How To Remove Inquiries From Your Credit Report (A Complete Guide)

Written by Mike Pearson

mike-pearson

If you want to get a hard inquiry removed from your credit report, you're going to have to jump through a few hoops first and put in some work, and it can be a confusing process if you've never done it before.

This guide lays out the process in the simplest terms possible.

There are two primary ways to get a hard inquiry removed from your credit report:

  • 1
    Hire a credit repair company to do it for you. You can pay a credit repair service like Lexington Law to do the work for you, for about $69-$99 per month. 
  • 2
    DIY credit repair. This is where you fetch and review the documents and send the letters. It takes time, but it's free. 

This post will focus on doing it yourself.  

For DIY credit inquiry removal, you are doing all the work—it's a somewhat laborious process, but it could end up raising your credit score, and it won't cost you a dime.

There are three steps involved to getting hard inquiries removed:

  • 1
    Get a copy of all three of your credit reports (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion)
  • 2
    Review your credit reports for any incorrect, unauthorized, or accidental inquiries 
  • 3
    Send a letter to the credit bureaus disputing the inquiries 

To help guide us through the complicated world or credit inquiries, we've enlisted the help of Leslie H. Tayne—a financial debt resolution attorney with Tayne Law Group, P.C.—who has 20 years’ experience in the practice area of consumer and business financial debt-related services.

We've also included the below table of contents to help you navigate through this guide.

How to dispute a hard inquiry in 3 easy steps

Step 1: Get copies of your credit reports

The first thing you should do is request a copy of your credit report with the three major bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. 

You can do this by using annualcreditreport.com. We have a complete, step-by-step guide showing you how to do this:

Step 2: Review your credit reports for incorrect, unauthorized, and accidental hard checks

Now that you have copies of your credit reports from the three major bureaus, you want to look them over and see if there are any inaccurate hard inquiries present. 

Did you know? A 2012 study by the FTC found that more than 1 in 5 Americans had an error on their credit report, and that 20 percent of people who identified errors on their credit reports experienced an increase in their credit score? 

"You can get a hard inquiry removed if the credit pull was unauthorized," Tayne said. "Meaning, it came from activity that you were not aware of."

Where should you look for this information on your reports?

Check these sections: credit inquiry, hard inquiry, regular inquiry, and requests viewed by third party.

If you didn’t authorize the hard inquiry or you didn’t apply for credit, you can request that it be removed. 

What are some common examples of hard inquiries that you maybe didn’t authorize? 

  • Identity theft—a fraudulent application for a loan using your information
  • A creditor pulling your credit without your consent
  • A credit bureau erroneously included the inquiry in your credit report
  • You clicked an ad on Facebook from a lender to "find out rates in your area", filled out some information and unwittingly triggered an inquiry

Remember: even if an inquiry was made it error, it can still harm your credit! So you want to be sure to file a dispute with the credit bureaus to have it removed.

Step 3: File your dispute with the credit bureau(s)

Ok, now that you have copies of your credit reports in hand, and you’ve identified some inaccurate hard inquiries, it’s time to file your dispute with the appropriate credit bureau.

"The credit bureau is legally required to investigate the dispute," Tayne told us. "If an error is found, it will be removed from your credit report."

Important: While you could launch your dispute online, we definitely recommend that you file your dispute by certified mail. Why?

Certified mail gives you the legal proof that the credit bureau actually received your request to remove the inquiry!

You’ll need to draft a dispute letter and send it to the credit bureau with a copy of your credit report. It's also a good idea to highlight the unapproved hard inquiries on the credit report itself to help the investigators when processing your request. 

How to actually get inquiries deleted

So what's the trick for actually getting inquiries deleted? 

Demand written verification and documentation that the inquiry actually took place!

You should ask for every imaginable detail: the date you gave permission for them to pull your credit, how you gave permission (over the phone, online, etc), and who the person was on the other end who processed your inquiry. 

If they can't verify all of the details, you'll have an excellent chance getting the inquiry removed. 

Remember, you need to file your letter with the appropriate bureau on whose report you noticed the error. Here are the mailing addresses for the three main credit bureaus:

Equifax
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374-0256
Online Dispute Center

Experian
P.O. Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013
Online Dispute Center

TransUnion LLC
Consumer Dispute Center
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
Online Dispute Center

Credit inquiry removal letter template

When you contact a credit bureau by mail to dispute a hard inquiry, you’ll want to include specific details in your letter.

What's Tayne's #1 tip for getting hard inquiries removed?

Leslie H. Tayne

Debt Resolution Attorney

Be very specific with the information you send to the credit bureau. Specify the company that made the inquiry in question, and detail why the inquiry was not authorized."

