you're checking your credit yourself or are being pre-screened by an outside entity. These types of inquiries do not affect your credit score at all.
Sites like Credit Karma and Credit Sesame are good examples of sites that do soft pulls so you can check your own credit. And when you receive pre-screened credit offers, they have done a soft pull.
How much do hard inquiries hurt your credit score?
Hard inquiries don’t affect every credit score the same, but the impact is usually less than five points for each inquiry.
But applying for a lot of different loans at once might start to drop your score quite a bit more. The reasoning is that someone who is applying for a lot of credit could be desperate and about to get themselves in a financial bind.
The exception to this, however, is if you have a few inquiries from one type of lender within about the same amount of time—this usually just means you are rate shopping, and the inquiries are not weighted the same. In these cases, these multiple inquiries are usually just treated as one.
Another important thing to note is that inquiries are grouped into the “new credit” category of a FICO score, which accounts for only 10% of your credit score.
Can you remove hard inquiries from your credit report?
Yes, it's possible to get a hard inquiry removed from your credit report.
Even though inquiries don’t affect your credit report a whole lot, a few points here and there can add up—this is especially true if you’re trying to rebuild your credit or get your score to a certain number to qualify for a loan. So, it’s important to stay informed about everything on your report.
If you did authorize a credit pull with a signature, the inquiry will likely remain on your report. But sometimes, people do find errors or unauthorized hard pulls—these unauthorized inquiries could simply be mistakes on the parts of the companies running them, or they could indicate fraud.
As soon as you see a hard inquiry on your report that you did not authorize, you should immediately file a dispute with the credit bureau it is listed with. You can also contact the creditor directly to find out if it was a mistake or a case of identity theft.
The good news is that most creditors don’t mind removing inquiries from your report if there is even the slightest concern they might not be legitimate—this is probably because they know these don’t stay on your credit report long or affect your score very much anyway.
What about identity theft?
If you do suspect identity theft, however, you might have a bigger problem. In this case, you’ll want to contact each credit bureau to put a fraud alert on your report, which will deter thieves by putting additional requirements for identification on any loans anyone tries to take out in your name. And in severe cases, you might even have to request a freeze on your file until you can get it all sorted out.
It’s also a good idea to contact your local police department and report it to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission). Their website also has further steps to take and information for victims of identity theft.
Does your credit score go up when hard inquiries fall off?
Your credit might bounce up a few points with each inquiry that falls off, but this depends on how much it was affected by the inquiry to begin with.
If one inquiry falls off from a group of inquiries in the same category, your score may not go up at all—this is because these may have been lumped together and calculated as a single inquiry.
But if the inquiry affected your score by a couple of points, you’ll probably see it go back up those couple of points when it drops off.
How hard you fight inquiries on your credit report depends entirely on what you’re trying to accomplish. If you're doing everything you can to get your score to a certain number for a loan approval or better interest rate, then even one point can make a difference.
But if you’re just working to clean up your credit overall, it might be worth it to wait the year for the inquiry to stop affecting your score.
Of course, if you notice an error, it’s always a good idea to dispute it and to find out if you’ve been the victim of identity theft.
About the Author
Mike is a recognized credit expert and founder of Credit Takeoff. His credit advice has been featured in CNBC, Investopedia, CreditCards.com, Bankrate, Huffpost, The Simple Dollar, Reader's Digest, LendingTree, and Quickbooks. Read more.