Here is a credit inquiry removal letter template you can use that will help you address all concerns to a creditor:

<Name>

<Address>

<Birth date>

<Social security #>

<Credit Bureau: Name>

<Credit Bureau: Address>

<Date>

RE: Request Investigation of Credit Inquiry on My Behalf

Dear Credit Bureau Representative,

I recently reviewed a copy of my credit report on [date of the report] and noticed [insert number of inquiries] that were unauthorized, inaccurate, or made in error. 

The following inquiries are impermissible:

1. [Name of company with unauthorized inquiry] and [date of inquiry]

2. [Name of company with unauthorized inquiry] and [date of inquiry]

3. [Name of company with unauthorized inquiry] and [date of inquiry]

Please remove these inquiries from my credit report immediately. 

Should any of these companies claim to have pulled my credit report validly, then it is within my legal rights to ask for verification details:

1. The name and job title of the individual who pulled my credit

2. The date they claim to have received my permission to pull my credit

3. The method they claim that I authorized them to pull my credit

Please also attach documentation to support the verification of these claims.

Thank you for your prompt assistance with this matter.

Sincerely

[Signature]

<Your Name>

What are credit inquiries, anyway?

Think back to the last time you applied for a credit card, or a car loan, or maybe even to rent an apartment.

To make sure you're qualified for what you're applying for—meaning, that you're going to pay them back—the lender (e.g., the credit card company) will pull your credit report and look at your credit history to see what kind of borrower you are. 

This is called a credit inquiry

Credit bureaus maintain records of all businesses which request your credit report. The record is usually listed in the inquiries section of your credit report and will show every inquiry within the last two years.

Some of the instances in which a credit inquiry would be used include: 

  • A utility company making a credit inquiry before they can approve you for any contract
  • A potential employer is looking to ensure that you’re in the right credit standing as part of their background checks
  • A mortgage lending company is looking into your credit report before approving your mortgage application.

Remember: Credit inquiries make up around 10% of your total credit score, but not every inquiry reflected on your credit report will be included in your credit score. 

Types of credit inquiries

Two types of inquiries can appear on your credit report: a hard credit inquiry and soft credit inquiry.

The difference between these lies in who asks for the information and for what reason.

Hard inquiries, or pulls, are done when you apply for new credit and they require your approval for the creditor to look at the information on your credit report. A hard inquiry will verify your credit score, information, and the items on your credit report.

Soft inquiries, on the other hand, are typically pulled for purposes of a background check are often done without your approval—and importantly, do NOT affect your credit score.

Hard inquiries

  • Counts as a negative item
  • Can lower your credit score (1-5 points)
  • Occurs when a lender pulls your credit information
  • Requires your consent

Soft inquiries

  • Does not count as a negative item
  • Does not lower your credit score
  • Occurs as part of a background check
  • Does not require your consent

Hard inquiries

When a credit card company or lender decides whether or not they should lend you money, they look into your credit reports to gauge your creditworthiness—this is called a hard inquiry, or pull. 

Hard pulls are standard when you’re applying for a credit card, loan, or mortgage, and you usually have to express consent for them to pull your information.

How does a hard inquiry affect your credit score?

To be honest, usually not that much, but you have to be careful. 

"The hit to your credit score will be relatively minor," said Tayne. "Probably between one and five points per hard inquiry."

Even then, the damage to your score disappears or decreases before the inquiry vanishes from your report.

So, when do you have to be careful?

Take Note

Basically, you don't want to apply for too many credit cards in a short period of time. Because if you get multiple hard pulls in short timeframe, credit card issuers and lenders could consider you a higher-risk borrower since it would suggest you’re on the verge of accruing a lot of debt.

Statistics provided by FICO that people with six or more recent inquiries are eight times as likely to file for bankruptcy versus people with no inquiries. 

Think about it: if you apply for five credit cards at the same time, it's certainly a possibility that you're going to dramatically increase your debt—making you a higher credit risk.

So, definitely consider spreading out your credit card and loan applications.

Here are some other things to know about hard inquiries:

  • They normally occur when you apply for a credit card or loan
  • They allow lenders to see your whole credit history
  • They remain on your credit report and visible to any lender for up to 12 months
  • Each check can reduce your credit score by between one and five points
  • They can occur when you enter your personal information to find out more information on a product (say, a mortgage rate) and unknowingly grant your consent
  • You can have as many mortgage and auto financing inquiries as you like within a 30-day timeframe, and it will only count as one inquiry

The key with a hard pull is that for it to trigger a check, you must take some type of action, like applying for credit. 

Soft inquiries

So if a hard inquiry requires action on your part, what defines a "soft" inquiry that does not require your consent?

Think back to the last time you applied for a job or rented a car. The employer, or car rental company, likely did a soft pull on your credit report, and they probably didn't ask for your permission, either, 

The key differences are that soft pulls only give a high-level credit summary of your credit profile and they do not affect your credit score (your score isn't visible to them, either). 

Examples of hard and soft inquiries

Here are some examples of hard and soft credit checks, though keep in mind this list is just a general guide and should not be considered exhaustive. 

Hard inquiries

Soft inquiries

Applying for a student loan

Employer background checks

Applying for a credit card

Credit card pre-approvals

Applying for a car loan

Renting a car

Applying for a mortgage

ID verification by financial institutions

Opening a checking or savings account

Checking your own credit score

Is it legal to remove hard inquiries from your credit report?

Yes, it’s completely legal to remove inquiries from your credit report! 

Remember: soft inquiries will not appear on your credit report, so you don’t have to worry about them.

So, what about hard inquiries?

A hard inquiry will stay on your credit report for 24 months if you don't do anything, before disappearing on its own. 

It’s important to note that only hard checks conducted without your consent can be disputed.

So, if you knowingly applied for credit or a loan and the corresponding inquiry appears on your report, chances are the credit inquiry won’t be taken off.

When can you get a hard inquiry removed?

As mentioned, you're not going to have much luck getting a legitimate hard inquiry removed from your credit report. But, there are some situations where you can potentially get a hard credit check removed, such as:

  • 1
    Inaccurate credit inquiries
  • 2
    Inquiries mistakenly placed on your credit report by credit bureaus
  • 3
    If your information was fraudulently used to apply for a loan or credit card
  • 4
    If you submitted your social security number and other personal information without reading the fine print

How long does it take to get rid of a hard inquiry?

If you just let them be, a hard inquiry will remain on your credit report for two years. (But it only affects your actual credit score—if at all—for one year). 

If you’re going to dispute the hard inquiry, then the timeframe for getting it removed will really depend on the credit bureau as well as the complexity of your issue.

For most people, a good rule of thumb is it takes between 45 and 60 days to see the inquiry fall off, though if your dispute was minor, it could happen in less than seven business days.

How hard inquiries can harm your credit score

Inquiries are one of the five factors that impact your credit score, so it's important to pay attention here.

Inquiries account for 10% of your credit score, so if you have too many hard credit checks, your credit score could drop by a few points and potentially result in being denied new credit or a loan, depending on what your score is at the time. 

Why does your score drop because of too many hard inquiries?

"Hard inquiries indicate to creditors that you’re shopping around – and maybe even desperate – for credit, "Tayne said. "This is a red flag that you might be a credit risk."

But it’s important to note again that hard inquiries will not always impact your credit score. According to FICO, credit inquiries generally have a small effect on your FICO scores, and for many people, an additional inquiry will take no more than five points off your FICO score.  

As Tayne told us: "Hard inquiries don’t have a significant impact on your credit score typically, so focusing on improving your credit in other ways–such as paying down your balances and improving your credit utilization ratio–will be have a more significant effect on your score."

How to monitor your credit reports going forward

You don't want too many inquiries and negative items hitting your credit report since it can cause your score to drop, so you'll want to set up a system to consistently keep an eye on your credit reports so you can spot any issues. 

Perform regular checks

The easiest way to monitor negative entries is to conduct regular checks on your reports.

This way, you’ll be able to match every inquiry with its corresponding application.

Regular checks also make it easier for you to take action should something mysterious appear on your report. 

Prevent unauthorized inquiries with a credit freeze

One way you can help prevent unauthorized inquiries is by making your credit report inaccessible to creditors and lenders with a credit freeze, which locks your credit report so a lender or creditor can't access it to view your information. 

A security freeze also helps keep identity thieves and hackers from applying for loans or opening new credit accounts in your name.

There are more factors to consider when doing a credit freeze, though, and the FTC has a good resource on it if you're interested in learning more. 

Wrapping up

Getting approved quickly for a loan and getting attractive interest rates all boil down to one thing: having good credit. 

Too many unauthorized hard inquiries can definitely impact your credit score, so it’s important that all information be accurate and up-to-date, which you can do by regularly reviewing your statements and scores.  

Also make it a habit to continually monitor your credit report to ensure there is nothing mysterious damaging your creditworthiness.

And if you decide you want to try and get a hard inquiry removed from your report, follow our three-step process above.